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Exploring Life & Business with Kristin Chatsworth of Live & Learn

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kristin Chatsworth.

Hi Kristin, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
My path took me from a corporate business career to being a stay-at-home parent to cleaning the bathrooms at a gym. Amazingly, this journey brought me to where I am today: Executive Director of Live & Learn, a small-but-mighty nonprofit that empowers women to break the cycle of generational poverty. I started my career in the corporate business world, working for Dun and Bradstreet and Experian as Manager of Partnerships and Alliances.

Then, I stepped away for eight years when I had my son. When I was ready to get back into the working world, I did not feel confident. Instead of applying for jobs in the business sector, I took a job at a childcare center at a gym. I would watch the kids and clean the bathrooms, and it was hard work but not very good pay.

After some time, I was starting to use my marketing skills to promote the childcare to gym members, those skills that had been dormant for so long. I started to see that I could do more. So I took an entry-level job doing data entry at a local company. My boss there asked me why I was accepting that job when I was overqualified, but that was where I felt like I should be with my confidence level.

It was then that I met Katie Johnson, who was the Executive Director of Live & Learn. This was in 2014. She saw more in me, had more confidence in me than I had in myself, and she asked me to come work with her at Live & Learn.

She was trying to get this nonprofit off the ground, and she needed help with everything from marketing and website development to program design and delivery. We worked together to build it up and it started to grow. I became the Program Manager.

Then, in 2019, when Katie left, I took over as Executive Director. At that time, we had no major funder and barely any budget. The organization was in survival mode. I hired the right people, built up the Board, and increased our funding by 800%. The organization has been growing in size and strength ever since.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Roads are rarely smooth, but, through my own journey and through the journeys of Live & Learn women that I am privileged to witness every day, I have come to see how valuable our challenging experiences are.

It was very difficult during those years when I had lost my confidence and was struggling to get back into a career after being a stay-at-home parent. From that experience, I have realized my passion for inspiring confidence in other women, just as Katie Johnson did for me. She believed in me when I did not believe in myself.

Of course, the pandemic was a major struggle for us all. As the Executive Director of a nonprofit whose staff and clientele are women, I had to navigate keeping my staff productive while recognizing the incredible challenges they were facing. Like everyone, they were dealing with children home from school and the increasing cost of living.

The women we work with at Live & Learn were facing these same obstacles. Domestic violence and mental health concerns rose steeply and suddenly. We hear about the ‘SHE’cession as women across the country left the workforce. At Live & Learn, we retained our staff and in fact, doubled the number of working mothers on our team. Plus, the women in our program continued to pursue their education and begin professional careers.

It’s inspiring how much women achieve when they have confidence in themselves! From this experience in the pandemic, I have learned that to create a supportive work environment, you must truly take care of your staff, you need to support their mental health, support their work-life balance, and understand the demands they face as parents.

Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about Live & Learn?
Live & Learn empowers Maricopa County women to break the cycle of generational poverty. The best way to tell you about Live & Learn is to let Live & Learn women tell you about it. Carrie, a 24-year-old who aged out of foster care, became homeless and was coerced into sex trafficking put it this way: “Everyone underestimated me, except Live & Learn. No one else thought I could do it. But for me and Live & Learn,we knew my determination. And we were right because I did it.”

With Live & Learn, Carrie earned a degree in cyber-security, completed a prestigious internship, and began a professional career. It took two years of school, work, balancing motherhood, and healing from past trauma, but with her hard work and determination, Carrie did it. She and her two children are thriving, and Carrie is saving to purchase her own home.

That’s Live & Learn. We are an innovative nonprofit that was founded by the Arizona Foundation for Women in 2012. Every year, we work with 200 Maricopa County women whose lives have been shaped by poverty, homelessness, and domestic violence, and through education and career, we provide a pathway to financial self-sufficiency.

There are no hand-outs at Live & Learn. No bandaids to problems that demand real solutions. It’s all about empowering and supporting women so that they can achieve their goals. It’s giving them the confidence to shape their future.

While women are in our two-year program, they are working full-time, often two jobs; they are caring for their children; they are going to school; they are accessing healthcare, including dentistry, physicals, behavioral/mental services, and vision screening. These women are working incredibly hard, doing everything they can to build a better future for themselves and for their children.

After two years in the program, 8 out of 10 women earn a certification or degree, begin a professional career that offers good wages, and end their reliance on government assistance. Furthermore, over those two years, women’s mindsets change. They become confident, they find their voice, and they start getting more and more ambitious goals for themselves.

We know our approach works, and so do those who invest in our organization. We have funders who understand that we need real solutions to generational problems of poverty. Bank of America named Live & Learn a 2021 Neighborhood Builder, a national award for organizations achieving real change.

Our work has been featured on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt. After the events of these past two years, I think we are all realizing more than ever how vital organizations like Live & Learn are.

Risk-taking is a topic that people have widely differing views on – we’d love to hear your thoughts.
In a leadership role at a nonprofit organization, I am very risk-averse. People’s lives are at stake. For the women we work with, Live & Learn is the difference between independence and living with domestic violence. Live & Learn is a pathway to food and housing security.

Live & Learn is the opportunity to give their children health and happiness. With so much hanging in the balance, how could I take risks? Maricopa County women trust us to support, guide and champion them. They put everything on the line, trusting that we will be there to make sure their hard work brings them to a better place at the end of their two-year journey. I see that as a great honor and a serious responsibility.

Pricing:

  • $800 donations earn a QCO AZ Tax Credit!
  • $1,200 sponsors 1 woman through the 2-year program
  • $25 provides one-on-one financial literacy coaching

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Image Credits:

Live & Learn

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