A Statement on Racial Injustice

Let us be clear – at the Catherine McAuley Center, we stand in solidarity with the many calling for justice and an end to the racial inequities and killings of our black and brown neighbors and fellow human beings. As an organization that was founded by the Sisters of Mercy, we are dedicated to addressing their Critical Concerns, including an end to racism and violence by promoting action resulting in a peaceful world. Our future depends on inclusive communities that welcome, respect, and support a diversity of individuals and ideas.

 

We are thankful for the dialogue that has been created by the demonstrations in our own community, and we hope that the voices of those marching and speaking out will continue to be heard as we work towards systemic change. It is inspiring to see the outpouring of support as so many of our neighbors, of all backgrounds, come together to march and say “Enough, this must stop.” This is a time to speak up, a time to listen, a time to enact and embrace change, and a time to heal. 

The history of the Black Lives Matter movement and the roots of the protests stem from centuries of racial injustice, oppression, and violence – often at the hands of police, lawmakers, and those in positions of power. We support it because it affects both the generations of black Americans who have built and lived in this country, as well as the future generations who will make this place their home. At the Catherine McAuley Center, we work with people every day who have experienced oppression, discrimination, injustice based on their color, their race, their ethnicity, or their socioeconomic status. We say, “You are welcome here. We see you, we honor you. We are here to walk alongside you on your journey. In our home, you are respected and you are cared about.” As we welcome refugees into our community, we want to tell them they will be safe from violence and persecution they may have experienced in their home country. The changes that are being demanded in our country and communities will make hope for safety a reality for all people of color.

At CMC we take great care to create a safe and welcoming environment. We can’t do this by ourselves. Creating a Place of Welcome requires a commitment by ALL who enter our space – by our neighbors, our volunteers, and by those who are charged with ensuring our safety and protecting our human and civil rights. It requires honest reflection of our attitudes and beliefs around the idea that every life has value – all lives cannot matter until black lives matter. 

However, there is MORE we can do. We must continue to listen to listen to the voices of the marginalized, to understand their pain, to hear their desire to be seen and respected. These are the voices of our clients, the voices of our staff members, the voices of our neighbors. Let us all continue to learn together, to challenge our own assumptions, and to uphold the values that define who we are as an organization.

Beginning next month, the Catherine McAuley Center will begin offering a monthly Advocacy e-newsletter with insight into the issues that most deeply impact the women, adult learners, immigrants and refugees who find support at the Catherine McAuley Center. Our hope is that this will be an ongoing resource for our community of supporters to keep learning about and take proactive steps to change our community and our culture.

Please subscribe to these Advocacy updates, while also spending time getting to know your neighbors who look different than you, who speak differently than you, who have had different life experiences. Most importantly, let us seek peace and love in our homes, our streets, our community, and our world.

Learning Together: Books & Movies for Social Distancing

Some of our staff and community members have provided recommendations for books, movies, documentaries, podcasts, and learning resources for our community members to learn from and enjoy while we’re away from the Center. Many of these resources provide insight into topics related to the Catherine McAuley Center mission, including (but not limited to): the refugee/immigrant experience, women’s equality and empowerment, language, and diversity.

Even though we’re social distancing, we can still be social! Share photos of yourself taking advantage of these resources (think cozy book nooks, family movie nights, etc.) and insights into what you learn using #LearningTogetherCMC! Be sure to tag the Catherine McAuley Center on Facebook and Twitter.

Please note: These were submitted by members of the CMC community. CMC does not endorse any particular point of view shared in these resources. Viewer discretion is advised in some cases- please view synopsis at links provided before viewing/reading.

Books (non-fiction)

  • We, the Interwoven: An Anthology of Bicultural Iowa – Vol. 1 and 2 Goodreads 
  • The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler – Goodreads
  • The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman – Goodreads
  • A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea: One Refugee’s Incredible Story of Love, Loss, and Survival by Melissa Fleming – Goodreads
  • Essential Linguistics: What Teachers Need to Know to Teach ESL, Reading, Spelling, and Grammar by David and Yvonne FreemanGoodreads
  • Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism by Bell Hooks – Goodreads
  • Asylum Denied: A Refugee’s Struggle for Safety in America by David Ngaruri Kenney, Philip G. Schrag – Goodreads
  • The Genius of Language: Fifteen Writers Reflect on Their Mother Tongue by Wendy Lesser Goodreads
  • Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario – Goodreads 
  • The Middle of Everywhere: Helping Refugees Enter the American Community by Mary Pipher, Susan Cohen – Goodreads
  • Tender Courage: A Reflection on the Life and Spirit of Catherine McAuley, First Sister of Mercy by M. Joana Regan – Goodreads
  • Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions by Gloria Steinem – Goodreads
  • Love Thy Neighbor by Ayaz Verji – Goodreads
  • A Century of Votes for Women: American Elections Since Suffrage by Christina Wolbrecht – Goodreads
  • Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain by Maryanne Wolf – Goodreads
  • The Late Homecomer by Kao Kalia Yang – Goodreads
  • A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn – Goodreads, https://www.zinnedproject.org/

Books (fiction)

  • A Land of Permanent Goodbyes by Atia Abawi – Goodreads
  • Sea Prayer by Khalid Hosseini – Goodreads
  • Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty series (The Unquiet Dead, The Language of Secrets, A Death in Sarajevo, Among the Ruins, A Dangerous Crossing, A Deadly Divide) by Ausma Zehanat Khan – Goodreads
  • The Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Perkins-Gilman – Goodreads
  • Season of Migration to the North, by Al-Tayyib Salih – Goodreads

Books for kids

  • My Name is Not Refugee by Kate Milner – Goodreads
  • Women Who Dared: 52 Stories of Fearless Daredevils, Adventurers, and Rebels by Linda Skeers and Livi Gosling – Goodreads (a Hiawatha author!)

Podcasts and TED Talks

Things to watch

  • Amelia – IMDB
  • First They Killed My Father IMDB
  • The Good Lie IMDB
  • God Grew Tired of Us IMDB
  • The Gods Must Be Crazy IMDB
  • HarrietIMDB
  • Hidden FiguresIMDB
  • In The Land of Blood and Honey – IMDB
  • Iron Jawed AngelsIMDB
  • On the Basis of SexIMDB
  • The Visitor IMDB

Online learning resources

  • News for You Online is an online newspaper for English learners. You can read and listen to many different articles to build your English vocabulary and reading skills.

https://www.newreaderspress.com/news-for-you-online 

password: 18B018

  • NewsELA is another news website for English learners. Log in and click “Your Assignments” for articles you can study if you are preparing to be a U.S. citizen!

https://newsela.com/ 

username: education@cmc-cr.org
password: abc#0444

  • Side by Side eText is an online version of your Side by Side textbook.  There are some extra games in the Fun Zone after each chapter.  You can make your own account (follow the directions inside the cover of your textbook) or use CMC’s login information.

https://sso.rumba.pearsoncmg.com/sso/login?&k12int=true&service=http://rumba.bookshelf.ebookplus.pearsoncmg.com/ebook/linktoebook16.do

username: cmc-cr
password: abc#0444


We’re all looking for connection in this time of social distancing. To help the adult learners, women healing from trauma, immigrants, and refugees who find hope at the Catherine McAuley Center, please consider setting up a monthly gift. Your support helps us find innovative ways to keep our neighbors connected today and into the future.

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Giving supports refugee resettlement and support

Dear Friends,

As a friend of the Catherine McAuley Center (CMC), you know that our refugee and immigrant neighbors are finding valuable connections at CMC. But did you know that last year, 260 refugees made Eastern Iowa their home with the Center’s help? These neighbors who have experienced untold violence in their lives now have housing, medical care, education, and employment right here in our community.

While this is something to celebrate, recent federal changes and executive orders threaten the ability of some of our newest neighbors to reunite with family members who are still living abroad in refugee camps.

  • A recent executive order allowing states and municipalities to opt out of resettlement continues to create a culture of mistrust and can send a message that refugees are not welcome in our communities.
  • No more than 18,000 refugees will be admitted to the U.S. this year, down from 110,000 in 2017. This is an all-time low in the history of refugee resettlement in the U.S.
  • A week-by-week moratorium on all refugee resettlement in late 2019 meant CMC went without resettlement revenue for nearly three months.
  • The recent expansion of the 2017 travel ban restricts immigrant visas for individuals from six additional countries, preventing some clients at CMC from reuniting with their families.

Mother and child reunited

In the face of this unpredictability and uncertainty, individual giving is more important than ever. Will you take a stand for the dignity of our neighbors, here and abroad, and give?

While changes to the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program are out of our control, you can bolster the educational and supportive services available to all CMC clients—refugees, immigrants, adult learners, and women experiencing crisis. Together, we can work together for an inclusive community in these volatile times.

With hope,

Give button

Paula Land signature

Paula Land
Executive Director

P.S.  Setting up a monthly gift offers hope and opportunity to our neighbors all year long.

Coronavirus Preparedness: Keeping CMC Healthy

CoronavirusAs the coronavirus continues to spread, CMC asks all clients, volunteers, and staff to take reasonable precaution to prevent further spread of the virus. By taking the following proactive steps, we ensure that volunteers, staff, adult learners, women healing from crisis, immigrants, and refugees can stay healthy and continue working together for an inclusive community!

March 23, 2020 update: All volunteers are encouraged to stay home to remain safe and healthy. Clients wishing to meet with staff are asked to call ahead and schedule an appointment. In-kind donations are limited to non-perishable food items and sanitizing supplies until further notice.

March 16, 2020 update: The Catherine McAuley Center Education Program has suspended all classes. Classes will resume Monday, April 13.

Symptoms of COVID-19

May be characterized by mild or severe fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, or runny nose. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.

Guidelines for volunteers, clients and visitors

  • If you have symptoms of acute respiratory illness, please do not come to CMC until you are free of fever (100.4° F [37.8° C] or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines like cough suppressants.
  • Volunteers and clients who are ill will be sent home.
  • CMC advises all who are sick to stay home, avoid public areas, limit contact from others (and pets), and seek medical advice.
  • If you have a sick family member at home or have been in contact with someone with COVID-19, please do not come to CMC until consulting your physician for advice on precautionary measures.
  • Those at higher risk for adverse health complications should use their best judgement about staying home until the threat of COVID-19 passes.
  • Please contact CMC staff if you are unsure about what to do or if you will not be coming in during your scheduled time.

Recommended Hygiene Practices

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cover nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing (or an elbow or shoulder if no tissue is available). Throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a disinfecting spray or wipe.
    • Avoid sharing personal household items
    • Shaking hands is discouraged and can easily be replaced with a smile (but smiles are also contagious!)
    • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Facemasks are recommended if you are sick and MUST be around others.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

Additional Preventative Measures at CMC

  • A sign will be posted at the CMC entrance asking those who are sick not to enter.
  • Off-site classes will continue. Staff will equip these locations with sanitation products.
  • Treats will no longer be served in the lobby.
  • Staff will be disinfecting tables, door knobs, and other surfaces several times daily.

Thank you for helping us keep all clients, volunteers, staff, and visitors at CMC safe and healthy!

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.