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JaShawn Hill on Seeing the Good in Your Community

We recently reconnected with JaShawn, a graduate of portfolio partner Cara, whose story we first featured to share the positive “ripple effect” of employment social enterprise. JaShawn’s belief in the potential of people and the power of community is boundless! She feels blessed to do this work and after speaking with her, you can’t help but feel optimistic and inspired. Read on and get a dose of positivity for your day!

Coming to Cara/Finding Purpose  

JaShawn and her husband

JaShawn Hill is a woman of purpose. Working on Chicago’s Southside with young survivors of gun violence, she believes in supporting her neighbors and building a stronger future for the generation to come. After experiencing homelessness and substance abuse challenges, she understands that life’s path is not always linear, and whether from her porch or the pulpit, she serves a community she loves by sharing a message of light and hope. REDF portfolio partner Cara helped JaShawn find her footing and uncover her purpose.

“In the beginning, when I first came to Cara, I wasn’t thinking about purpose. It was really quite simple. I wanted to be stable and I didn’t want to be homeless anymore. Through Cara I was able to find meaning, power, and a purpose. They were a conduit to get me into a very meaningful position where I can work with my community.”

So Much More

Cara helps people affected by poverty get and keep quality jobs and rebuild hope, self-esteem, and opportunity for themselves and their families in the process. A transitional job at one of Cara’s social enterprises, Cleanslate, helped her gain on-the-job experience, but it was the time Cara took for personal development that marked a true shift for JaShawn.

“The transformation part of Cara’s program, that was time invested in finding out the deepest truth of who I was. Beyond the fact that I needed to get a job, it addressed why I couldn’t keep a job. We were able to dig into those things and then I could invest in what it took to be a person who could be successful outside of Cara,” says Jashawn. “They taught me about forgiveness, love. What job training programs do that? Cara valued me, as a person, maybe even before I valued myself. That challenged me to look at the next human being as my neighbor and as a fellow traveler.”

Meaningful Work

Through her time at Cara, JaShawn uncovered her passion for helping others and knew she wanted to pursue a career where she could give back. She earned a master’s degree in Social Work from Loyola University and today works as a Youth Program Manager for Chicago Survivors, an organization that provides support services to surviving family members of homicide victims. For JaShawn, it’s important to work within her community championing for change.

“My work is sacred because it allows me to see people transform. I know there is a light within the young people I work with, and when I see the light come back on, there’s no greater gift,” says JaShawn. “It will sustain me until I see it again. I was labeled as something impossible, but I know what’s possible. I’m going to be consistent, committed, and I’m going to show up and know that the lights will come back on.”

See the Good & Be the Good

JaShawn and her sons Moses and Josiah

For young people who’ve experienced the unimaginable, offering support and care during COVID-19 has been especially challenging. Guidelines around mobile and video use have eased, and JaShawn is able

 to stay connected through technology and socially-distanced meetings. Despite the shifting dynamics, JaShawn leans on her faith, adopting an action-oriented outlook during trying times.

“Each day I ask myself ‘how can I be the good?’ My motto is ‘be the good, seek the good, and you will see the good’, so I seek to see the good. It’s intentional and it’s a skillset I’m always sharpening,” shares JaShawn. “I’m going to look for the good in my community, in my home, in my children. That’s my mindset, and you know what? I have not been left wanting.”

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