Hello, I am Mary Muñoz. I am originally from Chihuahua, Mexico and have lived in Albuquerque since 1999. I started with FII in February 2015. I had learned about FII through a former college friend and since being a part of FII, many things changed in my family. When I was introduced to the FII project, our family was on food stamps, having economic difficulties, and lacked the time to be together as a family. Since then, I have been able to get off public assistance, move my family upward economically, and also spend more time with the kids.
One of the changes my family made to achieve this was work on monthly goals. Before FII, we had goals, but we didn’t really focus on them nor have specific timelines or the resources to achieve them. In the beginning, I was the only one planning the goals for our family on the FII journaling system, but after the first six months, our family now sits together each month to think about our future goals and celebrate the previous goals met. Even our 10-year-old son looks forward to contributing his goals, for example his goal last month was to raise his reading level.
In August, our family applied for FII ’s Health Match resource. My husband and son registered for BMX training in the Duke City BMX. We used the FII funds to pay for the registration fee and fix their bikes. This had been one of my husband’s dreams, to teach our son what he had practiced when he was young. Now both of them are getting healthy together, and we were able to spend time as a family.
In October, we decided to cut our Food Stamps benefits after being on them for 4 years. Although it was a difficult decision to make — as we needed them — we just got tired of dealing with the Social Workers who made us feel as if we owed them something, treating us like we were poor victims. It was also difficult having to go in and spend hours in the waiting room each time our income changed for the month. We’re happy to say that by managing our money better; we have been able to do without the government “help.”
In December, we got the interest free loan FII offers to remodel our kitchen that I use for my home nutrition business. I had wanted to do this for a while but without the appropriate credit score, I had not been able to apply for a traditional loan. I got letters of recommendation from friends who have known me for years and also from my other FII group members who knew how responsible I was. They all vouched for my integrity in paying the loan back. This has been a great support to our family.
In January of this year, I was selected as an FII Fellow for the 2016 FII Fellowship Program. I, along with 5 other FII-Albuquerque families, get together twice each month to build our leadership skills as well as discuss ways to improve the FII model for others in the community. My role as a Fellow is to improve communication among FII families and the community. In this role, I have had the privilege of meeting other families in the area, learned about class offerings in the community of which I have taken advantage, and network with other community organizations. This experience has helped me bring out the leader within me and has provided additional income to my household.
I am very grateful for having FII in Albuquerque and hope that more families are able to learn about FII and get involved as we did last year.