At first, it seemed Tammy was among the lucky ones. She, her husband and young son received a visa to come to the U.S. from their native Ethiopia. Tammy landed a salon job and studied to be a cosmetologist. By listening to audiotapes, she became proficient enough in English to prepare for the citizenship exam.
But Tammy’s husband became physically abusive and abandoned the family. With no child support, her financial situation deteriorated.
Fortunately, she heard about a financial counseling clinic offered by Britepaths, which has served working poor people in Fairfax County, Virginia since 1984. The clinics, supported by a grant from the Foundation for Financial Planning (FFP), are typically the first point of contact for clients like Tammy — almost all single mothers, many of them immigrants — who often work in multiple jobs but struggle financially because of job loss, illness or disability, mounting debt or other issues. Frequently, they’re unbanked and have little understanding of U.S. financial institutions.
After meeting with a volunteer planner, Tammy completed a basic budgeting class and became eligible for a year-long, one-on-one financial mentoring program called Project Bridge, also supported by FFP. Through the program, she has learned to track her spending, minimize expenses and begin saving $1,700 for the citizenship applications for her and her son.
Thanks to grants from FFP, Britepaths is reaching more people like Tammy, with 18 financial counseling clinics throughout Fairfax County that open the door to the mentoring program and other services, from professional wardrobe assistance to a matched savings program, helping motivated clients get on their feet.
“Her attitude is amazing,” says Tammy’s volunteer mentor. “When I consider that she came to this country speaking no English, I am in awe of her commitment to building a future for herself.”
“We want to approach each client as a complex individual and help them on their path to financial stability and life stability. It’s not cookie cutter; it’s individualistic.”
— Marcelle Miles, Financial Literacy Director, Britepaths
- Completed basic budgeting class
- Completed year-long, one-on-one financial mentoring program
- Learned to track spending and minimize expenses
- Began saving $1,700 for U.S. citizenship applications