Photo Credit: Sasha Maslov for The New York Times
Adapted from The New York Times on October 29, 2019
Vivinasviyanty Polanco was just 17 when her mother died of a heart attack. Her father died five years later, when she was in college.
An only child, Ms. Polanco had nothing keeping her in Jakarta, the capital of her native Indonesia, and decided it was time for “a new start in a new place.”
After she arrived in Queens, she found work as a babysitter. Despite having a bachelor’s degree in economics, Ms. Polanco said, she lacked the confidence to apply for office jobs.
In 2014, she met Erwin Polanco, 45. They married a year later and moved to Riverdale in the Bronx. Ms. Polanco stopped working when she became pregnant with their daughter, Kirana, who was born in September 2016.
As Kirana’s third birthday approached, Ms. Polanco realized she was unfulfilled. She also decided she was ready and eager to help her husband pay the bills. She recalled telling him: “I want to work so I can have a career and I can have another future. Not only for me, but for my family.”
Last fall, Ms. Polanco enrolled at Grace Institute, a free job training program for women in Lower Manhattan, after a friend told her about it. The Polancos were driving to her first appointment when Kirana became ill. Already late and stuck in traffic, they pulled to the side of the Henry Hudson Parkway to comfort their daughter.
Frazzled and overwhelmed, Ms. Polanco announced that she wanted to give up and go home, saying she was ready to abandon the classes. But she said her husband would hear none of it.
“We always push each other,” Ms. Polanco said. “We’re always together for everything.”
For four months, Ms. Polanco attended classes at Grace Institute five days a week, mastering administrative tasks and computer skills.
The cost of subway fare was a drain on the family’s finances. The Community Service Society, a community partner of Grace Institute and one of the seven organizations supported by The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund, gave Ms. Polanco two $121 unlimited monthly MetroCards to get to and from class and to pick up Kirana from day care.
In December, Ms. Polanco celebrated two milestones: She was granted permanent residency in the United States and she graduated from Grace Institute. “I got the knowledge and skills, and increased my confidence,” she said.
A month later, she started working as a bookkeeper at a door company in the Bronx, but the job did not come with benefits or room for advancement.
In May, Ms. Polanco was hired as a teller at a bank branch near Lincoln Center, working 30 hours a week. The job came with health insurance, and she added her husband and daughter to her plan as dependents.
The role has its challenges — clients can be difficult, she said — but she has job security and has been able to enroll Kirana in day care nearby.
Ms. Polanco enjoys being a working mother and said she plans to visit Indonesia with her family next summer. It will be her first trip back since she left 12 years ago.
To read the full article as printed in The New York Times, please click here.