We Can Be podcast - The Heinz Endowments

Circles of love: Tammy Thompson draws on her own remarkable journey in her work to break poverty trauma cycles (S01EP08)

April 25, 2018

Tammy Thompson was nine when she and her family left a West Virginia coal mining town for the promise of a good-paying job and a new life in Pittsburgh. They shot through the Fort Pitt tunnels, where on the other end the golden bridges and sparkling lights of the city and its rivers burst into dazzling view.


Then it all went wrong.


As a third-grader, Tammy saw her family’s high hopes and financial stability crumble in ways that still affect them today. But she now heads an arm of national anti-poverty group Circles and is the producer of the documentary film We Wear the Mask: the Hidden Faces of Women in Poverty. She is an undeniable success story, and she spreads knowledge, hope and love to everyone with whom she comes in contact.


The trauma of poverty — and the strength from rising out of it — informs all that Tammy does. Her story is very much an American story. It’s a story of loading into the family car and chasing after the promise of a better life only to find it is just the beginning of an even rougher road. And then, against unfathomable odds, overcoming the impossibly difficult circumstances.


Tammy is upbeat, smart and brings energy and empathy to all who come into her own circle. Don’t miss the story of her journey, her perhaps surprising thoughts on gentrification, and her belief that going “beyond survival into ‘thrival’ ” should — and must — be our goal.


We Can Be is hosted by The Heinz Endowments Grant Oliphant and produced by the Endowments and Treehouse Media. Theme music is composed by John Dziuban, with incidental music by Josh Slifkin.

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