The following speech was delivered by “Natalie,” a Sanctuary for Families client, at the Winter 2019 Economic Empowerment Program graduation. Of the 52 graduates in this year’s fall class, four women were selected by class vote to share their stories with the audience.
Here’s “Natalie’s” story:
Hello, my fellow New Yorkers! And good afternoon to the graduates of Sanctuary for Families’ Fall 2018 Economic Empowerment Program!
Parenting has always been the most important driving force in my life. Sanctuary for Families’ Economic Empowerment Program (EEP) emboldens me to be the best parent I can be. My child learns and grows into a person by looking at the choices I make in my own life: how I embrace new challenges, how I pick up myself from falls, how I stand on my own two feet in our society, and how I touch the people in it. To me, the most powerful aspect of the EEP is the impact it has on families.
A great pillar of our economic empowerment is the Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) Certification program. I used to joke, “Anything developed in this century, I choose to have no mastery over.” After being certified in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook, however, I am a new person! If so much of my life is still uncertain, the Microsoft world is no longer. MOS training gave me a sense of stability, control and direction – and, as a bonus, I now have street cred with my teenage son!
I am realizing computer skills are an exceptional equalizer, in this exceptionally unequal world. It really doesn’t matter if we don’t have a degree, can’t remember any of the math, or don’t speak English fluently. We can come from anywhere, have any history, be of any color or gender. With proper commitment, we can now make up the years lost.
I discovered powers beyond the keyboard, too – inspiration and warmth, as we supported each other through our own unique strengths. I think there’s a certain, galvanizing kind of energy that gets generated when people from diverse ethnic, racial, cultural, religious, educational, professional, and generational backgrounds work together. A program like this is rare and makes a believer out of us. And it is made possible, thanks to the magically coordinated efforts of the Sanctuary’s EEP team, and the invaluable resources offered by the extended team of volunteers and sponsors. This is teamwork at its best. The program is a community for a problem that is impossible to solve alone.
Moving Toward the Future
Intimate partner violence is like a serious illness in that it can happen to any of us. It affects the victim’s families and friends leaving them puzzled, hurt, and lost – helpless in finding answers or paths for us. It is like high interest loans – the problems compound and eventually freeze us into powerlessness. When this vicious cycle starts to get reversed, however, families and friends – and communities – perk up. My friend texted me recently, “Everything you’re working towards is very important, not just for yourself, as you said. I feel the effect as well. So, keep it up for me, too.” This program is impacting families across generations. My son’s future is brighter as a result; and my mother is given hope, through her hopes for me.
EEP is beyond charitable work and saves individuals; it is a no-brainer investment in the resourcefulness and resilience of women. This kind of investment makes families and communities thrive. My classmates and I will be uplifting and revitalizing the work force – and empowering everyone along the way. Our children, as well as our future employers and colleagues will witness and feel our force. We are here, in this city, for a reason. We are coming and making a difference in the new world that our children deserve. Congratulations, everyone, on starting this new powerful journey.