Vivian's dreams are coming true thanks to Women United

One mother's story of resilience - working for a better life for her children

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Women United is helping mothers and their children in Southern Maine achieve financial stability and their dreams. One of those women is Vivian. As a young child Vivian was orphaned and lived in refugee camps in The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and South Africa. There, she met her husband and together they had two children. Sighting ongoing challenges related to social protections and her family’s security, Vivian immigrated to the US with her sons seeking better life for herself and her children. Vivian recalled, “I had a goal to move to the United States and give my children the education, the life, that I dream for them.”

After immigrating to the US, Vivian faced a new set of challenges including learning a new language and finding stability and housing for her family. After moving to Portland, she was connected with the Housing Authority and The Opportunity Alliance (TOA) who recommended she take part in the Project WIN cohort.

With the help of Women United, Vivian joined a community of women that circled around her and her family – providing financial assistance, school supplies and educational support for the kids, and a group of advocates working alongside her to realize her goals and immediate needs. When the pandemic hit Maine last year, Vivian’s hours at her workplace were significantly reduced, creating a cascade of financial challenges that Vivian struggled to navigate. Women United was there to provide additional emergency resources and ensure that Vivian’s housing and utilities were not jeopardized.

Vivian shared, “Project WIN has been amazing. They just help you when you need help.”

But, it takes more than an offer of support to make real and lasting change. Vivian’s tenacity and drive shone through and even amidst the pandemic, Vivian worked diligently to pursue her goals, studying business administration with the intent to work in finance. Women United was there to assist Vivian with her school fees and will be there as she works to make her path to a thriving future for her and her family.

Vivian is one of over a dozen single mothers and their children currently enrolled in Project WIN, a program operated by TOA and support by Women United. Project WIN (Women In Neighborhoods) is a two-generation strategy designed to create a pathway out of poverty. The program utilizes an evidence-based coaching model to help mothers identify unique goals for their family and track progress. Also, children of the cohort receive high-quality early childhood education within Head Start and Early Head Start programs or other providers. As of winter 2021, Project WIN has served 22 moms and 70 children with families ranging from 10 different countries. Though 2020’s challenges have presented significant setbacks, cohort members celebrated the accomplishment of seeing all participants move beyond the need for financial support from General Assistance. Additionally, all the children birth to age five in the program accessed high-quality early childhood education and received special services if indicated.

Women United, a Giving Circle of United Way of Southern Maine, supports local programs like Project WIN that take a two-generational approach to advance the lives of single mothers and their children. Since its launch in 2017, Women United has invested over $550,000 to advance single moms and their children like Vivian.  

You can make a difference in the lives of Southern Maine women and children through Women United today. Learn more and become a member at womenunitedgp.org.

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