Remembering Sher and a Life Lived for Others

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Sher with her CMC student, 2010

Sher with her CMC student, 2010

We celebrate the life of Sher Jasperse  tutor, grant writer, board/committee member of the Catherine McAuley Center for 20 years. Most importantly, we are incredibly blessed to have called her our friend. We miss her dearly, but her generous spirit remains alive here at CMC. Last year, Sher was honored with the Governor’s Volunteer Award, to which she said, “I’m humbled with this award as there are so many worthy volunteers at CMC”.

Her incredible gift for empathy is conveyed in this poem she penned about the Catherine McAuley Center in 2012.For the Catherine McAuley Center   Through the vortex of violence, displacement and refugee camps, she waited long years with her children, unknowing, and came at last to this place.   With no possible future, he hugged his parents and followed his cousins north across the border, riding for days in the back of a truck, unknowing, until he came to this place.   Her sentence served and addictions at bay, she stepped out, hopeful, unknowing. “This time will be different,” she said, “if I can find my place.”   The voices of students and tutors weave a cocoon of sanctuary on a forbidding December day. In this place, said the foundress, “Be sure to give them a cup of tea.” Teach. Shelter. Transform.

It was Sher’s gift of words conveyed through numerous grants and articles that helped the us be where we are today. Her open, embracing nature created an extensive network of friends. “Sher is so open and loving and has faith in the good in people–all people. The way she talked to them, looked at them; she is so accepting of everybody. That is what made her who she is,” says former CMC staff member and friend, Amelia Waddle.

Sher, you carried out the Catherine McAuley Center mission in so many ways, and you touched our lives and the lives of so many. Thank you for giving so much of yourself and showing us the way to live our lives for others. 

Please click on the following links to learn more about Sher’s amazing life, her dedication to our community and the ways she shared so freely of her time, her gifts, and her love.

“All About Giving”– The Gazette

In Her Own Words– Obituary, The Gazette

“Sher Joins Heavenly Writing Team Now”– Metro Sports Report

Statement on “Anti-Sanctuary City Bill”, SF481

Iowa outline on welcome wallCaleb Gates, Refugee Case Manager & Advocacy Specialist

We here at the Catherine McAuley Center (CMC) lament the signing into law of SF481, the so-called “Anti-Sanctuary City Bill”. SF481 mandates that state and local law enforcement honor immigration detainers. An immigration detainer asks local law enforcement to detain a person held in custody for 48 hours to allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to come and detain and possibly deport certain individuals. Under the current administration, any undocumented person – even parents of young children who pose no threat to public safety – are now a priority for deportation.

An immigration detainer is not a warrant. It does not require probable cause. Federal courts have ruled the mandating of immigration detainers to be unconstitutional. Immigration detainers can be used against legal residents of the US merely accused, but not convicted, of a criminal or civil offense. As SF481 becomes law, any state and local law enforcement agency here in Iowa, as well as other local entities (possibly including public schools) who refuse to honor ICE detainers will be stripped of all state funding.

The Catherine McAuley Center works daily alongside students, volunteers, and other community members to create an inclusive community. We support the right of every Iowan to feel secure, and commend the work of our state and local law enforcement to keep us safe. Iowa law enforcement universally opposed SF481. Police chiefs and officers around the state rely on trust and cooperation of local communities to serve and protect those same communities. SF481 could erode trust of law enforcement among Iowa’s immigrant communities. This law is likely to degrade, rather than improve, public safety.

SF481 sends a message that Iowa is not a welcoming and inclusive state. At CMC, we welcome those born in this country and those who recently arrived, those whose first language is English, and those for whom English is their 2nd, 3rd, or 4th language. We welcome all residents of Iowa no matter how they came to live here. We support families, including immigrant families. No child should fear being separated from their mother or father who poses no threat to our society and only wants to work to support their family. We call on our legislators and government leaders spread love, not fear, toward our fellow Iowans, including our newer residents. We call on native-born Iowans to accept, not reject, Iowa transplants no matter their country of origin. We call on ourselves to welcome, not repudiate the migrant, the refugee, the undocumented, the asylee, the displaced, and the stateless. Despite this legislation, we will fulfill our mission by promoting inclusion and standing in solidarity with every resident of Iowa.

Silvia talks about Guatemala

Infographic about Guatemala. 21 CMC students are from Guatemala.We’re glad you’re a student at CMC, Silvia! Thanks for telling us about your native  country.

Q: Where are you from?

A: I was born in Guatemala City, but my family is originally from San Marcos.

Q: What’s your favorite food from Guatemala?

A: Tamales are a traditional food in San Marcos. They are very different from Mexican tamales. My grandmother made tamales with rice, not corn. We’ve tried to make them here, but it’s hard to find the ingredients, and they take a long time to make.

Q: What do you want people to know about Guatemala?

A: I don’t want people to say, “Where is that?” I want all people from all walks of life to know that yes, Guatemala is a country with honest people, proud, heartwarming, welcoming and, most of all, hardworking people to make a significant impact on the world. I want others to know that we are a country just like the U.S. full of diversity in ethnicity, religion, and age.

When people make a voyage to Guatemala, it’s to see the Mayans, but they are also in a country that holds many more wonders yet to be seen.

 

Remembering Lynsey

Lynsey Brown, globe, and study materials collageSo often here at the Center we get caught up in the schedule and the hectic rush of tutors and students. We sometimes forget to give a heartfelt “Hello, how are you?” or we think we’ll check in next time/next week. This past week we lost a dear member of our extended family of learners and educators.

Lynsey Brown came to tutor twice a week for almost three years. She gave her time and she gave her knowledge of educating others to her students, to staff, and to other tutors. We often had our new tutors observe her teaching – we knew she did a stellar job and could give each new tutor-learner a good idea of how to make a real and lasting connection with their student. She had a smile that caused a reciprocal smile back, every time. Education staff heard her and her students laughing down the hall and knew learning was being done and that it was fun!

Every moment she spent here was cherished by her students, Hector and José. Hector told us this past week, “She taught me good things. We laugh a lot because I don’t know any friends—she was good American to talk to and a friend.”  Staff commented all week that she was giving, open, and truly a gem to have in our tutoring family.  Leeann remembered her as “kind, gentle, and filled with good intentions” and Katie remembered her as “a gifted teacher who was ready to help any student. Staff and students alike always seemed so comfortable in her presence.”

Lynsey asked her family to be sure Catherine McAuley Center received her furniture as donation for refugee and immigrant families as they begin new lives here in Eastern Iowa. Her kindness, thoughtfulness, and truly wonderful spirit will be greatly missed here at the Center. We know that the Center is now imbued with Lynsey’s energy of goodwill and her delightful laughter. She’s helped us to remember that the moment it takes to wish someone well, or check in with each other, can and should be taken—nothing is more important than the connections we continue to make with one another.

Anne and the CMC Education team

Davood talks about Iran

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

Q: Where are you from?

A: I was born in Tehran, the capital city.

Q: What’s your favorite food from Iran?

A: Meat kabobs.

Q: What was your job in Iran?

A: I went to college and studied auto mechanics. Then, I worked for a car company doing customer service and car repairs. I also worked at my father’s bakery, where we made bread by hand in a brick oven.

Q: What do you want people to know about Iran?

A: Iran is a very old country with very old religious traditions. The New Year is a special holiday in Iran celebrating the spring. Spring is the best time to visit Iran because the world is waking up and everyone is happy and kind.

 

#MeToo and Resilience

Us too.

In the wake of the growing publicity and number of allegations against Harvey Weinstein, the #MeToo campaign has taken off on social media platforms. Women (and survivors of all genders) use the hashtag to identify themselves as survivors of sexual harassment, assault, or abuse. Some choose to share their stories, others prefer to post just the hashtag, sometimes including the message that “If all the women who have been sexually harassed, assaulted or abused wrote ‘Me too.’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”

The hashtag has helped open the door to conversations about crimes of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse. The #MeToo campaign highlights what we know and see daily at CMC– this violence is not just something that stars and celebrities or people in other communities deal with. This is not a far away problem.

CMC residents screen printed shirts and other fabrics with empowering slogans like the one pictured for Women’s Equality Day 2018. The #MeToo campaign helps break the silence about sexual trauma.

Domestic violence and past sexual traumas are linked to myriad problems in a survivor’s future. ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) is a tool that assesses instances of trauma a person may have experienced in childhood in order to help better understand the long-reaching effects that those experiences have on a person. Sexual trauma in a woman’s past specifically put her at a higher risk of obesity, as well as many other potential challenges.

This is close-to-home. This happens in Iowa, in Cedar Rapids. With the rare exception, all CMC residents have been victims of crime, including domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking/harassment, or financial crimes. The multilayered effects of crime– including mental health and interrelated substance abuse challenges, low self-esteem, social isolation, homelessness, untreated medical conditions, debt and credit damage– can all present significant obstacles to a woman’s sense of stability. Past trauma can impact everything from employment success and housing eligibility to medical needs and capacity to build healthy relationships.

That isn’t the end of the story though– past trauma presents challenges, not total roadblocks. The residents here at CMC– along with women globally– work through those traumatic events and their effects in order to regain stability and discover their own resilience. With consistent support from CMC staff, women in the program are committed to working through the complex and damaging effects of past trauma and rebuild their lives.

We are honored to stand together and work for stability and resilience and equality for people. We echo what staff and residents and friends of CMC are all saying: us too.

CMC connects residents with resources like counseling and support services in order to work through adverse experiences and trauma. If you or a loved one needs immediate assistance, please reach out to the Iowa Help Line to speak with a trained counselor.
Chat: iowacrisischat.org
Phone/text: 
1-855-800-1239

Carly: On Recognizing Domestic Violence

A speech from the Transitional Housing Program’s 2017 Women’s Equality Day Celebration.

The powerful women with domestic violence experiences have only recently learned that domestic violence has come to gain some appropriate attention as a major social problem. However, speaking from personal experiences of my own, there are a lot of negative thoughts and beliefs that were drawn. I myself have recognized the traumatic aspects and chose to re-align my mental and social character to identify my own self-worth.

The aim of this speech is to share positive, effective education to those that don’t have the knowledge. As women we need to build one another up, speak out on our lifelong learning combined with eager approaches that will help others to acquire those coping skills, strategies and self-care, as well as we manage our wellness, boundaries and support services in our everyday lives.

If we don’t stand for something, the trends will never change. Nor shall we allow this to define who we really are today. Let us continue to take a stand and reach out.

Find additional Women’s Equality Day speeches from Ann and Lesa on our blog. 

Ann: On Health and Self-Care

A speech from the Transitional Housing Program’s 2017 Women’s Equality Day Celebration.

Again, thank you for joining us for Women’s Equality Day. I began a journey with the Catherine McAuley Center in February of 2017. It’s been a time of change and growth that centered me on both my mental and physical health.

I was supported by Catherine McAuley Center with a stable, safe, secure environment so I could focus on getting well. I had no idea the real barriers ignoring my mental health created. It took one person, Nat from EIHC (Eastern Iowa Health Center), to make that one phone call which led me to the Catherine McAuley Center.

I was homeless but not considered in immediate need of assistance. My daughter Peyton and best friend Char took turns giving me a bed to sleep in when there were no spots available in the overflow shelter. But really they couldn’t provide for me daily for an indefinite period of time. I had no idea the growth and positive change that would occur just being able to take care of myself.

I began regular visits to all of my healthcare providers including a therapist. Also, Catherine McAuley offers time in a learning environment to focus on our needs. I spent so much time trying to care of other people that I didn’t give any time or care for myself. After just 5 weeks of medicinal compliance, attending my diet with the Diabetes Education Center while being here I showed significant improvement in my health.

It’s important as women that we take the time to nurture our own needs. Be attentive to ourselves because I’m sure you’ve been told before you can’t take care of anyone else if we don’t take care of ourselves. This means taking the to time to speak with your primary provider and take time for preventative health care including mammograms and sexual and mental health needs.

There are still some out there who are unaware of the effects of untreated depression. It’s what contributed to my homelessness. Please trust yourself to communicate openly with your healthcare providers. Advocating for yourself is key and can’t be done if you can’t be heard.

Find additional Women’s Equality Day speeches from Carly and Lesa on our blog. 

Lesa: On Being Female and Homeless

A speech from the Transitional Housing Program’s 2017 Women’s Equality Day Celebration.

Imagine ghosts in the darkness, darting into the shadows to avoid being spotted by police driving by.

Imagine when night falls, the daunting realization that you have nowhere to go. There is no place you call home.

Imagine the overwhelming feeling that you belong nowhere.

This is what it feels like to be homeless. In my mind, belonging nowhere meant I was nothing, I was nobody. Insignificant, less than zero.

What would Cedar Rapids be like with no homeless women and children? Imagine a city where domestic violence is an isolated incident, not the norm. Imagine if enough support existed for women to break free of the violence and oppression; break free of the prison that domestic violence is.

Poverty, despair, hopelessness, learned helplessness. These are just a few of the characteristics women experience as they live with an abuse- and leaving frequently means homelessness.

We celebrate women’s equality. The right to walk down the street without being assaulted or threatened. The right to vote. The right to be a homeowner. The right to be your own person. The right to NOT be punched, kicked, slapped, pushed, sexually assaulted or any of the abusive behaviors that take place every day to women among you. Where are they to go?

Women need safe housing, equal pay, medical services, and transportation. Survivors of domestic violence turn to homeless service programs because they lack the economic resources to obtain housing after leaving an abusive relationship. These women need supportive services that can help them heal from the trauma of abuse and improve their financial security and well-being.

Living in darkness and fear causes brokenness and low self-worth to the women who face domestic violence and homelessness. It is baffling and terrifying to escape the clutches of the one who hurts you, yet claims to love you. These toxic relationships damage the victims, heart, soul, mind, and psyche.

We must celebrate women. Embrace their challenges, get involved, reach out. Invest in women. Yes, we have achieved equality in many areas. But there is still lack of shelter, services, and funding in comparison to the need.

Equality for women isn’t a women’s issue. When women fulfill their potential, society as a whole benefits.

Celebrate women, those who are successful, as well as those who are struggling.

Women’s equality means NO MORE FEAR!

Find additional Women’s Equality Day speeches from Ann and Carly on our blog. 

Pronouncing Students’ Names

Student close-up

“A name well-spoken is a simple but meaningful gift we can all extend each other as we nurture an inclusive community at CMC.”

In a community like CMC, where tutors, students, and staff alike come from many different backgrounds and 51 countries, we’re bound to say each other’s names wrong. Yet the impact of a mispronounced name may be more harmful than we believed.

An excellent podcast from the Cult of Pedagogy discusses the unique duty educators have to pronounce students’ names well, especially when they aren’t anglicized. This article is based on the original podcast, which you can listen to here, or find on iTunes.

Jennifer Gonzalez, a National Board Certified teacher, explains in the podcast, “One of the simplest ways we can show respect to our students and show that we are interested in them as individuals… is to make an effort to pronounce their names correctly, or call them what they want to be called.” What happens if we don’t? “Whether you intend to or not,” Gonzalez says, “what you’re communicating is, ‘Your name is different, foreign, and weird. It’s not worth my time to get it right.’”

Oftentimes, students who come from other countries are used to the relentless mispronunciation of their name—at the doctor’s office, at the bank, at the coffee shop—which can serve as a constant reminder that they are considered an outsider. When we, as their friends and teachers, make an effort to say their name correctly, they understand that we care about them and value them. They belong.

A name well-spoken is a simple but meaningful gift we can all extend each other as we nurture an inclusive community at CMC.

Student and tutor

“Every name is an opportunity to cultivate a welcoming community that embraces everyone just as they are.”

How does this look in practice? Gonzalez remembers that the teachers she most appreciated as a student were those who did whatever it took to learn students’ names, even if it meant asking them on multiple occasions, or taking class time to practice. Although this might seem annoying or cumbersome, for her it was evidence that the teacher really cared.

As a tutor at CMC, it’s never too late to improve your pronunciation of your student’s name, even if you’ve worked with them for a long time. They will appreciate it! 

  • Don’t be afraid to admit your error. 
  • Ask them to teach you. Let yourself be the student, and they the teacher.
  • Go online to hear native speakers pronounce the student’s name. Gonzalez recommends Hearnames.com.
  • Make yourself a cheat sheet. Write out a phonetic pronunciation of their name, or draw a diagram linking each syllable to a familiar object. For example, Theotric is pronounced “thee” like movie theater, “AW” like opera, “trick” like trick or treat: “thee-AW-trick.”
  • Don’t give up! Be careful never to impose a nickname on the student because it’s easier for you to pronounce, unless they tell you that’s what they prefer to be called. Believe in your ability to learn their name, and remind yourself that doing so will bear good fruit.

At CMC, we want to extend everyone the dignity of a well-pronounced name. So, we encourage you to correct staff members’ mispronunciations of your name or your student’s name. In doing so, you help us all include and respect one another.

Whatever it takes to learn your student’s name, Gonzalez reminds us, “It is worth the effort to get it right.” Every name is an opportunity to cultivate a welcoming community that embraces everyone just as they are.


By Mari Hunt Wassink, Education Program Coordinator at the Catherine McAuley Center. 

Master Gardeners feature CMC garden

Master gardenerEach of the past two years, the Catherine McAuley Center Gateways Garden has produced over 800 pounds of food from their community garden. This year, they were featured as one of two community gardens in the Linn County Master Gardeners Garden Walk 2017 that was held on July 8. Chelsea DeLarm, Support Services Coordinator at CMC and master gardener, said there were over 200 people who visited the CMC garden that day.

“It was a very long day, but it was an amazing day and the garden was looking beautiful,” said DeLarm.  The garden features food such as cucumbers, squash, green beans, onions and more, and sits on 12 raised 4×8 beds. It even has a pollinator garden with plants that attract Monarchs and other butterflies and bees.

DeLarm stated that the garden shows off all the hard work the women in the CMC transitional housing program have put into it and that the work done in the garden has enhanced the program and become a landmark in the community. “The garden is just this awesome place where people feel really connected to each other, and I hear residents say, ‘I just love being in the dirt,’” said DeLarm.

Upcoming activities for residents include harvesting and preservation projects. The women will get to cook a lot more with the fresh produce from the garden and try different things out.