It has become a highlight of my week to share an hour with these women because we have so much in common. My favorite part is when we all share our experiences. We talk about some of the obstacles that can arise in pursuit of their goals. If someone doesn’t have a particular skill, or know how to accomplish a goal, we break it down into the steps that it would take to gain that skill or meet that goal. Then we follow up the next week and get their feedback on their progress.
I really appreciate their humility and motivation. Because I see them trusting me to give them honest and helpful feedback, it motivates me to prepare for these sessions ahead of time and be ready for questions they might have.
The topics we cover are germaine to us all. For instance, it has inspired me to take a closer look at how I am managing my time and money. It is really rewarding to have the chance to talk to people who want to learn and do better, their positive attitude and excitement for their future gives me hope not just for them, but for those who will come after them. If they can do it, so can someone else!
From Dionne - It is such an amazing opportunity to coach someone who is working toward self-sufficiency. For eight weeks, I and a team of community volunteers, coached life skills on budgeting, managing time, job searching, parenting, promoting health, etc. I have to admit, my job was made easy because I had women in my group who came motivated and open to learn. We created a safe place to bond through shared experiences. While we discussed and studied the well-prepared curriculum assembled by David Hanzlick, Sheffield’s Director of Program and Development, we also used the sessions to share real-life stories. Our stories revealed that in many instances, we had the same dreams and fears. During one of the discussions we confessed our biggest parenting blunders. Although our stories provided some comic relief, it revealed a common theme that every woman in the room shared -- to do better. We learned that doing better does not just happen however. Doing better requires a plan, proper execution, access to the right resources, support, and--oh yeah, humor! The women expressed that they receive these things and more at Sheffield Place. I was proud to hear this.
While my role was to coach, I too learned new things that sensitized me and added more to my understanding of the challenges brought on by homelessness. For example, I learned that grocery shopping can be a very daunting and anxiety-ridden task. Not necessarily because of the lack of money but because of the lack of knowing what a well-balanced meal looks like. I realized that not everyone had this modeled or taught to them. I gained a truer understanding of the fear of grocery shopping by imaging the overwhelming feeling of being thrust into a large and busy grocery store and challenged to create a well-balanced meal -- without the skills to do so. Now throw in the challenge of creating this meal for your children with limited financial means. That discussion allowed for us to discuss shopping on the outer rows of grocery stores (not convenience stores) for fresh produce and meats. Then we discussed processed foods, shelf-life, and convenience meals. We wrapped up the session with quick meal tips and recipe websites.
There were a number of moments when I saw the light turn on for these women. They got it and put their new learned skills to action. I am happy to report that within the eight weeks, the ladies successfully landed new jobs, changed how they managed money, and adopted a new time management system. Two of the ladies have just moved her families into their first duplex-home! I am extremely proud of the women of Sheffield Place and I walked away from this experience with an increased commitment to help my fellow sisters in this thing called Life.