Soroptimist International of the Americas Dream Programs
The Dream Programs target women and girls facing obstacles and consists of two components. The Live Your Dream Education and Training Award (LYDA) is a financial award for women who provide primary financial support for themselves and dependents, are enrolled/accepted to an undergraduate or vocational/technical training program and have financial need. The Dream It, Be It (DIBI) program provides girls with access to information on various career options, mentors, and a curriculum focusing on goal setting and overcoming obstacles to attain personal goals.
Through the Dream Programs, our focus is on access to education because educated women and girls are less vulnerable to sex traffickers, more likely to permanently leave a domestic violence situation, able to access healthcare, less likely to live in poverty, and go on to raise stronger, healthier families. The Dream Program seeks to accelerate economic empowerment for women and girls who have encountered obstacles. By focusing on women and girls facing obstacles, we include those who are most vulnerable. These programs are in operation in North America and eleven (11) developing countries.
Rooted in the agenda for women’s equality, the programs directly support five of the SDGs: (1) No poverty, (4) quality education, (5) gender equality, (8) decent work and economic growth, (10) reduced inequalities. The Live Your Dream Award increases recipients’ opportunities to obtain new skill sets, enhances their ability to obtain a better paying job, and increases their standard of living. Girls participating in the Dream It, Be It program are exposed to empowerment, role models, and put on the right track to live lives free from poverty.
For the Live Your Dream Award, women who provide primary financial support for themselves and dependents, are enrolled/accepted to an undergraduate or vocational/technical training program and have financial need may apply. Applications are available through an online portal, a writeable PDF form, and through a hardcopy form. Recruitment of applicants for the award requires reaching out to schools, women-focused organizations, libraries, and other community outlets, making a personal contact at these locations to ensure the information is shared. Each of the 1300 Soroptimist clubs are asked to give at least one cash award. Beyond the club level award, there are additional regional and federation awards given on a competitive basis. In 2019-2020, 1,770 women received over $2.8 million through the Live Your Dream Award. In addition to cash awards, several non-monetary supports are also provided to recipients including ongoing mentoring, job training, books, computers, groceries, childcare, financial counseling, and educational assistance. For the Dream It, Be It program, 366 projects were hosted by Soroptimist clubs in 2019-2020, comprised of a mix of conferences, small group mentoring, and virtual programs. Clubs partner with local schools or organizations to recruit secondary-school girls to participate in the seven-part scripted curriculum addressing issues girls may encounter in their career and educational paths. This year clubs contributed 24,441 volunteer hours and $443,689 in support of the project for various supplies, snacks, transportation, and give-away gift items.
Recipient impact surveys have consistently shown the impact of the Dream Programs. Information collected from past recipients of the Live Your Dream Award reflects the following: 84% completed their education and improved standard of living. 94% reported increase self-esteem. 74% secured higher paying employment. 95% reported serving as role model to dependents. Impact reported for the Dream It, Be It program are as follows: 88% feel more confident about future success. 86% feel more prepared to pursue career goals. 81% felt they were provided with new tools to overcome obstacles and setbacks. 84% were exposed to women who want to support professional aspirations.
The organizational Big Goal of increasing collective impact of our clubs and regions in these programs has resulted in consistent increases in the number of women and girls served through our Dream Programs and the amount of funding distributed through the Live Your Dream Award. COVID-19 has impacted our programmatic reach due to necessary safety precautions, but clubs have been pivoting their work to a virtual delivery model.
SIA adopted a Big Goal to focus our work and articulate what we are trying to accomplish for the women and girls that we serve. As our organization approaches our 100th Anniversary in October 2021, we have been planning on how to build on the success of our current Big Goal of increased collective impact. Our 2021-2031 Big Goal is to invest in the dreams of half a million women and girls through access to education. We continue to engage our 28,000 members in North America, South America, and the Pacific Rim as we continue working on our next Big Goal and seek the support of major donors to help this effort.
Because our organization has paused all in person gatherings until it is safe to do so, clubs have begun distributing LYDA funding as quickly as possible to better meet the more immediate needs of the recipients. Gift cards to local stores are also made available for awardees. Virtual celebrations are occurring to maintain a social connection with the awardee and a means of providing ongoing counseling and support as needed. For DIBI, clubs have been pivoting to deliver the program virtually where possible, allowing their reach to expand beyond their geographic immediate area. Clubs have been finding creative and safe ways to support their Dream Programs participants.
SDGS & Targets
Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Deliverables & Timeline
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North America including Canada, South America and Pacific Rim