July 27, 2016  |  Civic Engagement Education Financial Health Health Northern California Social Capital Transportation UpTogether Fund

Romona Shewl

I found out about FII from a colleague working at Homeless Prenatal Program in 2010, we were both facilitating a support group when my colleague brought up and presented FII to the group. Once she was done, I was so excited (I had just started grad school 5 months prior), that I raised my hand and asked how I could join the project. My colleague passed out the FII applications and we all took the time in group to complete them. I was so anxious and full of joy when I handed her my FII application. I could not believe there was a project in SF that would give you a lap top and stipend just for joining and for your family data. I then attended the FII orientation — that was 6 years ago — and began my wonderful and awesome journey with FII ever since. After about 6 months I became a Fellow and have been a Fellow (6 times) ever since.

I chose to participate with FII due to their Mission Statement and what FII stands for (supporting families in order to break the cycle of poverty). I love and am proud of being a FII family participant, it has brought joy, leadership and accountability in my life and I am so grateful of the day I signed up. I have participated in 5 groups. My first group had 11 families and my last group had 5 families. I enjoyed bonding and networking with all of my group members and will always keep them close to my heart. We all still keep in touch and I support them whenever possible. Now that I am over 5 years, I no longer have to be a part of a group.

My experience with FII has been superbly wonderful and sometimes challenging, but I am so steadfast, that I roll with the punches. I have had amazing support and outstanding connections with my groups and the community at large. FII has taught me what it means to be ACCOUNTABLE, A FIERCE LEADER AND A TRUSTFUL ROLE MODEL TO MY FAMILY. I have learned so much from different cultures and amazing trainings, as well as going to New Orleans and Pebble Beach to speak and learn about other FII families from around the nation. I have continued to be consistent, reliable, dedicated, trustworthy, and a leader and support for families involved in FII. I truly enjoy doing the FII data journal monthly (I have never missed a journal in 6 years) and I see my stats getting better each and every month. It reminds me of having another job, but I get to see my progress and my goals, which helps me to develop a plan for myself, as well as my family. After 5 years, I don’t get stipends for doing my monthly journal, but to me it is still rewarding for me to submit my progress.

I have accessed the majority of the Resource Hub. I began with the IDA Match. First I used it for purchasing a car from a co-worker working at HPP in 2010, then I used it twice for my grad school tuition between 2010 and 2012. I also applied for the Bertha Miller Scholarship for grad school (Argosy University) twice. I graduated last October 2015 with a Masters of Arts in Counseling Psychology.

I have been in 5 different Social Clubs ranging from Health and Fitness to Community Outreach and Support with Cultural Diversity. The type of goals that my past groups set were#1 and #2- Health and Fitness (exercising, yoga, having a personal trainer, lose weight challenge) and #3-Community Outreach where our group went out to feed the homeless, giving them hygiene bags, we also cleaned up the Streets of SF from Haight to the Fillmore. I am also part of the Village Puddle since 2014 where I have accessed the Puddle 4 times. I have also participated in 8 Lending Circles through Mission Asset Fund. I have applied for 3 loans and am currently paying off my third loan. I also enrolled in Indiegogo.com and raised $1,500, and Maurice Miller matched me with $2000 towards my grad school education.

All of these resources that I mentioned have helped me tremendously, not only with grad school, but with sending my youngest son off to college at Arizona State University along with his football scholarship from Grandview High School in Denver, Colorado. It helped me get my first car that ran for 6 years. It has helped me in so many ways. God only knows, it is very difficult being a single mother and raising 2 African American boys in San Francisco, but thank God they both are successful men through my and their efforts of hard work and determination.

I have had a lot of anxiety over the years trying to survive and maintain living in San Francisco, which is not easy at all, but FII came through for me every time. I don’t know what I would have done without this project. It was not difficult for me to save, because that is all I do. I prepare myself for a rainy day, just because I don’t have anyone else to turn to, so I am constantly looking to the future and preparing myself to not fail. FII has had my back with regards to all my dreams, aspirations and goals. Like I mentioned, I have received a car, paid for grad school tuition, paid credit card bills, purchased a lap top for my youngest son for college and made car repairs (my old car).

FII has changed my life immensely and they still continue to support me and my family. I am so blessed to be a essential integrate part of this amazing project. FII has truly changed my life in more ways than one. It has developed in me integrity, dignity, and success. I enjoy coming to meetings to learn more as well as teach the next family coming in to the project. It is not only rewarding but a partnership in which I will always be exceptionally grateful.

Participating in FII has brought joy, leadership and accountability in my life.

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