Melissa Muscio (Malaysia)

Melissa Muscio (eHomemakers, Malaysia): Melissa graduated from Georgetown’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service with a BS in Foreign Service, and a concentration in International Relations, Law and Organization. She then worked as an account executive at a high-tech public relations agency in San Francisco and as an English teacher for Centro Panamericano de Idiomas in Costa Rica. Melissa also worked as a legislative assistant, and as a marketing and public relations manager for the trade association United Telecom Council (UTC) in Washington, DC. At the time of her fellowship, Melissa was studying for a Master’s degree in Law and Diplomacy at the Fletcher School, where she focused on human security and development, particularly in predominantly Muslim regions of the world. She speaks French, Spanish and Turkish.

Time to Try Again

21 Jul

Today, we are caught in a bind. We are uplifted because one of the women that we have been helping has told us how happy she is coming in to work on one of the contracts we have helped her to find. Unfortunately, a few days ago we received a call from the buyer telling us that this may be the last week that they will require her services.

Under normal circumstances, this may not be a big problem, however Christina* (not her real name) has had a very difficult time for the past several years; she is on medication which causes her to have severe mood swings. On several occasions, she has tried to commit suicide. She has few employable skills, finds it difficult to learn and has been unable to hold down a steady job. She has almost no support from her family. Previously, she was very sheltered – an elderly family member took care of her and she never had to work for herself. But, when the woman passed away, Christina found it very difficult to cope with the demands of independent living and working.

eHomemakers found this contract to slowly teach practical and business skills that would help Christina to become more independent. It is part of the organization’s mission, not just to hand out assistance, but to empower women. They seek out opportunities that will allow disabled or disadvantaged women to work and manage their own money. Christina has told eHomemakers that this once-a-week contract gave her some purpose, some sense of accomplishment. Plus I believe she enjoys interacting with everyone in the office, since she may be on her own alone for much of the rest of the week.

Unfortunately, she still finds it difficult to be consistent in her work and the buyer is hinting that they may begin to look elsewhere. We are faced with breaking the news to her and find it so difficult when she seems to be in a good mood. We don’t want to send her in downward spiral. So, there have been many hushed discussions about how we can tell her. The entire staff has wracked its brains trying to come up with some kind of alternative contracts or odd jobs that we can direct her towards. But we are at the end of our lists and have come up short. She has already turned down many of the opportunities eHomemakers came up with in the past.

We try to look on the bright side. All signs point to the fact that eHomemakers has really tried everything that it could. Still, when you know that someone has been suicidal in the past, it is difficult to let go when you don’t know what the reaction may be. Even if you know you can’t protect someone from the real world forever, you cringe at the realization that this may not be the ideal time to set them free. You think, just a little more time…

Cases like these fall onto individual, big-hearted people or organizations. Unfortunately, there is no social worker system in place to step in. I look at the situation and think “counseling or a jobs program might help.” But these programs, which we have come to rely on in the U.S., are not readily available here. So, while they work on larger projects of ICT training and basket-weaving, eHomemakers also takes time to look out of the individuals in their network who might need a little extra attention. It is all part of a philosophy, which looks at each case and comes up with a creative solution, rather than simply relying on a cookie-cutter answer that may not apply. If it doesn’t work, they think again. There is a determination here that is contagious.

Posted By Melissa Muscio (Malaysia)

Posted Jul 21st, 2006

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