'I Just Want a Better Life'

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/21/neediest-cases/i-just-want-a-better-life.html

Nishi Akter has one main goal in her studies at Fordham University: "I'm doing all this as a way out of the cycle of poverty."

Born in Noakhali, Bangladesh, Ms. Akter came to the United States with her family in 2013 and settled in the Bronx. She struggled with the abrupt shift in language and culture while also navigating troubles at home, where money was tight.

Despite all the difficulties, she was able to excel academically. When she was awarded multiple scholarships and a significant financial package to attend Fordham, Ms. Akter, 18, was excited not only to begin studying for her medical degree, but also to develop a sense of community.

She stated that there are more than 140 clubs on campus and she was happy to have this because her high school did not offer it. "My main goal when I came here was to be as immersed as possible."

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Ms. Akter joined Fordham last year as a student and took on leadership roles in organizations like the Commuting Students Association (CSSA) and the Dean's Council. Last year, she changed her major from economics to economics. She hopes that the degree will help her get a job and make her more aware of a world that revolves around money.

Ms. Akter, a firsthand witness to wealth disparity, said that "I've always had an interest in learning how money works and how governments could help the poor." "It's also personal because I feel like anytime I want to do something, the one obstacle is money."

Ms. Akter was able to get funding for her education and an apartment off-campus, but she is still food insecure.

"I don't have consistent, reliable meals every single day," Ms. Akter explained, adding that she rarely eats over twice a days.

Though embarrassed at first to ask for help, she was ultimately connected with Abraham House, an affiliated member of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New York, which is a beneficiary agency of The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund. Abraham House was able to provide her with three $250 gift cards using money from The Fund, and a place to receive a weekly meal.

Ms. Akter had the ability to buy food staples, such as bread and cheese, in bulk using her gift cards. She felt relieved that she had some nourishment back.

"I just want a better way of life." Ms. Akter explained that she wants to get over this. She focuses on school as much possible. "I want a position that I can help people like me. People don't get it."

She added: "On one hand, things may appear fine, but what's happening behind the scenes is not clear."

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Nadirra hakeem (with Storm her dog) Financial support from The Neediest Cases Fund is available to her in order to start the next academic school year. Credit... Sara Naomi Lewkowicz at The New York Times

Nadirra Haikeem was also faced with financial difficulties while earning a college degree.

Starting at the College of Staten Island in 2020 was the beginning of realizing a long-held dream. Her father had always taught her the importance and value of higher education. So much so, that Ms. Hakeem was able to adopt her foster family and received financial support to help her attend college.

Ms. Hakeem (20) said that she was always going to pursue higher education.

She had worked hard for her final year at high school, and was able to do so virtually from the Bronx apartment where she lived with younger siblings. She ended the year strong and moved into a dorm.

Ms. Hakeem was unable to find motivation because Covid precautions required that certain activities be curbed.

She said, "I was on campus for approximately a month and half, and I was becoming severely depression very quickly."

The emotional weight of attending college full-time in an isolating environment, while also working 40 hours a week in an Amazon warehouse, became too much. Ms. Hakeem failed to finish the semester due to covid disruptions. It felt like she had failed when she dropped out of her classes.

Ms. Hakeem purchased Storm, a canine service dog that she is training to support her with post-traumatic stress disorder. To get her finances in order, she also took a break from the spring semester.

Her fall semester interrupted left her with an unpaid $5,398 bill. Ms. Hakeem was not sure what to do so she spoke to Hope Leadership Academy, a teen centre run by Children's Aid. Children's Aid are a beneficiary agency for The Neediest Cases Fund. Children's Aid paid the entire cost of the trip using money from The Fund.

Ms. Hakeem now lives in a foster home, Storm is able to be with her, and she's saving money to buy an apartment. She feels more optimistic about her future as she prepares next year to apply to college.

She declared, "I'm not finished fighting my fight." "If I have the resources and people to support me and stand by me, then I won't give up.

Online or mail donations can be made to The Neediest Cases Fund.

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