October 27, 2008: One of the participants in BPSOS’ Road to Independence Through Savings and Education (RISE) program has a particularly vivid story of surviving the current economic crisis.
On August 13 of last year, BPSOS staff received a very distressed phone call from a woman. “My family has been suffering through a very difficult financial situation over the last few months,” she told us. “My husband lost his job and he’s still unemployed. Can you help us find him a job so that we can get out of this financial crisis?”
We immediately scheduled an appointment to meet with this client. Two days later, both the woman and her husband came to our office with their two-year-old son.
When we asked Mr. Lam, the woman’s husband, how he knew about our RISE program, he replied that he heard about it through his friend. He also knew BPSOS had a program to help both employed and unemployed fathers make a good living and stabilize their family finances through job training, job hunt services, and job placement. “Getting a job is my first priority,” Lam said, adding that his second priority was to be able to afford a place to live because his current apartment’s rent was beyond his reach. He asked if we could help him with that matter as well.
We immediately contacted the Housing Authority of Fairfax County (HAFC) with a request to assist the family. However, HAFC could not help because of the husband’s bad credit. When he heard that news, Lam started to disclose his troubles during the last few years.
Four years ago, Lam used all of his savings to start up his own small business by purchasing a truck to deliver food supplies to local Vietnamese restaurants. In the beginning, his business was doing well. As time went by, however, it went downhill because of his clients’ late payments, or failure to pay at all.
Lam tried working harder to make the profits he needed to support his family. Unfortunately, he was forced to close down his business at the beginning of 2007 because he didn’t have the cash flow to keep it running. Because of this, his family lost the income needed to pay for everyday necessities. He and his wife panicked and went from place to place trying to find work, which left them hardly any time to take care of their son. About this time, their son became seriously ill.
Lam could not find a job for nearly eight months. He continued searching even while he and his wife despaired that he would ever find new employment. Every time Lam saw a truck drive by, he became even more depressed, because it reminded him of how his old business had drained away all of his savings.
On top of this trauma, creditors had begun calling Lam to demand that he pay his credit card bill. He became anxious and scared to pick up the phone when it rang, and was not able to sleep well because of recurring nightmares. All of these difficulties meant that his family lived under a lot of stress.
BPSOS staff began to help Lam understand the importance of having good credit by providing him translated materials, books, and brochures that Freddie Mac had developed for the Asian community. We worked to help him find a job as a truck driver, because when asked what kind of job he would like to do, his wife had told us, in tears: “He’s good at driving trucks, so he’d love to be a truck driver. Driving is his only dream.”
We began searching and referred Lam to a variety of employers while continuing to prepare him for job interviews and boost his skills in job hunting and resume-writing. After a long time searching and waiting, Lam called our office with the news that he had finally received an offer to be a truck driver at Dulles Airport in February 2008.
Since beginning his new job, Lam has told our staff that he finally sleeps well again and has begun to restore the good life he once had. As he puts it, he can now breathe easier and feels confident again. He has asked us to convey his sincere thanks and appreciation to the Administration for Children and Families for making a big difference in his life.
Lam’s family finances are finally stable. His family is working hard to pay off his past debts, and his wife and son are much happier. His wife tells us that the RISE program has had a major impact on her family life. It has helped her husband rebuild his life and made him a better father with the ability to better educate their son. Eight months after the storm of crisis, Lam’s family life is now much better, mainly thanks to the relatively stable job he has found. It has opened up a new horizon for them.