Many of us take for granted that we will be safe and secure in our homes, and that our family relationships will be nurturing and supportive. For women in abusive relationships, however, safety and security are not a “given.” Instead, these women struggle to maintain control of the most basic needs: personal safety, the safety of their children, and access to financial resources to support themselves and their families. Sadly, restricting access to financial resources is one of the most commonly used abuse methods; women without financial resources lack the tools to escape violent relationships.

In response to this concern, The Women’s Fund of the Capital Region (WFCR) awarded one of its first grants to Project Hope and Power--an innovative eight-week training and mentoring program designed to give domestic violence survivors the skills they need to become financially secure and independent. The project was launched by Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis (DVRC) Services of Saratoga County. The program is provided through a unique and successful collaboration with Soroptimist International of Saratoga County (SISC) and with the support of a $15,000 grant from the WFCR in 2007.

Fifty domestic violence survivors have participated in the program each year, and many more survivors have already signed up for future programs, according to Maggie Fronk, DVRC executive director. The WFCR grant enabled them to provide very modest attendance and completion stipends to program participants as well as follow-up counseling. Megan Taylor, housing and employment specialist at DVRC, runs Project Hope and Power and provides case management and counseling assistance to participants.

The two-hour class is conducted weekly with free child care provided for program participants. Members of SISC serve as volunteer facilitators for each class, and SISC also provides two child-caretakers each week to make it possible for participants to attend. The SISC facilitators also serve as powerful role models for class participants.

Project Hope and Power focuses on topics directly related to financial issues, such as financial management, establishing credit, and increasing personal financial assets. They also focus on related issues including accessing affordable housing options, establishing goals for increased independence, and upgrading job skills to advance professionally. Many participants have told Megan and Maggie that completing Project Hope and Power has changed their lives.

“Women are transformed by Project Hope and Power,” said SISC member Pamela Polacsek. “We are so thankful to The Women’s Fund for their support of our work. It is a great comfort and blessing to know that others share our commitment to supporting these women.”