Tag Archives: community

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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