It's all about giving people good solid tools to take care of themselves.
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The lunch table was full of people in the same boat: Single mothers who are trainees in the hydraulics and pipe-fitting trades, thrown together and traveling to a place none of them could quite imagine.
“I don’t know how I want to say this,” said Lillian McEwan, who is 31 and a mother of four. “But I trust you guys more than people that I’ve known all my life.”
For a moment, silence. Then it seemed everyone spoke at once. Hands reached out to touch. Heads nodded in understanding.
“We’ve all had our hearts broken,” said Shannon Heidelberg, 36, who is raising a 12-year-old and a 2-year-old. “But there’s no one here who’s going to turn around and hurt you.”
Here in a state with the highest gap in the nation between a woman’s wage and a man’s, and a divorce rate 30 percent above the national average, some women are finding a new way to storm the economic barricades.
They are working with an unusual nonprofit organization, Climb Wyoming, which takes women who have absorbed a few of life’s body blows — bad or absent men, drugs, public assistance and jail are all common stories — and combines free job training with psychological counseling.
But Climb Wyoming’s real core insight is female solidarity — that the group, trained and forged together more like a platoon than a class, will become an anchor of future success. New skills can go only so far in changing a life, the group’s trainers say; sometimes it takes a sisterhood.
“We look for groups that are ready to work together and make a change together,” said Ray Fleming Dinneen, a psychologist and co-founder of Climb Wyoming, which four years ago began training go-it-alone mothers for male-dominated jobs that rule the state’s industrial-energy economy.
Wyoming has a reputation, well-earned, as a rawboned place where the wind blows hard and a two-hour drive to a one-horse town is not uncommon. Suicide rates and the number of people working more than one job are among the highest in the nation. Methamphetamine use, as in many other rural states, has become a social scourge.
NEW YORK TIMES