Messages from the Chair
Narendra P. Sharma, PhD
Chair, Board of Directors
We live in a time of serious social, political, and economic challenges, but we also live in a world of paradoxes. Wealth is growing, but the gulf between the haves and have-nots is widening. Poverty is still significant, and many people do not enjoy economic prosperity and social progress. Many struggle to make ends meet. This is the reality we find at the local, national, and global level.
Global wealth is more than 50 trillion dollars and growing, yet 1.2 billion people throughout the world live on less than $1 a day.
More than 37 million people (13% of total population) live in poverty in the US, almost 700,000 (16 % of population) of whom live here in South Carolina, including the Lowcountry. In the Lowcountry (including Beaufort, Jasper, Colleton, and Hampton Counties), poverty ranges from 11% to 24% of the total population.
Many neighborhoods in the Lowcountry (even HHI) show signs of social distress: unemployment and underemployment, low income, social issues stemming from drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, and high school drop outs, and many people with limited access to microfinance, vocational training, and social services (such as health, education, affordable housing). We see the greatest poverty and social distress locally in areas with higher concentrations of African Americans and Hispanics. But poverty affects every group.
Poverty notwithstanding, these same neighborhoods are rich in human resources and social capital. What they need is empowerment through economic opportunities, access to social services, and political voice. People want to live with dignity, and they want respect.
Nelson Mandela, an elder statesman in the war on poverty, said recently on his 90th birthday that we must conquer poverty and integrate the value of caring for others in our daily lives. This is the challenge we must address.
NOC is stepping up to this challenge. Our mission is to fight poverty by helping all members of our communities to achieve the “American Dream.” We will serve people with integrity, compassion, and commitment, and as Mr. Mandela said, “by caring for them.”
We direct our efforts to distressed neighborhoods. We take assistance directly to the neighborhoods by employing a new business model  that involves people and organizations from the neighborhoods to identify needs and to develop solutions. Our new approach creates programs in partnership with various faith based organizations, Non-Governmental Organizations, and private and public agencies. Our business model adopts an integrated approach to development, focusing on trust, results, happiness, and quality of life.
Our vision is to reach out to the Lowcountry of South Carolina and ultimately to other states across the country. Our initial focus is on three neighborhoods:
- Housing units along Squire Pope Road, Wild Horse Road, and Gum Tree Road in Ward 1 of Hilton Head Island
- The Oaks Apartments, Hilton Head Gardens, and Sandalwood Apartments in Ward 1 of Hilton Head Island
- Bluffton House, Simmons Cay Apartments, and housing units along Brandon Woods Rd. located in District 4 of the Beaufort Council District
We are making progress now by establishing relationships with the people, leaders, and organizations in these neighborhoods, and we have started working with community partners. We have begun work on assessing the needs of the neighborhoods together with people within these neighborhoods.
Together we have started to develop solutions to address priority needs and to work with partners to implement programs. We are moving to establish a strong monitoring and evaluation system so that we can track results (outputs and outcomes).
We hope you will join our efforts and become a part of this important initiative. Together I am confident that we can build stronger neighborhoods.
In conclusion, I would like to share with you a remark made by an elderly lady in the newly independent country of Timor Leste. During the post conflict period, a reporter was interviewing people in Timor Leste about the country’s future. The reporter asked the lady what is the purpose of life. She responded quickly in a firm voice: “The purpose of life is to help others.” That is what we at NOC want to do.