“Self- improvement is a crucial part of progress and happiness in our lives, but we can’t just strive for it aimlessly,” says Brenda Rodriguez, Hope’s Door Next Step Economic Empowerment Coordinator.  She adds, “Determination, motivation and dedication are a few key components it takes to become successful.”  The Next Step program, which has enrolled 173 survivors of domestic violence since its start in 2014, aims to guide victims by implementing strategies of economic empowerment and self- sufficiency to overcome barriers.

Is the client ready to take on another task? Do they want to be independent? These are the questions Brenda, in collaboration with other Hope’s Door counselors, asks to assess clients’ readiness to participate in Next Step.  Balancing different aspects of life, such as work and family, can be overwhelming for participants, who may also lack self-confidence, self- esteem, and self-worth.  Brenda is there to support the survivors, but she insists “in the end, it is their choice to decide how far they will progress in the program. “

When speaking with Brenda, one feels the passion and excitement she has for each of her clients as they check off small and large accomplishments. She tells story after story of the improvements they make to change their lives for the better.  “Every little accomplishment for them is a celebration.  I celebrate with them if they get an interview for the job, I celebrate if they get the job, I celebrate when they finish a class,” Brenda says. These achievements, accomplished with determination, motivation and dedication, help the individual improve, sky-rocketing their self-confidence and feeling of worth.

For Brenda, the Hope’s Door mission, client accomplishments, and being a part of all the action is the reason she is so committed to her work. While the number of survivors she helps is growing, Brenda stresses that additional funding is needed more now than ever before. “So far, we’ve been able to help clients because of donations that allow us to have participants register for classes, get a uniform, go for a driver’s lessons, pay for childcare during the interview, and much more.” But, she says, “additional funding would allow us to help even more survivors of domestic violence overcome their barriers to economic independence.” 

“I counseled a teacher once,” Brenda says as she reflects on a former client. “She was in a private school and wasn’t making enough money. She kept doing interviews and finally secured a  position in a different school making more money. In order to continue to advance her career, all she needed to do was complete three online courses. We helped enroll her in those courses and paid the tuition. She met the course requirements and in a couple of months, she tripled her salary, enabling her to provide so much more for her family.”

This is just one of the many examples that convinced Brenda that the program is vital for survivors. “If we can inspire independence and help survivors to achieve economic security, then maybe they will feel safe and secure in making the decision to leave and not return to their abuser.  It takes a strong sense of self and the knowledge that they can make it on their own, and that is the objective of the Next Step program,” she says, smiling.

If you would like to donate to the Next Step Economic Empowerment Program and help create more success stories, please visit https://hopesdoorny.org/donate/.