by Rachel Cohen, DC Fund volunteer
Tyunin’s Breakthrough was part of the Diverse City Fund’s inaugural group of grantees in November 2011, and one year later has been awarded a follow-up support grant. Led by Founder and CEO DeVonna Abdul-Rahim, along with a small group of volunteers and Board Chair Janelle Jobe, the organization works tirelessly to expand opportunities, re-establish lives and bring hope to young, low-income single mothers and at-risk girls in the District.
Since its founding in 2006, Tyunin’s has worked directly with 80 women, and reached many more through programs and partnerships with like-minded groups including Jubilee Jobs and Capital Area Asset Building. Tyunin’s Breakthrough’s programs are unorthodox but authentic, providing comprehensive skills development for young mothers and at-risk girls including job training, financial literacy and building positive self-concept. DeVonna and her team develop their programs based on the real-life experience of young mothers in the District. What makes their programs unique is the commitment to imparting vital, real-world skills and doing so in a safe place that supports learning and growth.
Founding Tyunin’s Breakthrough was a response to DeVonna’s experience as a young mother. Her own mother, after whom her organization is named, struggled with drug problems and her father was not present. Though she faced many obstacles, Devonna channeled her challenges into determination to improve her life and to empower others to do the same. She found a positive path forward and started Tyunin’s Breakthrough to share this path with others.
DeVonna’s program is all about the break-through moment when women realize that their dreams can become a reality and that they can have hope, set goals and build a positive self-concept as they overcome challenging life circumstances. To facilitate these moments, Tyunin’s brings together networks of women who can support and provide resources to each other – both emotional and professional. Learning with and from other women who are going through or have been through similar experiences is key to the success of Tyunin’s Breakthrough.
DeVonna directs the organization, but the work would not go forward without Board Chair Janelle Jobe and their dedicated group of volunteers – many of whom went through Tyunin’s programs and volunteer to give thanks and give back for their experience. Support from the DC Fund has already made a real difference for Tyunin’s and the women it serves. Utilizing her first grant and personal savings, DeVonna put down a deposit for a new program space in DC’s Trinidad neighborhood. DeVonna and her team are now working to fix the space up into a beautiful place for their ever-growing list of programs and events, focused on expanding opportunities for young women in the local community.
DeVonna is excited to use her second DC Fund grant to expand programming to DC Public Schools. Tyunin’s already works with 15 teen mothers at Dunbar and Coolidge High Schools, and will use the grant to pay workshop facilitators to expand these opportunities. Tyunin’s relies on people power to continue working and growing, and volunteers don’t just give their time, they bring their creativity and skills, and learn and grow themselves. With continued Diverse City Fund support, DeVonna will be able to give volunteers small stipends as they learn to facilitate programs and bring them to more young women across the District.
For the past 5 years, DeVonna has constantly been on the move, building the organization, and working with women across the District. Tyunin’s has grown consistently during this time, earning 501c3 status in 2007, receiving 2 DC Fund grants, and gaining financial and human resources support from the Estelle Friedman Foundation, a connection made through the DC Fund. Tyunin’s continues to earn its strong reputation as a go-to partner for young mothers looking to make their dreams a reality in DC.
Tyunin’s is a committed, loving, authentic organization empowering women to break out of the cycle of poverty with programs created from the heart. DeVonna has put her own heart and soul into the work, but when she feels tired or overwhelmed, she thinks about what the world would look like if she did not continue her work. This gives her the strength to keep going, and this strength is supported by the DC Fund, in a city where grassroots leaders like DeVonna often find the funding world to be overly complicated and politicized. Tyunin’s Breakthrough has an unshakable commitment to work with real people to make real change. This doesn’t mean lots of bells and whistles, but it does mean the blood, sweat and tears of DeVonna and her team, and the support of committed partners like the Diverse City Fund.