Same Sky America empowers women by providing training and employment opportunities. We help women rebuild their lives, reconnect to their creativity, build skills through artistry, and restore confidence. We help to open doors that seem closed. There is need for employment in developing countries, but there is also a serious need right here in our own backyard.
In the United States, 50 million people are currently living below the poverty line, and many have weathered misfortune, struggled to find employment, or were born into unfavorable conditions. We at Same Sky believe they deserve a second chance. With a vision to provide employment to underserved women, Same Sky, alongside Former Governor Jim McGreevey and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, have launched the Same Sky America Pilot Project in Jersey City.
Founded in 2008, The Same Sky Foundation laid the framework for Same Sky America. Through our trade-not-aid initiative working with HIV+ women survivors of the Rwandan Genocide, we found that employment was the most effective means to long-term empowerment. When women are economically empowered, they reinvest their income into their families and communities.
Inspired by our success abroad, Same Sky wanted to bring the ‘hand-up not a handout’ model to the USA. Founder Francine LeFrak had previously produced the award winning HBO film Prison Stories: Women on the Inside, where she shed light on the plight of women in the prison system. Her experience on this film motivated Francine to further pursue her passion for women’s empowerment and creating jobs for people who need it most, and this ultimately led us to find the group of women who would flourish at Same Sky America: those who had met difficulty finding employment after incarceration.
We now provide the women of The Most Excellent Way Halfway House, who have recently been released from Hudson County Jail, with training and employment to hand-bead the Same Sky Benefit Collection. The women are earning a sustainable income, but, more importantly, a sense of dignity and confidence as they work to rebuild their lives. They take on leadership roles, use the work environment to confront social issues, and earn an income that allows them to pursue their passions and attend school.
Same Sky America would not be possible without the charismatic Reverend Gloria Walton, who runs the halfway home and helps the women realize the power of mentorship; Jim McGreevey, director of Jersey City employment and training; Dominique, designated Manager of Quality Control, who also strives to get her B.A. in Graphic Design; Florence, who helps Reverend Gloria run the halfway house as she works to support herself through school to achieve her goal to become an alcohol abuse counselor; and Cassie, whose leadership and entrepreneurial insight has been instrumental as she also actively pursues her studies in cosmetology.
Read the Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, and The Shriver Report coverage.