“I haven’t been able to find a stable job in years and have no idea what else to do. I’m losing hope.”
As Deborah* sits across from me, wiping tears from her eyes, she shares how she’s been unable to find stable, full-time employment since being laid off more than three years ago. “I have a job, but it’s only part time,” she said. “I’m only working a few hours a week—definitely not enough to pay the bills and help me take care of my family.”
After learning about Jobs for Life (JfL) from a local community partner, Deborah was meeting with me to learn details about the upcoming JfL class taking place in downtown Raleigh over the summer. Through the class, men and women struggling with unemployment or underemployment can get assistance in finding and keeping employment by being led through a biblically-based training curriculum and getting connected to a loving, supportive community. The class focuses on developing soft skills like resumé writing and conflict resolution, as well as preparing for job interviews and helping individuals build relationships and network with the local community, something with which Deborah desperately needed help.
No One To Lean On
Deborah had grown up in a small, rural town and from her perspective, had grown up in poverty. “We really didn’t have anything growing up,” she explained. “I was the first in my family to actually go to college. It was a big deal.” She had work experience, but now found herself living in Raleigh without stable employment, without family to lean on and without much direction of where to go next. She had to figure it out on her own.
Roadblocks to Employment
Deborah’s story is similar to so many others we’ve heard in the 20+ year history at Jobs for Life. We’ve met men and women who have grown up in generational poverty, are experiencing homelessness, have a criminal record, are dealing with mental or physical disabilities or are experiencing some other obstacle holding them back and keeping them from finding solid employment. Often times it’s a combination of a few of these issues. And just like Deborah, they do not yet have a network of people who can help them navigate the job search process.
A Dangerous Cycle
We believe that God created everyone to work, and through work we’re able to use our unique God-given gifts and skills to provide for ourselves, our family and our community. More than just increased economic mobility and income generation, work also provides individuals and their families with a time structure, a source of status and identity and a means of participating in a collective purpose.
On the contrary, a lack of work means a loss of purpose and dignity. Unemployment and underemployment can result in shattered dreams, loss of confidence and lack of zeal for life in general. It can lead to more poverty, crime, homelessness, domestic violence, substance abuse, unwanted pregnancies, divorce and suicide.
We’re not only talking about material poverty at this point, but also spiritual and emotional poverty. It’s a dangerous self-perpetuating cycle.
We know that breaking this cycle of poverty is not something that can happen overnight. It takes long-term development solutions and a focus on engaging in healthy, meaningful relationships. It takes helping people get back to work and helping them understand who they are, the God-given gifts they have and that their past does not define their future. Finding a job IS a job and is incredibly difficult to do alone.
We Need Each Other
As we work with churches and ministries around the country, training and equipping them to lead work-readiness classes and preparing people for employment in their communities, we are constantly reminded of this need for partnership and collaboration on all levels. From the student working with their JfL mentor (or “Champion” as we like to call them) on their gift assessment and job interview skills, to a church partnering with local businesses to help provide access to resources and job opportunities, each relationship is a necessary step in addressing unemployment and breaking the poverty cycle.
To sum it all up…we need each other!
Through this process, we all end up learning something—about ourselves and about our community. And we’ve seen first-hand how the results can be transformational for everyone involved.
– Alex Ford, Marketing and Communications Manager, Jobs for Life
*Name and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of the individual.