CINCINNATI (December 9, 2022) — Jacky is in her early 30s. Despite the challenges she has faced – leaving her homeland and family, starting life anew in an unfamiliar country, suffering a serious injury in a car accident – she is filled with hope and brimming with optimism about what her future holds.
“Every morning, I rise to shine,” she says. “I rise to reach my goals.”
She would not be so optimistic, she says, if not for United Way’s Project Lift, which has “intervened at critical periods of my life when I needed help, when I was overwhelmed and really did not know where to turn. It’s been a blessing to me.” The program taps public and private dollars to remove barriers that prevent families from building a stronger financial foundation.
October 2022 marked the four-year anniversary of Jacky’s arrival in the United States from her native Cameroon, a central African country plagued by high unemployment and poverty. Jacky obtained permanent U.S. residency through the Diversity Visa Lottery program, which is administered by the U.S. State Department.
She says coming to the United States was “a journey to the unknown. But I was blessed with having people to direct me and connect me to resources that could help me.”
Jacky knew only one person in this country, a man from her Cameroon village whom she lovingly calls “my partner.” They have three children together, all preschool-age or younger. He lives out of state and is her main source of financial support while Jacky takes steps to be self-sufficient.
That journey has taken several turns.
She became certified as a state-tested nurse aide (STNA) in 2020 and then enrolled in an associate degree nursing program. She had to quit her STNA job when the COVID-19 pandemic closed day care facilities and she had no other child care options. By the end of 2020 she was working again, but a few months later she sustained a serious back injury when her car was struck and totaled by an impaired driver.
Because of her injury, Jacky has not yet returned to work, but she is improving with therapy. She is continuing to take nursing classes and expects to earn an associate degree (RN) in spring 2024. She plans to continue her education beyond that. Eventually, she wants to teach nursing.
“My kids have been my motivation. I believe in myself. I know I can do it. I owe something to my kids, but I also owe something to society,” she says. “I need to give back what was given to me. I want to be able to stand straight on my feet and sustain myself.”
She is grateful that for more than two years, when she needed it most, Project Lift connected her to resources and provided assistance ranging from transportation to work uniforms to groceries.
She said she wants to make an impact on other women who face similar challenges. She wants them to know they can succeed. “The legacy I dream of leaving behind is that it’s possible in the United States. Every dream comes true, you just have to work for it.”
Project Lift supports families on their journey to financial stability. Project Lift sponsors listen to each families’ challenges, find ways to leverage resources to assist them with short-term needs – rent, food, child care, utilities, transportation, etc. – and provide an ongoing support system as they work to increase their incomes and build long-term economic well-being.
United Way of Greater Cincinnati is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization [Tax ID: 31-0537502]. Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.