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PROGRAMS MAKE SLOW INROADS AGAINST POVERTY

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Four years ago, Faith Campbell didn't have much going for her.

With no job, only $50 a month in child support and a ninth-grade education, prospects for the 28-year-old single mother of four weren't so bright. But Campbell had a spark, and she was lucky enough to find someone who could fan it into a flame.Today - thanks to Jean Rosenberg, director of the Single Parent and Homemaker Career Development Program - Campbell has a part-time job and is on the dean's list at Prestonsburg Community College. She expects to have two associate's degrees by next May, in arts and management.

"I wasn't really doing anything but staying home before I met Jean," she says.

Campbell has forged some inroads, yes. But she still helps make up a disturbing statistic about Appalachia, historically poor and made poorer by the loss of more than 93,000 well-paying coal jobs since 1981.

Like Campbell, 64 percent of the female-headed households with minor children in Appalachian Kentucky were living in poverty in 1990, according to a report by Child Trends Inc. of Washington, D.C. The more than 16,000 families represented the highest percentage in the entire 13-state Appalachian region, where poverty in single-mother homes averages 47 percent. The national rate is 42 percent.

In portions of some eastern Kentucky counties, 100 percent of the single-mother homes are below the poverty rate, according to a study released in April by the University of Kentucky Appalachian Center.

Services like Rosenberg's must battle against generations of abuse, degradation and deprivation.

"We certainly have a long history of not encouraging people to complete their formal education - period," said Rosenberg, whose 71/2-year-old program serves five counties.

She and others say that lack of education is even more stultifying for women, who fall into the culturally accepted tradition of marriage and childbearing - and, as a result, simply have no idea how to even try to enter the job market.

Indeed, people who work with Appalachian women find themselves first focusing on such basic things as eating habits and hygiene.

"You have to start from ground zero," said Katie Newsome, a staff assistant with the Community Health Advocates Program, which also operates in five counties.

The program recently completed its third annual week-long Women's Leadership Conference, which offered everything from breast cancer workshops, Pap smears and self-esteem seminars to haircuts, manicures and country line-dancing lessons.

More importantly, Newsome said, the women got time away from what can sometimes be a crushing household isolation.

"They want something for themselves," she said. "It's not just selfish. They're renewing themselves so they can give back to their families, their communities, their churches."