Editor’s note: Cynthia Rentie is the director of Buckner Family Pathways in Dallas. She works with single mothers daily to help them fulfill their potential and achieve their educational and career goals. The COVID-19 pandemic had potential to derail many of these women as they were forced to quickly adapt to new situations, not only in their own education but also in their children’s school. In a situation that could have been devastating, Cynthia saw growth and perseverance. She comments on the resiliency of the women in the Family Pathways program.
I was so proud to witness just how courageous and strong the mothers in the Family Pathways program are. Their inner strength, faith, resilience and determination did not allow COVID-19 to stop them from succeeding in the program. And they certainly had their challenges.
- In-person classes were changed to online instruction, which meant more work
- Helping their children navigate a new online platform for their school, requiring time and attention
- Continuing to maintain schedules and go to work in addition to their education in order to provide for their family
But they did not let these barriers stop them. They continued to fight. They were able to see the growth and maturity they have acquired from all their hard work and they implemented the tools and skills they have been learning in the program.
Because of the life skills they learned, not one mother from the Dallas program asked for rental or food assistance. They adapted quite well to virtual case management and group meetings and utilized the strong support of the counseling department to meet their psychological and spiritual needs. I was proud of how open they were to share their feelings. I appreciated their courage and vulnerability to trust us by letting us know when they felt overwhelmed and scared.
Because of the financial classes they have taken, several of the mothers have been able to maintain an average savings of $4,000 during the pandemic. They are working hard to build their credit scores and continuing to empower themselves financially by taking financial classes, working with a financial coach through one of our collaborations and saving to make good investments and buy a home.
Navigating through finishing a semester in a different format among all the other challenges the pandemic caused was difficult. But half of the mothers in the program were able to achieve a 3.0 GPA or greater.
We instituted weekly virtual check ins – an informal time for the Family Pathways staff and mothers to have a safe place to talk and truly express how they were doing during a pandemic.
I love how the mothers said they felt safe and secure in their homes. In one of our meetings, one mother admitted how proud she was that she was making it through the pandemic without rent assistance or other monetary assistance because she listened and finally let past trauma and pain go so she could live again. She has worked hard in the program, but it hasn’t been easy. She said she was only accomplishing her goals because we did not give up her even when she was being difficult.
These ladies have built a community among themselves by creating an environment that promotes faith, love, support, forgiveness, family, team and togetherness. In my 10 years as director for Family Pathways, this group of ladies has shown me truly what it means to be brave, thoughtful, selfless and victorious. It has been invigorating to witness them all encouraging each other and fighting together toward greatness and wholeness.
These ladies did not let the chaos or the overwhelming disruption of the pandemic bring them down to the point they were paralyzed to move forward because all the training we poured into them as they work toward self-sufficiency. They remembered those skills and used them. They never lost sight that there is light in this time of darkness. These ladies are turning into women who do believe they were created to do greatness. They see and appreciate their individual gifts and are excited to know they have a purpose. Additionally, their children see their mothers’ success and want to be just like them.
God has given each of us the gift to effect change in the world by being change agents for him. We are that light for the hungry who need food, a refuge for the homeless, a healing place for the broken, servants of God for the needy who hunger for God’s word, and we have been given all we need to help bring light into the lives of those who live in darkness.