Hour Two | OMFG (Oh My Fairy Godmother) part 1

Life is full of coincidental moments, if we only take the time to pay attention. When I said I didn’t know how full Saturday’s moment was, I wasn’t kidding. To explain what I mean, I’ll first start with this post.

You may have noticed that the first (and up until today, nearly last!) posts on this site were entered in 2010 when I had the opportunity to travel to Italy as part of a study abroad program while I was working toward my journalism degree. Since I’ve pretty much lived my life out of sequence since I was a teenager, I was nervous about being a 33-year-old (at the time) because I just knew I’d be like this old maid with a group of young college students (not saying that 33 is old…it’s just feels like it when you’re the non-traditional college student). Imagine my surprise when I was the third youngest in a group of eight people (shame on me for jumping to conclusions)! But really, this is a story for another day.

The point of my mentioning this is that I used a check book to pay for my trip (old school, I know) that I also used last Saturday to donate to the Women’s Fund at the conclusion of my speech. I only use these checks to pay for things that are super important to me (a trip to Europe, give to a cause I care deeply about) – because I feel like writing a physical check is an intentional act with true meaning behind it.  Plus, the checks are really sweet because they have images of “magical” scenes from various Disney movies on them, so it adds a whimsical twist to whatever the situation is. Also, there’s a coincidental story behind why I chose to name this post OMFG which I’ll get to in a subsequent post sometime in the future.

Alright—did you get all of that? Okay. So, back to yesterday’s “Full Circle Moment” post and the series of events that led me to that moment.

So I’m sitting in the audience listening to the Women’s Fund’s Executive Director talk about the ways their organization works to spread awareness about the issues single mothers face on their climb toward economic self-sufficiency—and I couldn’t believe that there was an organization fighting for me. Well, not ME me, but women like me.

I was so moved by this that I went home and wrote a letter to that executive director, sharing my story, thanking her for the work she was doing, and asking how I could get involved. Below is some of that letter:

I am one of the women you talked about during the opening speech. I was a teenage single-mother. A high school drop-out who, at the age of sixteen, gave birth to a baby boy. Despite my circumstances, something inside of me knew I was more than the current situation I was living.

So I went to community classes and got my G.E.D. I even managed to get into the University of Cincinnati as an electronic media major, but because I hadn’t yet matured enough to make the best decisions — I’d spent formative years, the ones when most teens were planning their proms and studying for SAT’s, figuring out how to take care of my son and myself — I wasn’t successful.

I was in an abusive relationship for years, which I ultimately allowed to lead to my dropping out of school for a second time. Thankfully, I finally developed the wherewithal to get out of the relationship before it was too late.

Even though I worked numerous odd jobs, I needed welfare to make ends meet – off and on – for many, many years.

My second pregnancy, 12 years later, was the tipping point for me. I was, again, a single-mother (a daughter this time) and I knew if I didn’t do something to climb out of poverty, I would be in its clutches forever.

For the next eight years, I inched toward economic self-sufficiency. First earning my associate’s degree in humanities and next a certificate in women and gender studies along with a bachelor’s in journalism from UC, all while working at least part time, in combination with receiving some type of government assistance — sometimes food, at other times housing or medical, but always something.

Most people don’t know this about me. It’s not something one goes around announcing.

 In fact, a colleague of mine recently shared their candid opinion about people who have been on welfare, not knowing that I had once been one of “those people.”

And I didn’t share that I’d been “one of them.”

There is such a stigma attached to anyone who has needed government assistance — or help of any kind, for that matter. Most people think anyone who has ever been on it is lazy, undeserving, looking for a way to get over or just wants a hand-out.

For me, it was a hand up.

I recently earned my latest degree – a master’s in communication – from the University of Cincinnati.

 Twenty years, two children, and thousands of dollars in student loan debt later, I’ve finally broken free from the ties of welfare. I may not yet be rich, but I am self-sufficient.

The work you’re doing is vital — if you can change just one woman’s life, it is all worth it. I image that if I, someone who was and is very resourceful, didn’t know about the important work you’re doing or the resources you provide, there must be other women who don’t know and need to know.

Thank you for the work that you do. Please let me know if there’s any way I can help your cause. 

Sincerely,

Desiré Bennett

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About Desiré

During my 20-year climb to economic self-sufficiency, I've inched my way from being a teenaged single-mother and high school dropout to completing a postgraduate degree and working as a Social Justice Advocate.
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