The mission is simple: help women break out of poverty.
But that goal is deceptively complex, as Devin Thorpe writes at Forbes. For the Women’s Bean Project – or simply the “Bean,” as insiders call it – the mission of providing jobs, support, and training to women who would otherwise have a tough time getting into the workforce is something that’s been decades in the making.
“For nearly 30 years, this social enterprise has helped women learn to work by giving them jobs,” Thorpe writes. “That is how they make a difference.”
And that difference is life-changing for Bean participants. By generating profits of more than $2 million on the sales of gourmet dried food products, the project is able to employ about 75 women at a time. Of these women, the majority were previously unemployed, marginalized or victimized. But that is in the past – now they are rebuilding their lives through work.
“Women caught in the cycle of unemployment and poverty need help to break out,” said Bean CEO Tamra Ryan in an interview with Forbes. “Not only do they believe they are unmarketable and un-hireable, they don’t believe they are worthy of being hired by an employer who will care about them.”
Faced with that kind of malaise, Ryan said her job requires her to “focus on the obstacles that must be overcome and the internal demons that must be squelched.” This means arguing for a “more compassionate view of recovering addicts, convicted felons and victims of domestic abuse.”
For six to nine months, these women recover their sense of grit and independence by learning marketable manufacturing skills coupled with soft skills like problem-solving, communication, planning and organization.
From there, they are provided with job-search training to boost their chances at getting hired.
The ultimate goal is to engrain the notion within these women that all their pain – the abuse, the setbacks, the mistakes, the failures – are in the past. The future, however, remains bright and wide open.
“Because we can’t change her past, we must be focused on her future and finding a path to a successful life that includes employment and self-sufficiency,” Ryan concluded. “Sometimes the biggest obstacle can be helping her realize that she is worthy of a better life.”
You can read the full story at Forbes.
Evan Smith is a Staff Writer for Opportunity Lives. You can follow him on Twitter @Evansmithreport.