Originally published in the July 2022 issue of Synergy, a Hope for Tomorrow publication

In a facilitated group setting, “Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World” takes you step by step through a discovery of yourself. It’s not just about where you are now but how did you get here and, more importantly, what do you want your future story to be. The curriculum involves rigorous work done to examine your own experience of poverty and explore issues in the community that impacts poverty. Self-assessments of access to resources, stability and debt-to-income ratios are completed in the workshop and again at specific periods after the workshop is completed. Facilitators guide participants to learn how to access the resources that they found lacking. “Getting Ahead” puts the concepts, tools and relationships in the hands of people in poverty to make a difference in their own lives and in the life of their community. Participants write their future story as the final project in the workshop which will guide them and their mentors in their year together.

Mary is 78 and signed up for “Getting Ahead In A Just-Gettin’-By World” thinking it wouldn’t be helpful. She totally embraced the content, loved the little community we developed, leaned into the support she got from her fellow Investigators and facilitators. She was in financial difficulty; had a disabled adult son she was enabling and was trying to move into a senior living facility. Her attitude was of no hope and almost why bother. Partway through the workshop she was moved into a motel until her facility was completed but her room was not secure. She advocated for a new room and new security measures to be installed in her room and got what she asked for. She claimed her courage to advocate for herself came from the workshop.

She is in the mentoring phase now and has paid off two large bills, is dealing better with her son, has gotten the biggest financial burden taken care of, and is in the process of getting badly needed hearing aids. Mary told me that through this workshop she realized that she had taken on too many activities in her life and it was causing her anxiety so she is cutting down on the number of activities so that she can better manage her life. She said this workshop has given her confidence and courage to stand up for herself, to say “no” when she felt it was necessary and it has changed her attitude from negative to positive and people around her noticed the changes. She has felt very supported by the people involved in this workshop.

About a week after the end of the workshop, she told me that her Stability scores in all, but one area had improved and that one area she was feeling optimistic. She moved to the stable and very stable level in the other areas. She said this workshop was the best workshop-type event she has ever taken. She has also come to realize that the relationship she has with her son has to change, for both of them. She has been pleased with the mentoring that she has gotten and was especially excited that the relationship has been so comfortable and that it has happened organically rather than forcing it. She is a new person full of vitality, hope and courage. All of this she attributes to attending the “Getting Ahead” workshop.

Carol Cole, the author, is a Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World facilitator.

This post has been lightly edited and slightly differs from the originally published piece.