Karny is one of the hundreds of women who have been helped by the Fellowship-supported Women's Spirit Seeds of Change program. But saying she was helped by the project doesn't do justice to the impact it has had on her life. In Karny's words, "The Fellowship has given me a new life."
The Seeds of Change program helps women who have suffered from violence to gain the skills necessary to find work. The women undergo vocational training during which they also learn how to write resumes and how to handle job interviews. According to Michal Gilad, director of the Seeds of Change program, "Our role is to work with the women and help them get on their feet. In Israel, there are shelters for victims of violence and violence centers throughout the country. But if someone can't take care of themselves financially, they often go back to the place where they came from. What does a woman do if she has young children, but no way of supporting them? This Fellowship program helps the women sustain themselves financially and truly start new lives."
Karny is a woman who was in an abusive marriage. For 13 years, she was completely isolated from society. "My husband never allowed me anything," she said bluntly. "No friends and no family." Finally, two years ago, Karny felt she had enough support to get out of the relationship. "I want more for my four kids is what it came down to," she said. "I always knew I had to do something about it, but for a long time I was too scared. When you're isolated from society, you really don't know anything. You don't have your social skills anymore. You don't know what to do in terms of employment. Where do you even begin?”
Karny's journey to independence started when she met with a local social worker, who quickly noticed something was wrong, and got Karny to open up about her situation. Karny finally came to realize the danger she and her children were in. She wanted them to have a better life and not to witness violence on a daily basis. "They deserve more than that," said Karny. "When it came down to life and death – and I really felt he was going to kill me; all the signs were there and it could no longer be ignored – I literally ran away from home with my children."
But Karny didn’t have a plan or any idea what to do, and so she ended up going back home to her husband. She was with him for two more years, during which he continued his abuse, before she finally turned to the police and filed for a restraining order. “Once I had the restraining order, I swore I would never go back again and I committed to starting a new life," she said.
But Karny had no idea how to start that new life. "I was very scared and I had no self-esteem. I didn't know how to write a resume and I had nothing to even put in a resume," she said.
Karny started asking family members to help her find a job. "I didn't care what job; I just needed to work. I hadn't worked before. I had no social skills because I had been totally isolated. The world was a really scary place for me,” she said.
A friend found Karny a job in a real estate company, but it required computer skills, which Karny didn’t have. She struggled every day and the job was incredibly stressful – and because she worked on commission, she hardly earned any money.
Karny continued going to therapy this entire period. During these sessions, she told her therapist that her dream was to own her own cosmetic company. Her therapist both gave her encouragement and the phone number to the Fellowship-sponsored Women's Spirit organization. She put the number in her purse and looked at it every day for six months before she finally had the courage to call.
When she called the Fellowship-funded organization, she was told about a program for those who want to own their own business. Karny eagerly joined the Seeds of Change program. She took a course about how to build a business, where she became knowledgeable and confident about her future.
The program truly provided her with the tools she needed to realize her dream. She began working for a cosmetics company, where she advanced quickly from doing administrative tasks in the office, to being a salesperson, to being an instructor of cosmeticians. Her self-esteem was rising all the time. During this time, she took a second job working for an aesthetician. Her customers loved her. She saved her money until she had enough to buy her own equipment and start her own business.
With the help of The Fellowship and the Seeds of Change program, Karny has become an independent, happy woman who loves her job and is able to support her children. "I've gone from fearing for my life to owning my own business and supporting my children with dignity. Thank you and God bless The Fellowship and its donors for being there when I needed you," she said.