by Kathy Kavanaugh, Co-facilitator
Three women are on their way to changing their lives following 12 weeks of “Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World” classes and receiving a certificate of completion on January 9, 2019. The classes are part of Bridges Out of Poverty, a program dedicated to helping individuals study the various causes of poverty and how to use personal and community resources in order to make a plan (“future story”) to take charge of their lives in a variety of ways. All of the women were encouraged to try Getting Ahead by the office of the Watervliet Housing Authority, where they live with their families.
It takes a great deal of courage to look critically at factors and situations that are keeping them from being their best selves and they were very cautious about this innovative approach. Once, however, they had been to a few classes they began to appreciate the value of the program and bonded, learning to accept and respect one another. Mary Clinton, Tenant Relations manager for the Housing Authority, and a Lady of Charity of Albany, NY, was responsible for bringing the women into the program. Ladies of Charity Rosemary Revoir, Shelby Blendell and Kathy Kavanaugh co-facilitated the classes and became “allies” for the women as they pledged their support post graduation. It was the first time Rosemary and Shelby, following training, were involved with Getting Ahead. Rosemary “learned so much about the culture of poverty and the respect I have for the women as well as the dedicated effort it requires to make a significant change in one’s life.” Shelby has “thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and the joy of helping these women I have become so fond of.”
As far as the “investigators” are concerned, they all had very positive responses to the program. “It teaches you your goals; things you never thought you could do, but you can. Do it now, before it’s too late.” “I will finish cosmetology school, go to college to get a BA in Business and learn to be the best in my field as well as the best mother I can possibly be.” “In the short 12 weeks I gained women that believed in me and my goals for the future. (I learned) to use obstacles in life as motivators and give everyone a chance and see that people are all so different and so much alike as well. I learned so much more than information; I gained more self-confidence (from) my ally Shelby and most of all a much wider outlook on everything in life. I can’t thank you enough for this opportunity, truly. I am going to make a better and safer life for my children and myself. I want to go back to school to further my health care career.”
Friends and family were present to help celebrate along with local political representatives and two TV stations, Housing Authority Board members and other members of the community. Matt Ethier, Executive Director of the Housing Authority, pledged to the women the support of the Housing Authority as they embarked on their paths to self-sufficiency. We have been asked to facilitate another class for the Housing Authority in March and one or two other organizations have asked us to talk to them about a class. We are so enjoying our journey with these remarkable women.