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.

 

Ai Talks about Japan

Japan factsWe’re glad you’re a student at CMC, Ai!  Thanks for telling us about your native country.

Question: Where are you from?

Answer: I was born in Osaka, but I moved to Tokyo when I was young.

Question: If I went to Japan, what places should I visit?

Answer: You should visit Kyoto, the old capital.  It has Buddhist temples and many old buildings.  Hot springs are also a good place to visit, especially on Hokkaido.  Hokkaido is the big island above the main island of Japan.  It’s a lot like Iowa: it is more open and has a mix of farms and cities.

Question: What do you want people to know about Japan?

Answer: Japan has good customer service.  We have no tipping system, but the service is very good.  In Japan, people always apologize for mistakes, even if it isn’t their fault, because the customer has the right.  Also, I want people to know Japanese restaurants here are not really Japanese.  For example, we don’t put cream cheese or avocado in sushi rolls.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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. 

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.

Retreat Encourages Self-Discovery

Retreat

The annual THP retreat is a time for residents to self-reflect, connect with nature, and build bonds with other program participants.

Each year, the Transitional Housing Program (THP) at the Catherine McAuley Center hosts a retreat away from the Center’s main facility for program residents and THP alumni with the goal of providing a setting in which the women can contemplate their own lives without having to worry about the stressors of everyday life.  For the past four years, the retreat has been centered around a curriculum that focuses on creating this safe environment for self-discovery through artistic, musical, and interpersonal activities.

Pink figureHousing staff explained that because every person learns differently, these creative activities allow the women to use many techniques to explore their inner-selves. These techniques include writing in a journal throughout their time on the retreat, listening to music and then describing how the lyrics apply to their own lives, spending quiet time in meditation and reflection on nature, creating a “stress box” that contains coping mechanisms for handling stress, and creating their own “inner-goddesses”, which are physical models representing the positive characteristics each resident sees in herself.

One resident crafted a bright and lively pink figure, and explained how it was representative of herself by saying “I may seem dark on the outside, but on the inside, I’m tall and bright pink.” Another skillfully crafted a female Samurai warrior that represents strength, honor, and tradition. She explained that the figure was a “wise woman” with many different layers. She keeps the model in her room where she sees it each day as a reminder to not give up hope and noted that this is a particularly hard exercise to do because it requires you to “dig into yourself to find your inner being.”

CraftsAn agreed-upon highlight of the retreat occurred during an activity led by alumni who have graduated from the Transitional Housing Program and are now leading self-sufficient lives. Alumni asked each woman to write a poem about herself then read it aloud to the group. Though staff were present, it was the current and former residents who controlled the direction of the conversation and provided the overwhelming sense of openness and encouragement that resulted. This activity that is easily described as the most powerful experience of the retreat demonstrated the strength of current residents and the transformation that program alumni have experienced.

“The retreat is something that helps you redefine how you see yourself. Through activities that you are involved in you can just take a closer look at things that help you improve yourself,” noted one resident. The Catherine McAuley Center believes in dignity and empowerment, and that each person has the potential to create and live a purposeful and fulfilling life. We are overjoyed to see the women in our program beginning to believe those things about themselves.