Breaking the Poverty Cycle One Mother at a Time: The Story of Chosen Ministries

By Anna Yoder and Lindsay Millar

The Poverty Cycle 
Imagine a single mother of four children with another one on the way.  She has the drive and determination for success but not the resources to achieve it.

Throughout the United States, the vicious poverty cycle has been preventing young, single mothers from obtaining sustainable jobs.  In Indiana, 33% of single-parent households are living in poverty. Young, single mothers are faced with a specific set of obstacles that make it extremely difficult to break out of poverty. 

If a woman is making $8/hour, affording accommodations such as dependable transportation and child-care can be hard to come by and quickly eat up a paycheck.  Financial barriers can block access to higher education and job training, resulting in an ongoing pattern of unsustainable low-wage jobs that leave this woman unable to care for her family.  The poverty cycle has trapped this woman to believe that she is inadequate for a higher paying job. The mental and cultural barriers are the most significant and hard to change. 

Chosen Ministries 

Maria Santiago, the founder of Chosen Ministries, has dedicated her life to helping others find professional success. As a first-generation American from Mozambique, she accredits much of her inspiration for this organization to her own experience in a poverty trap and the mentorship she received after coming to the United States. Santiago designed Chosen Ministries in a way that breaks these barriers that prevent single mothers from success. In a nutshell, the goal of Chosen Ministries is to provide families with the tools to build productive, empowered, and dignified lives.

Chosen offers its clients services to train them for work in an office setting, mentorships to assist at step along the way, and education on financial literacy. The first step for a potential client of Chosen is an interview to ensure she has a hunger for success. Once the woman enters the process, she is given profession skill-building assistance through many services, which include:

–          Resume and cover letter writing services

–          Assistance in applying for jobs or vocational training

–          Interview preparation

–          Professional communication guidelines

–         The Earning While Learning program

The Earning While Learning program is a part of Chosen that Santiago hopes to grow considerably in the near future. Earning while Learning (EWL) is a one year program for paid interns.  The women in this program not only work around the offices at Chosen but also receive business training that will set them up for success in the business world. In the first six months of this program, Maria Santiago and her Program Coordinator train these interns in all the basics of an office job.  The latter six months are personally designed for each intern to receive training from specialists that is specific to the area of work these women plan to go into after Chosen.  

Chosen operates as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, allowing for its business-model to look like the traditional non-profit cycle. Chosen receives funding through private grants, donations, and corporate sponsorships. Maria Santiago also owns a for-profit resume writing business, the M. Santiago Group, that helps to provide additional funding to Chosen. The money raised from these programs is funneled back into the core operational activities like the staff and office space, educational resources, vocational training scholarships, temporary child care, and more.

Measuring Impact

Remember the single mother from the beginning? What happened after she came to Chosen? Now, three years after starting her first position as an intern at Chosen, the woman that used to be an impoverished single mother is now the Program Coordinator at Chosen Ministries.  Not only is she an essential part of the organization, but she is also training a new intern. Similar stories can be applied to many women who have gone through Chosen Ministries. According to Maria Santiago, Chosen helped around 60 women in 2018, and hopes to double that figure by the end of 2019 through further training, mentorship, and expanding access to vocational scholarships. 

Chosen Ministries has brought structure along with professional and life skills into this woman’s world.  She has been poured into and, in turn, incredibly empowered. This woman now feels as if she is capable to obtain her dreams and aptly provide for her family.  This is what Maria Santiago did for her through Chosen Ministries, and she now feels incredibly empowered to reach her dreams and provide for her family.  

Note: Social Enterprise Alliance – Central Indiana member