National Women’s Law Center, Metanoia, and OLÉ Announce Sparking Change: A Storytelling Initiative Spotlighting the Voices of Women of Color

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 5, 2023 – Black, Indigenous, and other women and children of color are bearing the systemic burden of income insecurity, minimal child care access, and child care unaffordability, yet the stories of their lived experiences rarely leave their homes. Today, the National Women’s Law Center, Metanoia, and OLÉ Education Fund launched Sparking Change: A Storytelling Initiative, a new effort that centers the voices of people closest to the intersecting issues of income insecurity and child caregiving.

Over the next year, an inaugural cohort of 10 women advocates from New Mexico and South Carolina will share their experience with the greater public and decision-makers to ensure that child care policies, and policies that impact income security such as equal pay, an expanded Child Tax Credit, and food and housing security, are grounded in the needs of those closest to these issues.

“In order to mitigate our country’s child care crisis and economic instability faced by too many families, it is essential that we uplift the stories of the women currently experiencing the brunt of it,” said Toni Francis-Bowie, Director of Income Security and Child Care Community Partnerships at the National Women’s Law Center. “If we want to build lasting, effective solutions, we must begin by listening to the women who are enduring the effects of broken systems and partner with them in addressing the root causes of the crisis.”

Access to child care is an essential element in creating economic security, but persistent gaps in this country’s care and economic security systems leave families without the support that they need, creating a domino effect of consequences from the individual to the national level. These intersecting issues can affect a family’s ability to work and support their families, obtain education or training to get a better, more stable job, or secure housing.

The Law Center is joining Metanoia Community Development Corporation in North Charleston, South Carolina and OLÉ Education Fund in Albuquerque, New Mexico in launching this first of its kind initiative.

“When it comes to child care, we know that there are serious gaps in care that disproportionately impact women of color in communities such as North Charleston. Metanoia is proud to join this initiative that provides a platform for women in our community to speak directly to those in power about the importance of expanding access to affordable child care. We believe that by listening to one another and sharing in each other’s experiences, we can create positive change that will benefit families not only in South Carolina, but across the country,” said Jamillia Harper, Chief Operating Officer at Metanoia.

“New Mexico is at the forefront of the movement to address systemic issues in child care. Our continued fight for equitable pay for early educators and affordable access to early education is sustained by parents and teachers who are most impacted by these systemic inequities. We are thrilled to participate in this storytelling initiative, which will help ensure that these stories will have an even greater chance at changing communities’ and legislators’ minds around the essential role of early education,” said Miles Tokunow, Deputy Director at OLÉ.

The challenges families face can vary significantly by region based on the state-level investments into programs that address their well-being. A recent report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which accounted for economic, educational, health, and community factors, found that South Carolina was ranked 41st in the country for child well-being and New Mexico was ranked last. Sparking Change is meant to bring life into those statistics by sharing the stories of the people who are most impacted by this public policy failure.

One of these storytellers is Merline Gallegos, a mother of four children from New Mexico. Gallegos wrote the initial storytelling opportunity for Sparking Change during Child Care Provider Appreciation Day. In it, she highlights the challenges that she faced in securing and affording skilled child care, her work as an Early Childhood and Special Education teacher, and her efforts to ensure that no other mother feels the same isolation she did while navigating these issues.

“I joined Sparking Change because I like to share my experiences with others and share my story in a way that will motivate others to join in creating change,” said Gallegos. “I am excited to use the skills I have learned to continue to advocate for early learning teachers and all child care providers.

Another storyteller, Ms. Christine, is a mother of three children who lives in South Carolina. Like many single mothers, Ms. Christine has struggled to find affordable, high-quality child care for all her children, and in particular for her child who was diagnosed with autism. Even though Ms. Christine is a qualified medical assistant and is a credentialed administrative assistant, she has been forced to work part-time jobs so that she can be home to care for her children.

“I have faced many challenges with child care. As a single mom, I work jobs that are not in my career field just to take care of children. I hope that this initiative will help raise awareness and bring high-quality, affordable child care to low-income areas. I pray that all children will be served, because all children are special in their own way,” said Ms. Christine.

For more information, visit To request additional information on Sparking Change: A Storytelling Initiative work or engage with any of the featured Storytellers, reach out to Jessica Majano-Arriaza, Manager of Community Partnerships at [email protected].

Below are members of the inaugural Sparking Change cohort:

  • Chantelle Mitchell, South Carolina. Chantelle is a mother of six beautiful children, a youth and family advocate, motivational speaker, life coach, and future author. Chantelle is participating in Sparking Change to share her story in hopes that she will teach something, raise awareness, and find solutions to help combat the problems our community faces on a daily basis.
  • Felicitas Torres, New Mexico. Felicitas is a mother, grandmother, and advocate for education in her community. She joined Sparking Change because she wants to tell her story and share the impacts early learning has had on her family.
  • Melodie Ali, South Carolina. Melodie joined Sparking Change because she wants her story to be an inspiration to those who are in the same situation that she experienced. Melodie loves reading to her children, nature walks, and going to the beach.
  • Merline Gallegos, New Mexico. Merline is a proud child care provider. She enjoys working and interacting with children. She is currently working towards her associate’s degree in early education. Merline joined this storytelling and leadership initiative to learn how to use her story to motivate others and to continue to advocate for early learning teachers and all child care providers.
  • Christine, South Carolina. Christine loves her children, talks to new people and works on projects that help people, especially children, because they are the future. She joined Sparking Change: A Storytelling Initiative with single women like her in mind, advocating for adequate child care needs.
  • Patricia Bustillos, New Mexico. Patricia enjoys spending quality time with her children and grandchildren. She is dedicated to growth and education so that she can continue to support her community. Through this storytelling initiative, she wishes she could share her story to help support those who have dealt with child care insecurities and low-wage jobs.
  • Patty Ortiz, New Mexico. Patty is an early education teacher and is always looking to learn and grow within her profession. She joined this storytelling initiative to advocate and empower her community and others to continue fighting for teachers and pay increases.
  • Raynique Says, South Carolina. Raynique is part of the Sparking Change: a storytelling initiative. She wants to tell her story in a meaningful and authentic way. She hopes to make an impact and be helpful and encouraging to her community. She wants her community to help her advocate for systemic change.
  • Sandra Ibarra, New Mexico. Sandra loves being a mom and a teacher. She loves listening to music, dancing, and gardening. She is also an advocate in her community: she fights for her students, teachers, and families. She joined this initiative because she believes it is important to speak out against injustice and help others feel heard.
  • Tineaka Robinson, South Carolina. Tineaka is one proud mother and grandmother. As a native of Charleston, South Carolina, she feels very connected to her community. Through the Sparking Change storytelling initiative, she hopes she can continue to learn and advocate for others so they don’t feel alone in life’s struggles.

To read the press release in Spanish, click here