By Kristina Cousar
This Mother’s Day there are too many moms in Brooklyn struggling to make ends meet, especially because so many of us are the sole breadwinners. So it’s really no surprise that so many of us have been forced to move our families into shelters. But there is hope—and solutions—and I am proving it.
As a single mother of three who has dealt with her fair share obstacles in life, including homelessness, and as a woman who doesn’t have a college degree and has failed to keep a steady job, much less move up in the workplace, I have an idea of what other moms in shelters are going through.
Not too long ago, I spent time in a shelter. While I was living there, I often felt like I was slipping away into a dark place. Sure, I had a roof over my head, but I had no confidence, no career path, very little money, and a lot of responsibility for my children. Every day I felt tired, physically, mentally, and emotionally. I was stuck.
As the sole pillar of support for three beautiful children I knew that giving up was not an option. Destiny and Delilah, my seven-year-old twin daughters, and Messiah, my four-year-old son, always push me to keep moving forward. But it’s hard to feel hopeful when you’re beating yourself up too much because you feel like you are failing your kids.
Fortunately for me and my children, I heard about a different kind of program, one made for people like me. The program, the Culinary Arts Training Program run by a nonprofit called Project Renewal, trains low-income and formerly homeless adults for careers in the food industry, where jobs are growing faster than average, gives us work experience through paid internships in food businesses, and supports us to find jobs and keep them by helping us deal with workplace challenges.
The program took into account not just my lack of kitchen and cooking skills, but also where my head was at. In my first weeks as a student, I learned basic knife skills, cooking temperatures, and presentation tips, but also I learned patience and perseverance, and I slowly built my confidence back up.
I am now at the internship stage of the program, working in the cafeteria at Morgan Stanley. Once I finish my internship, Project Renewal will help me find a full-time job. They have a great track record – four out of five trainees graduate the six-month program and almost everyone gets a job.
With my internship and my new skills, I am more determined than ever to succeed. To hear my three children say that they are proud of me brings me great joy—and it motivates me even more.
If city leaders want to address unemployment and widespread homelessness in New York City, especially for single mothers and their children, they should look at programs like the one I’m in.
The most rewarding thing about being a mother is that your children remind you how much they love you with smiles, laughter, and the unexpected drawings you find on your dresser saying, “You’re the best.” With the track that this program has put me on, I can return that love by giving my kids a steady home and a confident, determined mom for the first time.
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