The Homegirl Project chatted with Gabrielle Caverl-McNeal about her passion for uplifting women in crisis, combatting homelessness, and strengthening generations.
TT: How did your journey begin?
GC: I started my journey with women when I began working at the YWCA at the age of 30, where I was the economic empowerment coach. I provided direct service to women around financial literacy and crisis counseling for domestic violence. I also provided career coaching to women while being in that position. This job taught me what it meant to deliver workforce services to women in a trauma informed manner. I have been working with women for a decade. I myself was a young mom, I became a mom at seventeen and then again at twenty-one, so I know first hand the issues and trials that our young moms are going through. I am grateful for that experience because it allows me to be more passionate and compassionate about the work I do for the women in our program.
TT: What is your responsibility? Which organization do you work for? How is it operated?
GC: I am the assistant director of Workforce Development at New Moms in Chicago. There are three main departments that run under the umbrella of New Moms. One being the job training department, in which women have an opportunity to work with pay, $12/hour. The second department is housing, where we house homeless families, which consists of one mom of or under the age of twenty-four who are pregnant or parenting up to two children. Lastly, the third department is family support, where we offer prenatal classes, home visiting, etc. My job as the assistant director is to oversee the job training program. This program is 16 weeks long, in which I oversee the scheduling of the program, the grants, and I am responsible for growing the program.
TT: What is the hardest part of your job?
GC: The hardest part of my job is not seeing the results. I have to be okay with being a seed planter. A farmer can plant a tree seed at one hundred years old, and die a year later. The tree will still grow, but he will not see the tree. I have to be okay with planting seeds that I will never see blossom, having faith that someday they will blossom because of the seed that I planted. Sometimes my seed blossoms quickly, and sometimes it doesn’t. I do not get to see the fruit of my labor often, but I know that there is some fruit there. I have to be okay with knowing that someone I helped during a really hard time in her life, that I might not see the outcome of the good that happens later because of our program.
TT: What do you wish for every woman who enters your doors to take away?
GC: I want them to take away the fact that they have value, their children have value, and that they can take control of their future. A lot of moms are use to people telling them what to do and how to do, and I want them to know that they have the power to say yes or no, and to make decisions for themselves and their children. My prayer for them is that the validation and affirmation they receive from our program will help them be more empowered in making decisions for their life moving forward.
TT: Are there any new projects you’re working on?
GC: I am working on embedding a two generational approach into my workforce program. We are looking to deepen ways to cope around young moms learning, and how that learning can be delivered to their children also, in a way that grows them both. We have to be focused on the whole family, and not the just the moms. I am also working on being trauma informed not only for the women that we serve, but for the staff that serves our women.