The 30-year-old Bronx resident is a member of the Food Action Board, a program where food-insecure people advocate on behalf of the hungry. Balli, a native of Togo, came to the United States 11 years ago with his mother, a diplomat who recently returned home.
Balli graduated from Monroe College with a degree in computer science and technology. He’s currently looking for a job, but his family expenses have increased ever since his 15-month-old son was born.
“I just want to have my foot in the field and grow from there,” said Balli, whose wife is the main breadwinner in the family. “You can’t be too picky.”
While sending in job applications daily, Balli also volunteers at two soup kitchens and with a program that sells cheap fresh produce. He’s a recipient of SNAP, the supplemental nutrition assistance program that’s more commonly known as food stamps.
Although he is unemployed, Balli wants to dispel the notion that food stamp recipients are lazy.
“Sleepless nights, studying, caring for a baby, I don’t think I’m lazy,” he said. “It’s just that sometimes you just need a push, and eventually you’ll get ahead where you won’t need help from the government.”
Balli, who has spent more than a decade as a New Yorker, can’t see himself living anywhere else.
“New York is an expensive place, but it’s a place where I can see myself raising my family,” he said. “I like the diversity and it’s a dynamic place.”
Now, Balli hopes a company will take the chance for him to achieve his dreams of creating a true home for him and his family.
“I do miss home,” he added. “I would like to go back to visit, but right now I have to fix my situation here, get a steady job.”