Since 2004, UMMA has been providing quality programs and services to the community. For nearly two decades, we have noticed that nearly every person we helped out of poverty went through five phases.  Each of the five phases starts with the letter “E”, hence we dubbed it the 5E FRAMEWORK.  It is a grassroots approach that strives to empower the community.  If we can pinpoint exactly where a person is on their journey, we can help provide the right resources at the right time.

  • Encourage:  When someone is in poverty, education is unlikely to be a primary goal. They are more focused on meeting their basic needs—such as their family’s next meal.  Often times, they are left to wonder if they are going to get evicted, having missed last month’s rent.  When it is time for kids to go back to school, they are concerned with having money to purchase clothing.  Additionally, due to life stresses and circumstances, they may be struggling with an alcohol or drug addiction.  The Encourage phase aims to help those in poverty meet their basic needs.  It is called Encourage because providing the basic needs is simply not enough--there needs to be constant encouragement that the situation can change. The final goal of the Encourage phase is to help people gain confidence in their lives, so that they may pursue an education.


  • Educate:  One of our primary focuses at UMMA has been to help people obtain their GED, or high school diploma.  Without a high school education, people are prevented from numerous employment opportunities, including higher paying trades.  The Educate phase is not only about obtaining a GED, but to build the basic education skills and habits that are necessary to be successful in life.  In addition to the paper diploma, a person needs to have the appropriate reading and mathematics skills that build the foundation for further education. College may ultimately find a role in the Educate phase, but often times it needs to be delayed until poverty is stabilized first.


  • Empower:  Since the inception of UMMA Center we have initiated a multitude of programs including financial literacy, cooking, health, and parenting classes.  These types of programs are focused on life self-empowerment skills and constitute the Empower phase.  Escaping poverty does not simply mean getting educated, it is about learning the life skills that those in better socioeconomic backgrounds simply take for granted.   Learning to properly manage your money and making appropriate financial goals is absolutely critical. The vast majority of people in poverty have massive debt and credit issues.   Learning how to cook and eating healthy is even more important for the impoverished as access to fresh food is scarce in low-income areas.  The family unit plays a critical role for those in poverty who are from single parent or broken homes.  Parenting classes also help to Empower both parents and children, who will help to lead the future.


  • Equip:  When I first started at UMMA I was concerned about the attributes the community lacked to obtain proper employment. These are basic pre-employment skills that those in more affluent areas may consider second nature.  UMMA Center launched a Career Link program to help build these skills. The Equip phase includes resume creation, interview skills development, networking, and establishing Linkedin/online digital profiles.  This also includes assessment of employment and entrepreneurship opportunities best tailored to each individual’s skillset.  Often, the Equip phase requires trade-specific training such as that of a medical assistant, mechanic, administrator, technician, or software administrator. The key is to make a strategic investment in time and training today in skills that will be built upon throughout one’s employment journey.


  • Employ:  The final step of moving out of poverty is to become gainfully employed or financially self-sufficient—the Employ phase.  At UMMA Center, we identified a niche market demand for our trainees and graduates.  We created a model in which corporations could hire non-college educated employees with really strong skills who had developed confidence and ability to be successful in a full time job.  The employment provided them with good salaries and benefits, enabling them to move out of poverty.  We have also helped students obtain training to start a small business or become self-employed.  For returning citizens or those with a criminal record, entrepreneurship is the only route to achieving a steady income.  Once the Employ phase is realized and a person is no longer in poverty, they can begin to not only dream, but realize other goals.  This can include part-time college or development of a more advanced trade. The Employ phase is crucial because it provides stability and breaks the cycle of poverty, so the next generation has a chance to be even more successful.


The Employ phase may be considered as the culmination of the journey through the 5E Framework, but at UMMA we envision it simply as the beginning of a new cycle.  Escaping poverty means staying out of poverty and that brings one back to the Encourage phase.  Continuous support and guidance of the community is necessary to prevent individuals from slipping back into difficult social and economic situations.  Furthermore, those that have benefited and achieved success through the 5E framework are encouraged to help others begin a similar journey.  In this fashion, the 5E model can be self-sustaining, grow the community, and win the war against poverty.

UMMA: Urban Muslim Minority Alliance

221 Washington Street

Waukegan, IL 60085

(847) 336-6136