Ramona’s Story: Community Activist and Small Business Owner

Ramona Ferreyra is a community activist and small business owner committed to making a difference in the Bronx neighborhood where she lives. From sourcing masks for essential workers to bringing medicine to sick neighbors, Ramona has used her skills as a community organizer to help everyone around her ride out the COVID-19 crisis. But for Ramona to be able to aid others, she needs support herself.

Ramona and her grandmother, 89, live together in a one-bedroom apartment. Chronic health issues have made it impossible for Ramona to work in most traditional jobs. They rely on sales from Ramona’s clothing business, Ojala Threads (baby and children’s clothes inspired by her Hispanic heritage) and some government support to survive. But with the COVID-19 crisis, Ramona’s sales have dropped dramatically, and she had to cancel all her pop-up events. Ramona and her grandmother’s food stamps ran out weeks ago, and their situation was beginning to feel dire.

“One of the frustrating things about the work that I do in the community is that there is a system set up where you are expected to do the work because you know it’s important, but you’re not paid for it,” said Ramona. Ramona loves the activism work that she does, but it doesn’t support her financially. With support from Humanity Forward through a partnership between Neighborhood Trust and SaverLife, Ramona received a direct $1,000 payment to help her feel a little more secure and get back to doing what she does best: building a better future for her community.

“[The payment] was life-changing,” said Ramona. Ramona used some of the funds to make two credit card payments to pay down some of her debt. She also plans to invest in Google and Facebook ads for Ojala Threads, a marketing strategy she couldn’t afford before.

The rest of her payment she put in the bank, to help her and her grandmother ride out the next few months of the crisis.

It was also important to Ramona to purchase small items, like essentials for her pets — her dog Brownie and her rabbit — and some supplies to make things a little easier for her and her grandmother, including a new can opener and a steam mop. “They’re small things, but they mean a lot. They’re a super big deal.”

“At a time like this, when we have lost three neighbors just in this building…I am already so emotionally exhausted that with the added weight of being poor, there was a time that I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through this because of the financial pressure. And that $1,000, for someone who is used to living on $190 a month–that will last me like three months. For me, this is like a quarterly investment. Look at everything I can accomplish with that money.”

We are so glad we could take a little weight off Ramona’s shoulders. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for her and her business!