Women in progress : a community economic development experience

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Southern New Hampshire University
The Women In Progress Program at New Directions For Women Inc. is an information and skills building program that is focused on life management issues and skills for women who are ex - offenders and recovering from drug addiction. Before these women can sustain themselves economically there must be a bridge to lead them to a point where they can realize that they have talents and the ability to become self sustainable. The program consist of twelve hours of workshops presented each week for one hour. This format is offered to all of the residents at New Directions For Women Inc. which is a transitional housing shelter for women, upon their release from prison. It was created and designed by the women, based on their own needs. The workshops are facilitated by a qualified training instructor. They stress an open interactive learning model that encourages questions, concerns and skills of the participants to shape and enrich the learning process. The facilitator encourages the group to claim ownership of the decision making process and the short and long term goals they want to pursue. A blend of lecture, role plays and personal exchanges to keep the group motivated and focused on the topic is also incorporated in the workshops. The goal is to empower the participants with confidence and the ability to become self sustainable. As the women progressed in their recovery they discovered that they have talents, can accomplish goals and be productive individuals, capable of sustaining themselves emotionally and economically. This conclusion was made evident when the women created nutritional recipes which were designed into a calendar for sale . The proceeds from the calendar are used to start an emergency fund for the women. Some of the women have found employment as mentors for the new women coming into the shelter. Others have completed their high school degrees and enrolled in job skill programs or college. One participant was hired as the head chef of New Directions For Women Inc. The most rewarding aspect of this project is that it will continue to be a part of New Directions For Women Inc., and the women developed the entire program themselves. They have reason to believe they are "Women In Progress." (Author abstract)