Category Archives: Encouragement

Out of Poverty, Family-Style

by David Bornstein

Shortly after Candace Keshwar immigrated from Trinidad to Boston in 2002, her life took a difficult turn. Her dream had been to go to college and have a career where she could help others. But her first daughter was born with cerebral palsy and Keshwar spent the next seven years caring for her at home. She grew isolated. Her husband worked in construction, but jobs were sporadic, and the family relied on government assistance. “It was a real dark space for me,” Keshwar said. “I kept thinking, ‘This cannot be my life. I know I have the potential to do so much more.’”

A program that motivates poor families to help themselves, and each other.

A turning point came when Keshwar was asked to join a group of families who had self-organized as part of an initiative that helps people in low-income communities achieve their goals. Called the Family Independence Initiative (FII), its approach is radically different from the American social service model. Although it is still quite small — working with a few hundred families — its results are so striking that the White House has taken notice. What FII does is create a structure for families that encourages the sense of control, desire for self-determination, and mutual support that have characterized the collective rise out of poverty for countless communities in American history.

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Youngstown friends took different path

by Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator

Shortly after publishing my March column on the six young men involved in shooting into a house full of people in February, killing one, I received an email from Lamar Sykes, formerly of Youngstown.

Sykes has a financial-analyst position with the defense finance and accounting service, a Department of Defense agency in Cleveland.

He read the column and suggested I write about him and five of his friends who grew up on the mean streets of Youngstown. He thought their lives would be a positive contrast to the men charged in the shooting.

They chose to pursue lives devoted to education, hard work and trying to make themselves better.

The six — Sykes, Michael Gibson, Wilson Okello, Clarence Howell, Carrington Moore and Thomas Toney — grew up on the South Side. Howell has stayed in town; the other five have moved away for job reasons or to seek additional education.

They are all 24, single and have no children.

They attribute their success in no small part to their parents’ guidance, their longtime friendship and their faith in God.

Youngstown was a great proving ground for them. They have fond memories of the city, but they also saw many of their friends succumb to the city’s negative image and make bad choices.

They remain close and, says Sykes, their long-range goal is “formulating ideas in which we can collaborate on how to help the area’s youth overcome some of the obstacles they may face. Our intentions are to establish a nonprofit organization in the area.”

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Encouraging notes on fear…

Below is a note I sent to a dear brother of mine some time ago, as they did for me upon reading them again, I hope to someone they will serve some purpose.

“Fear is an emotion indispensable for survival.” -Hannah Arendt

Fear is omnipresent
everyone is afraid,
but how you respond to that fear is the question.
We survive or perish based on our responses to fear.
Own your fear, and become stronger and the better for it

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