Living Columns & Blogs

At Interfaith Human Services, self-reliance is the goal

“I don’t need you anymore,” Harold said with a grin. He had struggled with expenses; now, with his work and our support, he was financially stable.

I thought of Harold recently while writing about Interfaith Human Services’ purpose. I tried “neighbors helping neighbors take the next step toward security, stability and self-sufficiency,” but it didn’t feel right. I examined each word against its meaning and realized “self-sufficiency” wasn’t really our goal — self-reliance was.

Webster’s defines self-sufficient as “able to maintain oneself ... without outside aid.” As I studied, I thought of the Ingalls family in the children’s classic “Little House in the Big Woods”: Ma growing the food, Pa building the house, the family supplying every need, in isolation. Compare that image with Webster’s definition of self-reliance: “confidence in your own abilities ... able to do things for yourself.” Self-reliance is our dream for our clients. Here’s why:

Self-reliance is realistic

In truth, we all rely on others. In only one example, think of what you ate today: Farmers grew it, workers harvested it, truckers transported it, companies packaged and sold it, and more. Whole groups of people worked together for you to eat. None of us live in the Big Woods.

Self-reliance encourages collaboration

IHS comprises congregations, donors, businesses, employees and clients. We can’t do our work alone. We bring that collaborative effort to our clients; we encourage them to take their next step by working with other people and groups.

Self-reliance celebrates community and creates opportunities for contribution. We hear from many clients that they’d like to “give back” and how much they miss the joy and pride of giving. Self-reliance emphasizes the ability to do for oneself and the confidence to contribute. At IHS we provide opportunities for clients to give, build their confidence and encourage them to be connected to their neighborhoods.

Self-reliance reminds us of our commonality

We talk about “neighbors helping neighbors” at IHS because we know everyone needs help sometimes. You might remember a time when you needed advice when trying something new; a loan to start a business or buy a house; encouragement to help you through a difficult time. Self-reliant people can help themselves but remember they should ask for help when needed, as well as offer help when able.

While our clients have different needs and resources, our hope for them differs little: meet them where they are, address their need and support them in taking that next step -- to become connected, interdependent, confident community members -- who may, one day, join with us as neighbors helping neighbors take their next step toward security, stability and self-reliance.

To learn more about Interfaith Human Services, visit or call 234-7731.

Viki Stumbers is Interfaith Human Services development and program coordinator.