From the Director’s Desk: Letter to the Editor of the Corridor Business Journal

As the only refugee resettlement agency in the Corridor, the Catherine McAuley Center (CMC) values the partnerships with the Gateways for Growth initiative with the City of Cedar Rapids, and the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance. Working with hundreds of refugees and immigrants each year, CMC understands the unique barriers confronting these newcomers as they seek opportunities to contribute and connect to their new community and achieve self-sufficiency, the ultimate goal of the U.S. refugee resettlement program.

While immediately eligible to work, our highly motivated refugee newcomers often experience cultural and language barriers that can be overcome through education and skill-building. For instance, CMC’s Job Club helps refugees and immigrants understand how to be successfully employed in the U.S. by explaining things like the importance of being on time, a concept that is not a part of some African cultures. Similarly, understanding paychecks, benefits and taxes is a foreign concept to many.

But client education is just one piece of the puzzle. By working directly with local employers, we are able to address the unique barriers to accessing employment at companies who are in need of a committed and capable workforce. CMC offers tangible and concrete suggestions and information. When local businesses hire someone, they are hiring a person, not a demographic. We invite local employers to reach out to us to help facilitate that understanding with their diverse workforce!

From helping women become registered in-home child-care businesses, to breaking down language and cultural barriers, to partnering with local employers, CMC can only bolster the efforts of initiatives put forth by the City of Cedar Rapids, Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance and other groups in our community. We see both challenges and successes of our clients, we watch them grow, and understand their needs on a personal level, and continue to identify ways to address them. CMC offers a place of welcome and appreciates the many individuals and organizations who recognize the great value and benefit of a diverse and inclusive community.

Sincerely,
Paula Land
Executive Director
Catherine McAuley Center

You can read the published Letter to the Editor in the August 19-25, 2019 edition of the Corridor Business Journal.

Muriyo Talks about Somalia

We’re glad you’re a student at CMC, Muriyo! Thanks for telling us about your native country.

Question: What is your favorite food from your country?

Answer: We eat a lot of rice, pasta, meat, and milk. I think we have more animals than other African countries. Somalia has a long Ocean border, so there is a lot of fish, but most of us prefer other meat. We also have anjero. It is kind of like a spongy pancake, we eat it with meat or sweet with sugar or honey.

Question: Tell me about a tradition or holiday in Somalia.

Answer: We are 100% Muslim, so we celebrate all of the Muslim holidays. We also celebrate Independence Day. It is July 1st. There are many big celebrations in the Somali communities here in the U.S., too, with dancing and parties.

Question: What do you want other people to know about your country?

Answer: The Somali people are very friendly. There was a long civil war, so we need to be compassionate and helpful to each other. Also, there are many Somali people all over the world! China, Australia, London, and many other places have big Somali communities.

 

The Violence Against Women Act

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was signed into law in 1994 in the wake of the Anita Hill hearing and with bi-partisan support. Since that point VAWA has existed as a living, breathing document, constantly changing and moving forward to address the issues of each generation. As of now VAWA continues to help communities provide invaluable services for women who survived and continue to experience violence as well as provide avenues for justice for them.

VAWA is up for re-authorization every five years, at which time lawmakers convene not only to re-approve the law but to amend it so it may properly serve those it was created to protect. In 2005 and 2013 VAWA was altered to include special protections for immigrant and indigenous women, respectively, while retaining the protections already included before 2005. VAWA, the funding it provides, and the legal provisions it supports is set to expire December 21, 2018. Considering recent developments like the Bret Kavanaugh hearing and the assault and murder of women in Iowa, policies like this remain indispensable in creating safe and welcoming communities here and across the country.

According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) VAWA provides funding for six important programs which include transitional housing, criminal justice improvements and training , and grants that sustain programs which provide domestic violence hotlines, counseling, and shelters for women experiencing sexual and domestic violence. Without re-authorization, regular funding for these valuable programs would no longer exist, impacting their sustainability. These programs and services could end slowly as they run out of money. In a time when more and more women are coming forward, telling their stories and seeking help, a situation like this would lead to the alienation of more and more women as the protections they were previously eligible for begin to break down.

The issue of violence against women, in all of its forms and incarnations is not a political one. These issues find their foundation in basic humanity, in the security of freedom, safety and justice. A place where women live in fear for their lives and their safety is not a free place. A place where women fear speaking out regarding the harm done to them because of the potential for retaliation or because they know justice will elude them is not a just place or a safe place. To live in a place where accountability, the health and safety of all people, and general decency are not valued is not something any of us desire.

If VAWA isn’t reauthorized, we face the prospect of, at best, remaining with the 2013 version for another five years or at worst, losing funding for these services. Standing still while everything else moves forward is surely a movement in the wrong direction.

From the Director’s Desk: Planning for the Future

To our CMC community,

As you may have seen in the news last week, the Catherine McAuley Center has been making plans for our future!

For many years now, the need for CMC services has outgrown our current facilities:

  • Today, we serve more than 460 students, double the number of students in 2011. There are nearly 100 other adult learners eagerly awaiting class during times when all other study spaces are occupied.
  • Funding priorities for homelessness have shifted, resulting in a growing need for transitional housing for women who have experienced trauma.
  • With the addition of new refugee and immigrant services in 2016, our basement storage and classroom space is now filled with client meeting areas and workspaces for our 9-person staff and AmeriCorps team. Additional storage must be rented off-site.
  • We know that the lack of parking and an elevator causes difficulties for many residents, students, clients, and volunteers.

We are proud to continue responding to calls to serve critical needs in our community, as the Sisters of Mercy did when they founded CMC in 1989. We’re honored that you’ve believed in this mission and share your support in so many ways. We appreciate your flexibility as we continually re-arrange our spaces to accommodate our growing services, and we have only seen private financial support and community enthusiasm grow as we adapt to meet community needs.

Through all these changes, our board and committees have been working behind the scenes to quantify our need for space and evaluate more than 35 possible options for our future home, including UnityPoint’s Living Center East after learning it would be up for sale. Not only does this facility meet all of our criteria and allow us to deliver all programs under one roof, but its location at 1220 5th Avenue SE is in close proximity to other non-profit organizations and CMC’s community garden.

Current facilities and Living Center East

Top: Catherine McAuley Center’s current facilities Bottom: 1220 5th Avenue SE, future site of the Catherine McAuley Center

From the very beginning of our consideration of Living Center East and through our purchase late this summer, we were pleased to honor UnityPoint’s request to allow time for the New Horizons program for physically and intellectually disabled adults to transition to other facilities over the course of three years. As of learning last week of UnityPoint’s announcement that they would instead be closing the New Horizons program in February 2019, we have yet to finalize a timeline for the move. Please know that our goal is and has been to keep you, our best supporters, informed of significant updates on this project before hearing through the local media.

While renovation plans and an exact timeline have yet to be determined, we look forward to opening the doors of our future CMC home as early as Spring of 2020. We remain committed to our mission to offer hope and opportunity through educational and supportive services for women who are healing from trauma, our refugee and immigrant neighbors, and adult learners. While the core of our services will not change, we see so much potential for being more welcoming and inclusive in the delivery of our services. We hope you’ll follow along!

With hope,

 

 

Paula Land
Executive Director

Growing Hope

Garden and food pantry collageThis growing season, Daniel and Rachel are finding belonging and hope in the Catherine McAuley Center’s (CMC) community garden, where they will work side by side with other students, residents, and refugee newcomers to grow produce for their families and CMC’s food pantry.

“I want to garden because I like nature, and it’s in my nature to work, to dig,” says Daniel from Uganda. Rachel, a resident who will be tending to the CMC garden for a second season knows that making the garden a community effort is rewarding, “At the garden, we work as part of a team. We all enjoy reaping the produce and then cooking it together. It tastes better because we’ve grown it!”

Daniel and Rachel’s work in the garden is a great example of the inclusive community that is nourished at the Catherine McAuley Center—one where neighbors work together and embrace opportunities to not only better themselves and their families, but the whole community.

With a monthly gift of $20, you can provide the tools and opportunities needed for hope to grow inside and outside the garden:

  • Eight weeks of case management to help a resident reach her unique goals
  • Job coaching for one newcomer as they pursue new or better employment
  • A six-week class for students preparing for U.S. citizenship.

Your pledge of monthly support to the Catherine McAuley Center as a Mustard Seed giver will sprout into abundant opportunities for our neighbors to find belonging and hope. Will you help us branch out to help our neighbors thrive in new ways?

Protecting and Building Communities in Cedar Rapids

Last week at the Cedar Rapids Public Library the Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission hosted the event, “Forum on Protecting Arab, Muslim, Sikh, and South Asian Communities.” This educational program focused on the definition of “hate crimes,” and included presentations and panels discussing the legislative processes, local resources, and opportunities to assist affected communities.

The Catherine McAuley Center (CMC) consistently works with diverse, and oftentimes marginalized, groups. In 2016 the Adult Basic Education Program alone had 404 students representing 49 countries from around the world. Taking opportunities like this forum to learn how to advocate and protect members of our CMC community aligns with our values– supporting inclusive communities that welcome, respect, and support a diversity of individuals and ideas. Communication and Administrative Intern, Madison Clark, attended the event due to her belief in this tenet, and to share this valuable information with a wider audience!

What is a hate crime?

Representatives from the U.S. Department of Justice, the Iowa Department of Human Rights, and the Anti-Defamation League of the Plains States Region explained that hate crimes are difficult to prosecute due to their nature. Unlike most other crimes, the prosecutor is expected to prove the motive of the defendants instead of simply proving the crime happened. 

A hate crime can include, but is not limited to:

  • Violent acts enacted on a person, their property, or a place of worship,
  • Threats of violence,
  • Attempts to intimidate or interfere with living
  • Obstruction of free exercise
  • Conspiracy against rights
  • Trespassing

Hate crimes are not common in Iowa, and are especially uncommon within the Cedar Rapids community. Knowing the scope of potential issues will simply help community members continue to protect the individual rights of everyone who call Cedar Rapids their home.

When and to whom should concerns be reported?

According to the law enforcement panel, hate crimes go tremendously under-reported. This means that the current data being worked from is not covering the full scope of issues being faced by marginalized communities. With this in mind, the representatives made it overwhelmingly clear that individuals should report any concerns to their local law enforcement, even if it’s only a suspicion, and that they should be reported right away.

The panel explained that the possibility of something being a hate crime, regardless of whether or not it’s prosecuted that way, is always noted. This is so future incidents might have better evidence behind them that could enable victims receive justice. Basically, if it looks and feels like a hate crime, law enforcement will respond to it as such.

If there’s been an incident that could potentially be a hate crime, call the non-emergency number, or 911, depending on the urgency of the situation.

How can we address the growing tensions?

The community panel, including representatives from the Eastern Iowa Islam, Sikh, and Hindu communities, followed the law enforcement panel. This group spent time discussing how recent political tensions have increased the threat of hate crimes towards their communities, as well as what others might be able to do to help.

Overwhelmingly, the community members agreed that what would have the greatest effect would be getting the Cedar Rapids community involved in education sessions about each group. They felt that educating and increasing community awareness would lead to a more enriched community through diversity and new perspectives. Each group’s community center offers trainings, tours, and will welcome anyone interested in learning more. They also expressed a willingness to collaborate with other community groups, businesses, or schools on events ranging from volunteering to positive media campaigns supporting diversity.

When a crime motivated by bias occurs, it reverberates throughout all communities. This forum aimed to say, “You are not alone,” to the people of many diverse perspectives and practices who call Cedar Rapids their home. Many groups have started to see a rise in threats and tensions over the last few years, and it’s the responsibility of Cedar Rapids residents to create a safe and inviting community for everyone. CMC aims to supports this effort, and believes everyone has, and should continue to have, the potential to create and live a purposeful and fulfilling life.

20 Instances of Community: A Reflection

The Catherine McAuley Center celebrated communi-TEA at the 20th Annual Catherine’s Tea on Sunday, October 2, 2016. In honor of this 20th anniversary, Laurie, a resident peer leader at CMC, shared 20 ways that she and other residents see their community actively working in their lives. Find the full transcript below!

Laurie shared 20 ways that the residents in the Transitional Housing Program see their CMC community at work in their lives.

Laurie shared 20 ways that the residents in the Transitional Housing Program see their CMC community at work in their lives.

Good afternoon, my name is Laurie Cramberg and I am the senior peer in the Catherine McAuley Transitional Housing Program.

I’ve been at CMC since February 2015. I came to CMC after substance abuse treatment. I was homeless afterwards and needed guidance on how to live my life as a productive, healthy, responsible adult. My needs were not only housing, but also a safe place to live and grow in my sobriety and mental well-being.

I am now sober over 2 years with the help and grace of God, lots of prayers, and of course the community and help of the Transitional Housing Program.

About 6 months ago the housing program manager Jennifer came to me with the proposition of becoming the senior peer at CMC. I accepted and now I help the other women in the program build a strong community.

As a senior peer I’ve been given the opportunity and challenge to lead a group in our program. This is a group we have named “Community.” In our group we plan times to spend together as a community as well as time to give back to CMC and Cedar Rapids.

In honor of this being the 20th anniversary of the Catherine’s Tea, the ladies in the housing program, staff, and I would like to share with you 20 ways we see our CMC community in action in our lives:

As you all know, last week Cedar Rapids prepared for the flood. In this sad and frightening time, we saw how our CMC community comes together.

  1. Last weekend, one woman at CMC organized a group of women to help at the sandbagging stations.
  2. We welcomed five women who needed to be evacuated into the program. One of the current residents has been a gracious host for the evacuated women—sharing her living space and has helped show them where things are at in the house and helped them get settled in.
  3. One the first night of evacuation, one CMC resident prepared quite the feast for the evacuees with us. She made homemade spaghetti, garlic bread, and a salad with items from the garden. We had great conversation and full bellies that night!
  4. One resident led a group meditation on Saturday night. The response from the women was so appreciative, and it really seemed to help make everyone feel more safe and calm.
  5. And on Sunday, the women who moved into CMC after evacuating made dinner for all of us. It was so awesome seeing everyone work together and being so giving.
  6. Many of us have worked hard in our community garden all summer. We have had an abundance of produce to share. During the flood, we used some of the produce from our garden to make meals together with those who were evacuated from their homes.

The flood is a strong example of our CMC community, but I’d like to share with you some other ways we can see our CMC community in action in our lives throughout the year

7. This past spring we invited our neighbors, students, tutors, and family to a Garden Party in our community garden to celebrate our pollinator garden where we share not only in the beauty of the flowers we’ve planted but the hope for an increase in the population of the Monarch butterfly.

8. Which reminds me of the CMC picnic where we share in fellowship with the students, teachers, staff and family members.

9. During cooking groups at the Center, we share recipes, mistakes, and successes that’s the food, of course—and laughter and fun.

10. We share in fellowship cooking out in our back yard. It’s not always just a cook out. On National Night Out in August, we stayed out to play games as part of a national protest against violence in our community and to encourage our neighbors to help us create a safe neighborhood.

11. On Women’s Equality Day, we take time to remember the women who won our right to vote and honor three women in our community who we feel are an example of courage, commitment, and service.

12. Being engaged in activism and social issues is an important part of our community. We invited a representative from both the Democratic and Republican party to teach us how to caucus and other ways to use our voices to make a difference.

13. We like to find ways to build community in greater Cedar Rapids too, like taking opportunities to volunteer at our local food banks.

14. During our weekly Community Groups where we not only share a reading to help us reflect on our lives. We share our successes and challenges with each other. And we brainstorm for upcoming events.

15. In the future we plan to have a baby shower for one of our alumnae, and who doesn’t love babies or a reason for cake?

16. This upcoming Tuesday night we are planning a board game night with a dose of homemade nachos on the side.

17. We each have an opportunity to share and maintain our communal living areas. Different residents add decorations or do projects to improve the spaces and help create a comfortable home.

18. We listen to each other and help each other whenever we can. We help carry groceries in for each other and help people move in and out of the houses. I am grateful for one woman in particular for helping me when I am in need—cat sitting.

19. Our support for each other is especially important around the holidays. We have dinners together on Thanksgiving and Christmas and celebrate together.

20. Our fall retreat—where we are offered the opportunity to explore who we are, our needs, or just plain regroup—is one of my favorite times we have been blessed to share.

So what is community? The dictionary says that community is “bonds of harmony and brotherly love.” And that’s the kind of community we strive to be at CMC.

Thank you.

Community: José’s Story

In celebration of communi-TEA, José shared stories of how he first relied on others when he came to the United States and how he now helps his friends and community thanks to skills he learned at the Center.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. My name is José Hermosillo, I’m originally from a small town in Jalisco, near of Guadalajara, Mexico. In Mexico, I studied animal science, and my family and I ran a farm there. Many of my ancestors were farmers.

I would like to introduce my family: my wife, Margarita, my daughter, Fernanda, and my son, Christopher. Right now, Fernanda is a sophomore at Xavier High School, and Christopher is attending 5th grade at St. Joe’s in Marion.

I first came to the US because I needed to work back in 2003. When I first came everything was difficult. For example, at that time I had a car. I knew how to do maintenance and some repairs, but I don’t have the knowledge to order brake pads. To get the pads I need to have a friend to go with me to the auto parts store. He ordered the parts for me. I was always asking for his help when I needed something.

Later another friend of mine recommended to come to the CMC to enroll in the English classes. I decided to come to CMC because I needed to learn English and be more independent and self-sufficient.

When you first start learning a different language you are afraid to do some things. People might start laughing on you, and you are afraid to ask some things. The community at CMC is very helpful and friendly. My teacher Linda back in 2003 invited me to dinner at her house. She is from Wisconsin and her husband is from Brazil. We had a good dinner. We started a friendship. CMC also helps me with other issues like immigration, health insurance questions, and other concerns.

José reflected on how learning English at CMC has empowered him to live more self-sufficiently and help his friends do the same.

José reflected on how learning English at CMC has empowered him to live more self-sufficiently and help his friends do the same.

I started work at a dairy farm in Marion in 2003. When you work on a farm you don’t need high level English. But back then if I don’t know some word, I asked my boss with a translator or a white board to write the word and tell me how it sounds. That way I learned a lot too.

Now things are more easy than back in the past.

I have met different people from other countries at the CMC, and now they are my friends. They are from Brazil, Congo, Vietnam, Syria, and my actual tutor is from the UK. Over the years, I’ve also worked with different tutors and several staff members. I have nearly completed 4 books. Learning English at CMC has given me much more confidence in my daily living in this country.

Now I’m helping other immigrants to find a job, taking them to apply or to interviews, look for a car or apartment. I help them with the same problems I had in the beginning. And all these things thanks to the English I learned here at CMC.

I want to say thank you to all the community at the CMC for the great job they’re doing transforming lives one at a time.

100+ Corridor Women Who Care- about CMC!

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We are very excited to announce that the Catherine McAuley Center has received a generous donation from the 100+ Corridor Women Who Care organization. 100+ Corridor Women is an organization of women who support the growth of our local community by pooling resources to make focused, effective contributions to local charities. The mission is to bring together 100 or more women, each willing to contribute $100 four times a year to help the community and local charities.

The generous donation on behalf of 100+ Corridor Women Who Care will go to support the needs of the growing Adult Basic Education program, which proudly serves more than 400 adult learners who are working hard to brighten their outlook for the future by learning English, studying for the U.S. citizenship exam, or improving other basic academic skills. Many thanks to Kim Hillyard, CMC board member and volunteer tutor, for sharing about the CMC mission with the 100 Plus Corridor Women Who Care!

Because we were selected as the beneficiary of this quarter’s 100+ gifts, CMC will receive 40% of proceeds of the products sold through the 100+ Corridor Women’s One Mission fundraising campaign!  One Mission is a local business based in Mount Vernon devoted to “changing the world, one mission at a time”. Browse their online shop for soaps, candles, graphic prints, apparel, home décor and more—and be sure to click “Support this Cause” on the 100+ Corridor Women Who Care page so that your purchase benefits the students of the Adult Basic Education program!

one mission

Remembering Sister Mary Cephas

Sr. M. Cephas WichmanIt is with sad hearts that we share with the Catherine McAuley Center community that board member Sister Mary Cephas Wichman passed away on May 6.

Sr. Cephas was a long-time supporter of the Catherine McAuley Center. She generously shared her time and talent and served in many roles at CMC. Her extensive service includes serving as Board President and on the Fundraising, Planned Giving, and Catherine’s Tea Event Planning committees. She was instrumental in creating an endowment for CMC and served on the Endowment Committee in addition to the Board of Directors.

Sr. Cephas was an integral part of the Catherine McAuley Center community and knew the names, faces and stories of many CMC donors and volunteers. Beyond lending her direction and guidance to the Center, she generously baked hundreds of the famous scones served at Catherine’s Tea each year.

Sr. Cephas was active throughout the entire Mercy community and served 25 years as the VP of Development and VP of Planned Giving at Mount Mercy University, as well as many hours at the Sacred Heart archives and front desk. She has also served in leadership roles at Mercy Medical Center, Mount Mercy University, Discovery Living, Girl Scouts, and Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center.

Sister Shari Sutherland, CMC board member and former Executive Director shared of Sister Cephas with Mount Mercy University, “Sister Cephas filled many lives with a friendly smile and good things to eat. She always had words of encouragement and was willing to be involved and help others be involved. I am so grateful for her wisdom, knowledge and guidance throughout my years in ministry.”

We extend our heartfelt condolences to Sr. Cephas’ friends, family, and fellow Sisters of Mercy. We are grateful to have known such a strong and giving woman and will miss her tremendously!