Power of Possible: Arifa Triumphs Over Tragedy

Power of Possible: Arifa Triumphs Over Tragedy

“You have to face your challenges, and if you work hard and put your heart and soul into it, you can achieve whatever you want.”

Arifa Hossain came to the United States from Bangladesh with her husband and two children in 2016. Eight months after they arrived, Arifa’s husband tragically passed away, leaving her alone to raise and support two young children. Arifa was terrified—she never left the house alone or traveled alone, and didn’t speak English. She had no employment history. All decisions were made by her husband.

Arifa was forced to move her family into a basement apartment on Queens that was infested with rodents and insects. She became depressed, and her son wanted the family to move back to Bangladesh. Having nowhere to turn and not knowing what else to do, Arifa applied for TANF benefits from the state and was assigned a case manager from Fedcap Inc., Sushmita Bit. It would prove to be a life-changing meeting for Arifa, and the beginning of a long friendship.

Sushmita encouraged Arifa to seek work as a home health aide. For Arifa, the notion was hard to accept. Her family members In Bangladesh were academic and professionals, who would consider caregiver work beneath their dignity. There were cultural constraints that Arifa struggled to overcome. She told Sushmita that she would only work for a family that shared her religious faith, would not work in a house with a dog, would not work for a man, and would not travel outside of Queens.

Sushmita and Arifa met frequently, and spoke almost every day on the phone. Sushmita encouraged her to be strong, and to start building a new life. There was no one to take care of her, she said; Arifa would have to take care of herself and her family. If she wanted to get off of public assistance and become independent and self-supporting, she would have to work. After much encouragement and with ongoing support, Arifa gradually agreed to relax her conditions, and soon entered a training program to become a home health aide, earning a certificate. Within a year she was working fulltime, taking care of patients in Long Island.

Then something wonderful happened–Arifa’s son, who was attending community college in Queens, was accepted at SUNY Buffalo. With only three days to decide whether to accept the offer, the family visited Buffalo the next day. Afraid that she wouldn’t be able to find work in a strange city, far from the encouragement and support of Sushmita, Arifa was reluctant to leave her job. But Sushmita encouraged her, saying this was an incredible opportunity for her son, and that work would be easy to find in Buffalo. Arifa decided to move.

It turned out to be a great decision. As Sushmita had promised, trained home health aides were harder to find and more in demand in Buffalo than in NYC. The family was also able to escape the infested apartment in Queens, and avoid the high cost of living in NYC.

In Buffalo, Arifa had no car and little money, and did not understand the public transportation system, but she assured prospective employers that she would find a way to get to her job as she had in Queens—she would walk if she had to.

Arifa was hired, at first at 20 hours per week. After proving herself to be a hardworking and committed employee she was promoted to full-time, and now works 56 hours per week, taking care of a woman from Mexico. Over time she became comfortable traveling alone, and has learned to use the bus system to get to and from work.

At Sushmita’s urging Arifa began saving her money—she is now financially independent and is no longer on public assistance. The best news of all—Arifa purchased her own home! She has developed a circle of friends, who have helped her settle in. She continues to save money and is enjoying the slower pace of Buffalo. “It is a great achievement in my life,” Arifa said. “All of my sisters and brothers called to congratulate me. I am very happy that my son is happy too.”

Sushmita was thrilled for her client and friend when she heard the news. “Arifa called me one morning and informed me that she bought a house. She said this was a dream come true for her, and thanked everyone at Fedcap who supported her in her journey alone. She has achieved something no woman in her family has ever achieved. I feel so happy because I was able to make a change in Arifa’s life. It is an experience that I think she will remember forever.”

When Arifa isn’t working, she hones her computer skills, hoping to secure an office job, preferably with the NY State Government. She still talks to Sushmita frequently. Occasionally, Sushmita will ask her to call other women who are struggling, to share her own story of overcoming barriers and proving that anything is possible.

“I tell them be strong, be brave. You have to face your challenges, and if you work hard and put your heart and soul into it, you can achieve whatever you want.”

Easterseals Project Discovery in Port Jervis Hosted Pre-Thanksgiving Donations

Easterseals Project Discovery in Port Jervis Hosted Pre-Thanksgiving Donations

Donated items Distributed on Monday, November 23.

Barbara Kuczyra, Frankie Roman, Bridget Grech, and (not pictured) Dawn Ulmer volunteer a lot of time and energy to Easterseals’ Project Discovery’s outreach and monthly distributions of donated clothing, food, and household items. Photo by Sharon Siegel for The Gazette
Easterseals Project Discovery in Port Jervis, New York, organizes regular distributions of food, clothing, and household items. The team was recognized earlier in 2020 by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for their remarkable work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently,the Port Jervis Gazette visited Project Discovery – click here to see their story about Project Discovery’s Pre-Thanksgiving distribution of donated food, clothing, and household goods to take place on Monday, November 23.


Double Impact Program Trains Young Adults, Provides Meals to Those in Need

Double Impact Program Trains Young Adults, Provides Meals to Those in Need

Community Work Services’ Double Impact Initiative was developed in conjunction with Breaktime, a youth-led nonprofit and social enterprise. Double Impact has a twofold purpose – to help homeless young adults acquire job skills and economic stability, and to create meals for first responders and food-insecure participants in the Boston-area.

The need is acute. Amid a nationwide surge in food insecurity, one in seven residents and one in five children in Massachusetts will experience food insecurity, the second highest rate in the nation among children.

WCBV5’s Erika Tarantal reported on CWS’ efforts. View the video here.

Learn more about CWS and the Double Impact Initiative, including interviews with more participants, on the CWS website.

The Fedcap Group Acquires APEX Technical School

The Fedcap Group Acquires APEX Technical School

The acquisition complements and expands The Fedcap Group’s existing career training platform offered through its Fedcap Career Design School.

New York, September 2020 — The Fedcap Group, a nonprofit that develops innovative, sustainable solutions to advance the economic well-being of the impoverished and disadvantaged, has acquired Apex Technical School. This acquisition both complements and expands The Fedcap Group’s existing career training platform offered through its Fedcap Career Design School.

For over 40 years, the Fedcap Career Design Schools has helped students chart their own path–becoming trained in high growth sectors that will lead to careers. These programs are structured to teach students of diverse abilities the technical skills required to perform the tasks of a specific job. “We are thrilled to welcome Apex Tech into The Fedcap Group,” says Christine McMahon, President and CEO of The Fedcap Group. “Apex certificate programs are highly regarded and have been shown to have a substantial positive impact on economic mobility—leading to entry level careers. This acquisition also increases our class offering and ability to reach more students.”

Founded in 1961 by John R. Cann, Apex Technical School is a well-known adult vocational technical school, serving 1,400 students annually, offers seven 900-hour certificate courses in skilled trades such as: refrigeration, automotive service, auto body, welding technology, electrical and advanced electrical, plumbing and construction. Apex is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges and licensed by New York State Department of Education.

Apex CEO William Z Cann, says: For sixty years my family has shepherded Apex Tech and we are proud of the tens of thousands of graduate alumni. Now we look forward to continuing our legacy through The Fedcap Group. This amazing union will allow our students to access even more benefits, job opportunities and other supports offered through The Fedcap Group and its rapidly growing membership of companies. To quote our founder: “Onward and Upward!”

For more information, please contact:
Steven Zarnfaller, Director of Communications
The Fedcap Group

Families of Texas Kids with Special Needs Fear COVID-19 Budget Cuts

Families of Texas Kids with Special Needs Fear COVID-19 Budget Cuts

A news report on Spectrum News in San Antonio, Texas highlighted the critical importance of services for children with disabilities, which are threatened by state budget cuts.

The story and accompanying video highlighted the life-changing work of Easterseals Central Texas in serving children and families and told the story of Cadence Hedrick, a two-year-old girl whose ability to use her legs was in doubt when she was born. After early intervention services provided over time by ESCT, Cadence can move around safely and has growing confidence.

“We went from wondering whether she could walk at all to her being very functional,” Robert Hedrick, Cadence’s father told reporters. ”Being able to have someone there to keep us safe while we pushed her was really unbelievable. We call her our miracle baby.”

Tod Marvin President and CEO of ESCT, was quoted in the news story and video about the critical importance of early intervention services. “When you look at the public investment that is required for kids that don’t get these services during this critical window of developmental time, the cost to society is exponential.,”

The story illustrates not only the amazing work of Tod and his team but also the importance of working smarter, of innovation, vision and leadership, in the face of budget cuts and the growing economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fedcap UK Receives Five Honors in Employment Related Services Association Awards

Fedcap UK Receives Five Honors in Employment Related Services Association Awards

Brian Bell, CEO of Fedcap UK

The Employment Related Services Association (ERSA) Employability Awards honor the hard work and dedication of the employment support sector in the UK. They recognize best practices and the achievements of those working to support job seekers in their progression to work, as well as customers who, with courage and commitment, overcome challenges as they strive to reach their full potential.

A virtual ceremony recently recognized ERSA award winners across 12 categories, and Fedcap UK was honored to have five winners! Lorna Beaton, an engagement manager for Fedcap Scotland, was honored for leading a team that repeatedly hits employment targets and has engaged online with over 9,500 participants throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. “It is really fantastic to be recognized in this way,” Lorna said. “The award is a reflection of lots of amazing people I work with and the passion they have to helping others.”

Also recognized was Business 2 Business, a Fedcap UK service partner with 33 years of experience in delivering employment and health-based programs that has supported over 450 Links to Work customers in gaining work readiness skills and finding employment.

Fedcap UK customers Jazmin and Julie received awards for overcoming some incredible barriers to start their journey back into work. Jazmin, who suffers from a genetic disorder, has put in the hard work to gain the skills and confidence she needs to enter the workforce. Julie, who had been unemployed for 17 years and faced significant barriers in returning to work, is now employed and was elated at being honored at the awards ceremony.

“It was an experience I will never forget. I’m so very grateful for Fedcap for all their support, and for nominating me for the award,” Julie said.

Finally, Brian Bell, Chief Executive of Fedcap UK, was presented with the Outstanding Contribution to the Sector Achiever Award. Brian has been a leading innovator in the sector since the 1980s, designing and delivering cutting-edge services to help disadvantaged people in UK communities and consistently achieve huge social impact–under his watch, he and his teams have supported more than a million people to lead better lives.

According to ERSA: “Driven by a strong social purpose coupled with commerciality, Brian has achieved results in the public, private and voluntary sectors. He is rightly recognized across the sector as an expert in creating innovative interventions that work for the people who need them most. He has consistently used his expertise and influence to achieve huge impact in the UK and beyond.”

Brian said: “I am extremely humbled to have been awarded this recognition from my peers in the sector. As always, these awards are a yearly reminder of the positive impact our sector has on people’s lives every day. As we move forward into uncertain economic times, it’s important that this work continues and that communities that have been left behind in the past are not left in the rear-view mirror once again.”

Queens Councilman Links with Wildcat Service Corp. to Clear District of Graffiti

Queens Councilman Links with Wildcat Service Corp. to Clear District of Graffiti

Wildcat Service Corp., in partnership with New York City Councilman Robert Holden, cleaned buildings marked with graffiti in several Queens neighborhoods with its Neighborhood Improvement Program (NIP), after an increase in spray paint and vandalism incidents. Read the Queens Courier article, and visit Wildcat’s website to learn more about their work and how our teams can assist New York City Council members and state legislators in keeping their districts clean, and more. 

Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

NEW YORK, NY (July 27, 2020) — This week marks the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which President George H.W. Bush, who signed the ADA into law, described as “a declaration of equality.” The legislation was widely hailed as expanding the rights and independence of Americans with disabilities, and as “the most sweeping anti-discrimination measure since the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

The ADA banned discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications and access to state and local government’ programs and services to ensure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. Today we take ramps, closed captioning and workplace accommodations for granted, but prior to the ADA these were not available for the tens of millions of Americans living with a disability.

The Fedcap Group is honored to recognize the 30th anniversary of the ADA, which brought fairness, opportunity and fulfillment to the lives of millions. We understand the life-changing implications of having the opportunity to reach one’s own potential. Thanks to the ADA and the brave individuals with disabilities who fought for its passage, we no longer think of people with disabilities as different from anyone else.

There is still a long way to go to ensure full rights and participation, but we stand with the nation in celebrating this milestone legislation as well as the immeasurable contributions of people with disabilities to the safety, prosperity and well-being of our country.