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NELCWIT to offer financial workshops for Latinas

Recorder/Paul Franz
Juan Carlos Aguilar and Rebeca Escalona Rosas at NELCWIT on Main ST in Greenfield.

Recorder/Paul Franz Juan Carlos Aguilar and Rebeca Escalona Rosas at NELCWIT on Main ST in Greenfield.

GREENFIELD — The New England Learning Center for Women in Transition will roll out a new program in 2013 to help Latina domestic violence survivors handle their personal finances better.

The Greenfield-based organization assists about 650 to 750 Latinas each year. Many of them have experienced economic abuse or have been unable to become completely financially independent from their abusers, according to Cheryl Rogers, executive director of NELCWIT.

Workshops will likely begin in the spring and will be held as free informal sessions where attendees can come together to talk and learn financial strategies, said Rebeca Escalona Rosas, a newly hired economic empowerment coordinator who will teach the workshops.

Rogers said that in a rural area like Franklin County, many barriers may exist that prevent survivors from becoming financially independent. They may not have access to transportation or may have to take on extra child care costs — which prevent them from achieving life goals they may have.

“I think we have the opportunity to firm up what those barriers are in this community,” said Rogers. “We really need to work through the crisis, and then when the crisis is stabilized and they’re safe and their basic needs are provided, (we) can really help them work on those short-term and long-term goals.”

Some survivors may not be aware of all available financial opportunities such as loans, multiple bank accounts or first-time homeowner support programs, she said.

And people often fail to teach their children about money, a process that repeats itself from generation to generation, said Barbara Drew-Rivera, director of community programs for NELCWIT.

The program — funded by a one-year $65,000 grant from The Avon Foundation for Women — will allow NELCWIT to reach out to Latina survivors across Franklin County and the North Quabbin region.

Escalona Rosas — who has worked at NELCWIT for the past six months in a temporary position — will build the workshop’s lesson plans with Juan Carlos Aguilar, director of NELCWIT’s Franklin County Children’s Visitation Program.

The content of those workshops will be determined over the next three months during focus groups conducted with Latinas in the community.

“What makes this program special ... (is that) we’re not assuming what this community’s needs are but instead seeking out what their current situations are,” said Escalona Rosas.

Rogers said that the information NELCWIT gathers and the strategies it learns during the coming year will be made available to neighboring organizations in western Massachusetts. Program organizers hope that the grant will be renewed in years to come.

NELCWIT has provided support for domestic and sexual violence survivors for the past 36 years. For more information on its services, including a 24-hour crisis line, go to: www.nelcwit.org.

You can reach Chris Shores at:
cshores@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

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