Foundation For Girls is a youth-founded non-profit organization that economically empowers marginalized women and supports their children. Sisters Shreya and Sahana Mantha founded the organization in 2014 and since have helped thousands of women. Learn more in our interview with Sahana and read amazing stories of women and children they have assisted.
All images provided by Foundation for Girls.
Why did you start Foundation For Girls?
My sister and I are Charlotte, North Carolina natives. Charlotte is one of the nation’s fastest-growing cities, it is also the third-largest banking hub. Yet, Charlotte is 50th and at the bottom of the list of major US cities for economic mobility. This stark contrast shocked me and lit my fire to help the marginalized, particularly women and children.
I began by exploring my community to learn more. Soon, I realized that marginalized women face many challenges. They are insufficiently prepared economically, educationally, and emotionally to support themselves. They have low incomes and experience economic hardships, particularly as many are disproportionately disadvantaged racial and ethnic minorities.
Meeting the needs of marginalized women not only improves their lives and can reduce persistent inequalities due to life situations, but also has the potential to help them become fully contributing members of society. Women who span the approximate ages of 15 to 26 and are in a critical period of development, with long-lasting implications for their economic security, health, and well-being.
Without deliberate action, however, this period of development is likely to magnify inequality, with lasting effects through adulthood. There needs to be intentional and thoughtful approaches to provide them with the resources, relationships, and recommendations needed on their journey to independence.
We built Foundation For Girls (FFG) to uniquely play its part to combat these systemic issues by economically empowering homeless single mothers to become financially savvy, digitally capable, career confident, and socially connected for multi-generational change.
Can you tell us about Foundation For Girls’ different projects?
Foundation For Girls economically empowers homeless single moms and supports their children.
FFG invests in women to be financially savvy, career confident, digitally capable, and socially connected. FFG’s 4-pillar programming in Financial Well-Being, Career Journey, Digitally Forward, and Circle of Care equips women with the resources, relationships, and recommendations needed on their journey to economic mobility.
Through group and 1:1 coaching, FFG coaches build bridges and human connection for transformative impact and multi-generational change.
FFG’s Approach: FFG’s partnership and collaboration-based approach is unique. The FFG programming in Financial Well-Being, Career Journey, Digitally Forward, and Circle of Care connects homeless single mothers with consistent, compassionate coaches who can guide them.
FFG takes a different approach to coaching. Coaches invest intellectual, emotional, and social capital in empowering women in their journey to economic security, financial resilience, and economic mobility. Coaches have a multi-year engagement with FFG and are invested in seeing the impact over the long term.
How did you adapt during the pandemic?
FFG has also been a virtual organization supporting women and children in their economic empowerment journey, regardless of geographic location. During the pandemic, the FFG virtual model proved scalable and impactful for multi-generational change towards economic empowerment and financial resilience.
Starting in 2020, when COVID-19 shot down everything, we tested the virtual model and programs in 9 states across the US–California, Nevada, Washington State, Iowa, Texas, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, and DC. We will continue to use the FFG evidence-based model and research-backed approach to scale FFG and economically empower homeless single mothers and support their children.
What has the organization accomplished?
Over the past six years, FFG has impacted over 3,000 homeless single mothers and their children, playing its part in economic empowerment and making systemic change. In 2021 alone, with Sahana’s leadership, FFG invested in 207 women and 99 children via 3,510 coaching hours, 6,903 care hours, and 12,702 care packs.
Today, with Sahana’s leadership and by leveraging technology, FFG expanded to 9 states–CA, IA, WA, GA, NC, SC, TX, MD, DC–helping homeless single mothers and their children, regardless of their geographic location.
The FFG team has grown to over 75 coaches and 150+ volunteers investing in the futures of homeless single mothers and their children.
To date, how many women have you worked with?
Overall Impact: Over 2,500 homeless single mothers and their children.
In 2021 alone:
- 207 Women
- 99 Children
- 3,510 Group & 1:1 Coaching Hours
- 6,903 Care Hours
- 12,702 Care Packs
In 2021, you expanded across 8 more states. How did you grow your network?
FFG expanded to 9 US states through referrals. Many girls who went through the FFG programming and coaching model and came out on the other side began referring others they thought would benefit.
In 2021, we saw organic growth due to the increased desire for virtual communities and the compounding need for resources, relationships, and recommendations to become financially resilient.
What do your responsibilities include?
My role at FFG encompasses 4 main parts:
As the co-founder of FFG, along with my sister Shreya, I work on FFG’s dynamic strategic plans to meet the ever-expanding needs of the FFG community. The goal is to maximize the multi-generational impact, reach single teen mothers and their children with FFG programs, and use technology to effectively deliver group workshops and one-on-one coaching, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Digitally Forward:
I co-lead the Digitally Forward program. I coach participants to build a digital foundation. I source, build, and deliver laptops to the participants. Then virtually, I work with them and a team of coaches to train the FFG participants in digital skills and help them get their Microsoft Office Suite certification. The MOS certification helps participants through high school, college, and even to get a better-paying job.
- Leading FFG Expansions & Virtual Model:
I have also implemented internal FFG technology solutions for expanding access to FFG programs in 9 US states and, in addition, identified and implemented solutions for FFG coaches to stay connected during the pandemic. Today, we invest in homeless single mothers and their children, regardless of their geographic location.
- Circle of Care:
I lead the sourcing, assembly, and distribution of care packages to homeless teen single mothers and their children. In a year, we support ~ 300 mothers and 200 children.
What have been the biggest challenges of running Foundation For Girls? What is most rewarding?
- Funding for expanding operations as we are currently a 100% volunteer-based organization
- Partnerships in the new states
- Educating partners and funders about the innovative and virtual FFG model
Highlights: Seeing the transformational life-journeys that occur through multi-year engagement is the most rewarding–see FFG Stories for details.
Who are you inspired by?
My mom. She has invested in my sister and I to ensure that we, as girls, are economically empowered. Since we have someone investing in us, we want to pay it forward and invest in marginalized women and their children.
What is your best advice to other students who want to launch an initiative like this?
- Understand what problems exist, what you are passionate about, how you can go about it, and what resources you need.
- Then, begin small and take small steps every day.
What does the future hold for you both, Foundation For Girls and for the Foundation For Girls team?
We hope to continue to expand across the United States and drive long-term systemic, sustainable, and scalable change for homeless single mothers and their children.
Savannah and Jada
At age 14, Savannah was abandoned by her parents and was placed in the state’s custody while she was still in the hospital right after having delivered her daughter Jada. Her time in foster care facility (FCS) was rough, and then she met FFG.
She began attending FFG programming and working with a team of FFG coaches. She worked with her Digitally Forward coach to get a MOS (Microsoft Office Specialist) certification. She worked with her Financial Well-Being coach to create a budget and set up bank accounts for her situation as a marginally-housed, single teen mother. Savannah worked with her Career Journey coach through the college applications process and job search.
With her coach, Ashley’s guidance, Savannah was accepted into four in-state colleges and two out-of-state colleges. Savannah will be attending UNC Charlotte’s nursing program in the fall. Savannah continues to receive support through Circle of Care as she navigates life’s peaks and troughs.
Rhiannon and Rosie
Rhiannon is an Italian-American single teen mother who met FFG during her stay at a residential program for homeless young women. She has no support from her biological mother and father nor is she supported by the father of her child. With months until she would be pushed out of the shelter, she began working with her cohort of FFG coaches to put herself on the path to independence.
Rhiannon worked with her Career Journey coach to gain the hard and soft skills needed to gain a job to support herself and Rosie. In tandem, she worked with her Financial Well-Being coach to budget, save, open checking and saving accounts, and begin to build her credit. With her Digitally Forward coach, she gained her MOS certification so that she could transition from working at Walgreen’s cash register to a position as a Pharmacy Technician. Through Circle of Care, Rhiannon and Rosie receive care packs and emotional availability from the FFG Team.
With FFG’s investment, Rhiannon will be moving into her own apartment in April while she continues to work with her FFG coaches so she can continue on the path to independence.
Sammi, Andy and Yazzy
Sammi met FFG during her stay in a residential program for homeless mothers and children. Sammi is a domestic violence abuse survivor who was thrown out of her home by the father of her children and left on the street with no support from her family. When she met FFG she was without a job, a car, and had no idea how she would support herself and her two daughters.
She began working with her Financial Well-Being coach to understand her financial situation and standing and began putting in place SMART goals to help her work towards financial stability. She worked with her Career Journey coach to gain career confidence, hard and soft skills to find part-time employment while she raised her children. As a part of the Digitally Forward program, she is working to get her MOS certification. In fact, because of her digital capability, she just secured a full-time job as a Registered Behavior Technician. Through Circle of Care, she has received the support for herself and her children to get through the rough times.
Now that Sammi has a full-time job, she is now working with the Financial Well-Being coach to save for a car, improve her credit score, and budget to buy a home by the summertime. Her daughters are now in the FFG program as well.
Learn more about Foundation For Girls. Read more Rustic Spirit stories.