• Second Chance Project (Job Training)

    The Second Chance Project provides hands-on job training experience. A key component is the Life Skills Curriculum, a three-month skill-building program that focuses on job training and employment basics. In 2005, the Second Chance Project expanded to include the Dress for Less Boutique, a small clothing store operated by a part-time staff member and women who have completed the Life Skills Curriculum. Women who participate in the operation of the store, which sells donated new or slightly used clothing, receive small stipends and gain valuable on-the-job training. Working in the Boutique is a stepping-stone to jobs outside of Nia Imani Family. The program is supported by volunteers from the business and faith communities and supervised and implemented by Nia Imani Family staff.

    All women who successfully participate in the Second Chance Project will:
    • complete the Life Skills Curriculum (job skills training),
    • acquire hands-on job skills by working at the on-site Dress for Less Boutique or elsewhere,
    • work with Nia Imani Family staff to create a sustainability plan for themselves and their children (including plans for housing, employment, and supporting their children’s academic success).

    Besides the obvious job training for our residents, the Dress for Less Boutique provides a valuable community asset in Milwaukee’s central city. There is no sizable clothing store in the entire zip code where Nia Imani Family is located, so many of our neighbors are fans of its high quality clothing at very affordable prices.

    The Second Chance Project, of which the Dress for Less Boutique and the Life Skills Curriculum are large parts, has led Nia Imani Family graduates to successful, stable lives in which women live independently and support themselves and their children.

  • Muhindi Program (Family Literacy)

    We started the Muhindi Program in 2007 as a pilot program to encourage reading, educational success and positive parenting among the mothers and their children. Since then, it has become our most popular program. “Muhindi” is Swahili for harvest. The program was originally developed with a generous grant from the Helen Bader Foundation, and continues as a weekly program managed by our Program Coordinator.

    The Muhindi Program increases family literacy by offering two weekly sessions focused on reading:
    • Mothers-only Reading Book Club: A volunteer-led weekly program. Women read aloud from and discuss books. A light meal or snack is included. Over time, improvements in reading abilities and confidence levels are usually quite obvious. As women become more comfortable, they tend to participate more in discussions and by volunteering to read.
    • Mothers and Children Gathering: One evening every week, mothers and their children gather in our common area to read and play and learn together. The sessions vary, with a range of activities that focus on parent/child interaction, parenting network and support, and literacy-focused activities that involve parents and community volunteers. Typically, a light meal or snack is also served.

    The Muhindi Program was born from our recognition that parents needed time to socialize with each other in a safe setting that also built up bonds with their children. Many of the children at Nia Imani have experienced traumas—the breakup of their family unit, homelessness, violence, parental incarceration and substance abuse, and/or time in and out of the foster care system. Many of these children also have educational, behavioral or emotional special needs. It takes time to redevelop broken bonds between mothers and children. Reading builds bridges. Because these same children have often had disruptions in their education, focusing on reading has also helped them academically. Many of the Nia Imani Family mothers ended their formal educations very young, so it also provides a way for the adults to improve their reading skills. This journey helps them be role models to their children, makes them more likely to read to their children, and it can also help pave the way for attaining graduate equivalency degrees or advanced training or education.

    The Muhindi Program helps parents take a more positive and engaged role in their children’s educations. Nia Imani Family staff sometimes accompany parents to parent/teacher conferences, particularly when children have special needs or have been identified as being behind in school.

  • AODA Support Group

    Weekly on-site meeting for those working to address alcohol and other drug abuse. Residents with chemical dependency issues are also connected with outside sobriety support programs, as needed.
  • Education Support/Referrals

    Many of the children have special educational needs related to family instability and infrequent school attendance. Mothers are helped by the Nia Imani Family Program Manager to establish a relationship with school officials to ensure the best academic outcomes for their children.
  • Financial Management

    Weekly program led by a volunteer. Women learn budgeting, banking, and general financial planning to help ensure their future success and independence.
  • Nutrition and Culinary Class

    Weekly class led by UW Extension dieticians. Residents learn how to plan and cook nutritious and affordable meals in our on-site kitchen/culinary area.
  • Computer Training

    A local computer expert regularly volunteers to help women learn the necessary computer skills for successful employment and advancement.
  • Parenting Group

    Weekly program by The Parenting Network to help support mothers in their parenting.
  • Women's Support Group

    Weekly, volunteer-led program focusing on the women themselves. Includes topics such as health, wellness and relationships.
  • Family Time

    Moms must plan a special outing—such as a museum or library visit—to enjoy with their children once per month. Families are encouraged to explore community resources.
  • Community In House Meeting

    Monthly meeting for all residents to address building and community issues.