Supporting Those Caring for Loved Ones is the Right Thing to Do
Paul has been surrounded by caring influences. He witnessed and supported his wife, Nancy, as she cared for her aging mother, just as he did with his sister in Michigan, who cared for his mother. Paul also saw how difficult and stressful it can be to serve as a caregiver, the toll it can take mentally and physically, including feelings of guilt and helplessness. Having spent his career selling industrial machinery, Paul developed a knack for problem-solving and connecting the people around him to available resources. Six years ago, when Nancy saw a call-out in the parish bulletin that Catholic Charities Southwestern Ohio’s Caregivers’ Assistance Network (CAN) was looking for volunteer facilitators for caregivers’ support groups, she encouraged him to apply.
Paul shared, “I care about people … We are all in this together … And getting involved is the right thing to do.” As a CAN support group facilitator, Paul gives his time to be present and provide a confidential space for caregivers to share their challenges and blessings. Their sense of solidarity is evident when the members of the group support one another by attending funerals when their fellow caregivers’ loved ones die. “It is a very touching experience to be together, praying and kneeling with one another,” at those times. According to CAN Coordinator, Angie Homoelle, “Paul appreciates the sacredness of the space they have created together and honors that.”
Paul assists his support group members to “connect the dots” and help caregivers seek solutions when they are faced with various challenges, which could be related to when the caregivers themselves need care, while balancing the care they provide for their loved one. Angie adds, “Paul is a dedicated volunteer who embodies servant leadership. He empowers the support group members to help each other and care for each other. Whenever there are challenges with the meeting time or location, he is flexible and makes sure the group has an opportunity to get together each month.”
The bond of support goes further than just the day-to-day logistics of caregiving, as many members will remain in the group after their loved one passes away and continue to support those with whom they have shared so much. This is a place where “people can laugh and cry and support one another,” Paul states.
Over 200 caregivers receive support monthly in groups like Paul’s in 18 locations, like churches and senior centers, across Southwestern Ohio.
CAN partners with community partners to offer Creative Connections, an art and movement program for people living with dementia. Powerful Tools for Caregivers help caregivers cope with stress and care for their own wellness. Senior and Caregiver Support Services is just one department among many at Catholic Charities that actively support and uplift people of all ages to manage life’s challenging circumstances and honors the experiences of older adults, their families and those who sacrifice to care for their loved ones.
As we approach the end of 2023, and the holiday season of giving, we are highlighting stories of Catholic Charities’ programs that serve young children, families, and older adults in our Winter Appeal. We hope these stories inspire you to generously share your gifts, as Paul has shared his for many years. Your financial support ensures that Catholic Charities and Su Casa are able to provide best-in-class outreach services to people of all ages in their time of need. Donate today!
3-Way Collaboration Helps Food For All Respond to Hunger Crisis
Hunger is a growing problem in our community. Solving it will take all of us working together.
That’s the spirit behind a partnership among Catholic Charities, Freestore Foodbank and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).
This spring, as part of a longtime relationship, the LDS sent 795 cases of non-perishable food to Catholic Charities’ Food For All program. The generous donation filled half a semitruck!
Food For All Coordinator April Hoak reached out to Freestore Foodbank about using some of their warehouse space. They graciously agreed to help by storing the food and shipping items needed for each Food for All pantry.
The donation and Freestore Foodbank’s exceptional collaboration come at a critical time for our community. Housing and grocery costs remain high, and so does demand at pantry distributions. Food for All is still serving more people than before the pandemic. Lately, more families, including large extended families living together, are coming for the first time.
“It’s great that other agencies can come together to tackle hunger,” April says. “People from all different backgrounds understand that everybody should have food.”
The LDS donation helps ensure people in need can access not just food, but high-quality, nutritious products. It also improves choice for Food For All recipients.
The gift is not the only way the LDS church supports Food For All. Several local members also volunteer at the pantry distributions, which take place in Adams, Brown, Clermont, Clinton, Hamilton, and Highland counties.
The interdenominational teamwork shows that “we can work closely together around an issue that’s important for all of us,” April says.
When it comes to ending hunger and food insecurity in our community, everyone has a role to play.
A Happy Ending Almost a Decade in the Making
For nearly nine years, Estefania* felt like her life was in limbo. With your support, Elizabeth Clapp, Immigration Legal Services Director (ILS), stuck with her through unexpected delays and hurdles until Estefania received her green card this spring.
“Now she can have a sense of stability that she didn’t have for so long,” says Elizabeth, ILS Director.
Estefania had arrived in the United States from Guatemala in 2014, as a 16-year old unaccompanied minor. She was striving to escape the extreme poverty she faced at home. Elizabeth took on the case pro bono.
“She’s the client I’ve had the longest,” Elizabeth says. “This attorney-client relationship is older than my youngest child.”
The first step was relatively straightforward. Elizabeth helped Estefania’s aunt get custody of her niece. Next, the petition for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) was approved. That’s when the challenges began.
The courts failed to send Estefania’s file to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. She essentially wound up in a “black hole,” Elizabeth says — one that would create a two-and-a-half-year delay.
Adding to the frustration, Estefania received her work permit, but her Social Security card never arrived. Then, the pandemic closed the Social Security office.
“It made it difficult for her to pursue higher education or have a steady job, because she kept running into hurdles and roadblocks,” Elizabeth says. “And she was watching other young adults she knew, including her brother, get their green cards and move on. She was just stuck.”
Through it all, Elizabeth stayed by Estefania’s side. She asked questions, sorted through the details, advocated for her client, and helped her stay positive.
No immigration case is ever simple. Yet, no matter how complex a case becomes, Catholic Charities’ ILS team is determined to help everyone they can to navigate their legal path to a new and better life in Southwest Ohio.
*Name changed for privacy.
Catholic Charities Responds to Increasing Mental Health Needs
With suicide rates on the rise among young Americans, Catholic Charities’ Mental Health Services (MHS) team has added programs to keep adolescents safe and healthy.
This summer, with the help of a grant from Hamilton County, MHS launched a coping skills group that empowers participants with the tools to navigate challenging, emotionally charged situations.
“Especially with adolescents, there can be impulsivity and big emotions,” says Mental Health Services Director Laura Hershberger. “It’s learning how, when you have those big emotions, to just sit with them, tolerate them, move through them and not respond immediately.”
Group participants learn skills like mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and the ability to communicate assertively yet respectfully. Parents can join alongside their children, which helps break down mental health barriers within families.
In many cases, the reasons behind anxiety and depression are very different for adults than they are for young people. Deliana Peralta Fuentes, Mental Health Therapist, says the group helps “parents understand they have one perspective and the child has another, and that doesn’t make either one wrong.”
“They’re both on their own journey, but they also have a journey together,” adds Miriam Huerta, also a Mental Health Therapist.
In addition to the coping skills groups, Catholic Charities serves young people through Princeton City Schools. The effects of prolonged school closings have added to the stresses children face due to social media and constant digital connection. Deliana says she’s seeing more children struggle with transitioning to middle school or high school since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Because young people have less control over their environments, and less ability to change those environments, Catholic Charities focuses on coordinating with the people in their lives whenever possible.
The team is also devoted to providing individualized, culturally relevant care. For example, a teen who is an immigrant has different needs and concerns than a teen who was born in the U.S., and therapists know how to appropriately respond to each scenario.
With your support, Catholic Charities’ Mental Health Services program walks alongside people of all ages and backgrounds to help them find new hope for the future.
It All Starts with Families
Changing an entire community’s future begins with changing a single family’s life.
That’s the vitally important work Family Development Services Director Pam Mortensen and her team do in Butler County every day through programs like Parent Education Classes, The Parent Project®, and Early Childhood Mental Health (ECMH) consultation.
These programs are public/private partnerships which represent Butler County’s community investment in helping families and parents prosper. Transformation in this community stems from public support, local community foundation investments, as well as Catholic Charities own fundraising which enable us to empower people and help families thrive. This exemplifies how a community can transform its safety net to promote the lives and dignity of its residents.
Parent Education Classes teach mothers and fathers to parent more effectively. The classes help parents increase their knowledge of child development, build appropriate discipline skills, and improve their relationships with their children.
The Parent Project® addresses behavioral and mental health challenges in children and teens and provides parents with strategies to foster positive connections with their kids.
And ECMH consultation gives children from birth to six the skills they need to process their feelings, develop empathy, regulate their emotions, and build strong relationships.
“As a community, it’s smart for us to ensure we’re protecting children while they’re young so they can have a better chance of being successful in school and life,” Pam says. “These children are our neighbors. These children are our future workforce. We can get them better-equipped to have loving, respectful relationships — the real basics.”
Reaching children and families early is critical, Pam explains. Research has shown that when a child is expelled from preschool because of behavior, “they’re potentially in a pipeline to prison.” “You don’t want the 25-year-old who’s punching their coworker,” Pam says.
“You don’t want someone to react the same way at 23 that they did when they were three because their brain hasn’t learned to calm itself.”
By working in childcare settings, Pam’s team extends its reach to thousands of children in the community. When a struggling child begins to thrive, her peers feel less anxiety, her teachers can spread their attention to more children, and the entire class can learn, play, and grow without disruption. Life at home improves for the child and her family, as well.
“The intervention of ECMH consultation to support children, their teachers, and their parents strengthens the whole system,” Pam says. “Children are very resilient. We’re the helping hands to get them through. And each one of them is worth it.”
*Name changed for privacy
Afghan Refugees Building New Futures in Cincinnati
Aalem* fought against the Taliban alongside U.S. troops. The Afghan soldier knew it was the right thing to do, but it left him, his wife, and their seven children vulnerable to retaliation.
Now — thanks to Catholic Charities supporters like you — Aalem and his family have a safe home in Cincinnati.
The family was evacuated from Afghanistan as part of Operation Allies Welcome in 2021. They arrived in Cincinnati in October of that year. For more than 18 months, Catholic Charities’ Refugee Resettlement Services (RRS) and Immigration Legal Services (ILS) teams worked with Aalem and his family as they started their new lives.
The RRS team immediately went to work finding them a place to live, enrolling the children in school, helping Aalem find a job, and ensuring they could access public assistance benefits. The team also made sure that one of the children was getting the medical care he needs for a rare blood disorder.
Meanwhile, the ILS team petitioned for Special Immigrant Visas based on the work Aalem had done in his home country on behalf of the United States. Once the petition was approved, ILS helped the family navigate the green card process. The team helped them file the paperwork and get the required vaccines and medical exams. They also accompanied them to their interviews.
When the green cards finally arrived in late April, Aalem and his wife brought a huge meal of Afghan food to the Catholic Charities office to thank the staff and celebrate with them.
“They just wanted to give back, even though they have so little,” says Elizabeth Clapp, ILS Director. “They were so, so, so, so thrilled! You could feel the energy in Aalem and his wife. They were just so relieved and so happy.”
With the legal issues resolved, the family can focus on settling in and building a thriving family here in Cincinnati. Aalem and his wife still worry for their loved ones thousands of miles away, but their children are making a fresh start here. The youngest son, a toddler, already responds to his parents in English when they speak to him in their native Pashto.
“To have this family where they are now is just really rewarding for our staff. It’s been a lot of hard work,” says Annie Scheid, RRS Director. “And they’re just the nicest family. They’re hard workers and good parents and just very nice people.”
Thank you for making success stories like this one possible through your generous, compassionate support!
*Name changed for privacy
Helping Unaccompanied Children Heal
Sofía and Adriana* dreamed of the day they would see their mom again. When that time finally came, Catholic Charities and caring friends like you empowered these two girls to move forward together.
The girls’ mother had come to the United States from Central America in search of a job so she could provide for her daughters. Eventually, they joined her in Cincinnati after making a 15-day trek to the U.S. border. Sofía and Adriana were just 10 and 9 at the time.
That grueling experience was only the beginning of their challenges. When they were reunited with their mom, they all had to learn to live together again — this time with a new stepfather and two younger siblings in the mix.
“There’s an idea of what family reunification will be like, and that’s not always the reality,” says Laura Hershberger, Director of Mental Health Services at Catholic Charities. “Children have idealized versions of their parents. It’s not always as easy as we think. There’s a whole new process, and when kids are struggling, they tend to act out with behaviors.”
Along with supporters like you, Catholic Charities has empowered this family with the tools, resources, skills, and opportunities they’ve needed to reshape the future for themselves.
Sandy Rodriguez, Case Manager and Family Reunification Supervisor for Su Casa Hispanic Center, a program of Catholic Charities, has worked with the girls from the beginning. She helped get them into school and start pursuing Special Immigrant Juvenile classification as a result of physical abuse they suffered in their home country. While their immigration case is pending, Sandy checks in with Sofía and Adriana regularly to make sure the girls are succeeding.
And they are! A mix of individual and family counseling through Catholic Charities has helped them adjust to life in Cincinnati and process the trauma they’ve experienced. Now 13 and 12, Sofía and Adriana are increasingly confident and social. They’re showing more patience with their younger siblings, as well.
“They are doing well in school and achieving higher grades,” says Sandy. “Their future goal is to go to and graduate college.”
Starting over in a new place isn’t easy for any child. For immigrant children like Sofía and Adriana, it can be even more difficult. But with your support, Catholic Charities is ensuring more children can lead the happy, healthy lives they’ve dreamed of.
*Name changed for privacy
Refugee Resettlement Services Helping Ukrainians Rebuild
As the war in Ukraine enters its second year, Catholic Charities is empowering Ukrainians to create new lives for themselves in Greater Cincinnati.
Catholic Charities added two staff members to meet the needs of the individuals and families fleeing the violence in their home country. The team helps newcomers apply for work authorization and access public benefits like Medicaid and SNAP. They also provide employment services, help enroll children in local schools and register people in English classes when needed.
Annie Scheid, Refugee Resettlement Services Director, says most of the Ukrainians coming to Cincinnati are highly educated, with college degrees or professional certifications. Many speak English proficiently and hope to find jobs in the fields where they worked back home.
Legally, Ukrainians do not have refugee status. Instead, they are considered “humanitarian parolees” for two years. Because their status is temporary, they face unique challenges trying to settle in and start over after the trauma of being forced from their homes.
To help with the transition, Catholic Charities is working to connect Ukrainian migrants with one another and with organizations like the Ukrainian Society of Greater Cincinnati & Dayton.
“Folks need a sense of community,” Annie explains.
With the help of supporters like you, Ukrainians are finding a welcoming home away from home in Ohio.
A Family Reunited
Catholic Charities recently helped reunite a Ukrainian family that had been separated upon arriving in the United States after having just fled the horrible war with Russia.
In mid-December, a married couple was traveling with the husband’s 17-yearold brother. When they landed in Minneapolis, a bureaucratic mix-up left the younger brother in detention at the airport while the rest of the family was moved on to Cincinnati, where their sponsor lived. (As humanitarian parolees, Ukrainians must have an approved sponsor to enter the U.S.)
Members of Catholic Charities’ Refugee Resettlement Services and Immigration Legal Services teams stepped in to help locate the teenager, ensure his wellbeing and work through the process alongside the family. In January, the boy was safely reunited with his brother and sister-in-law!
As the Community Changes, Su Casa Continues to Meet the Need
Greater Cincinnati is seeing an influx of asylum seekers from Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua. They’re making the long, difficult journey in search of basic needs like food, jobs and safety that they simply can’t find in their home countries.
Miro Perez, Emergency Assistance Supervisor for Su Casa Hispanic Center, knows just how they feel. She left Venezuela in 2011 seeking the same opportunities.
“I love my job, and I love the Venezuelan community,” Miro says. “I really understand their situation.”
Historically, Su Casa has worked with immigrants from Latin America, primarily from Mexico and Guatemala. But growing economic and political turmoil throughout Latin America has changed the demographic picture. Now, half of the 200 clients served each month by Su Casa’s Emergency Assistance program come from Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua.
Regardless of their country of origin, people share many of the same needs.
Thanks to caring supporters like you, the Emergency Assistance program empowers clients and prepares them for independent living by offering services such as:
- Assistance with financial support and child care,
- Partnership with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul to equip newcomers with clothing, furniture and other essentials,
- Interpretation and translation,
- Connections to potential employers and school enrollment,
- Referrals to other organizations, both internal and external, including Catholic Charities’ Immigration Legal Services.
As the Su Casa team continues to welcome these new neighbors, donations and volunteers are always greatly appreciated.
“New arrivals are coming every single day,” Miro says. “The most important thing to Su Casa is to always take care of the client.”
Another Family Transformed by the Parent Project
When Sandra arrived at her first Parent Project class, she made it clear she didn’t want to be there.
Her son, Kaden, had been getting into trouble, and the two had been fighting a lot at home. Still, Sandra knew she loved her son more than anything. She couldn’t understand what a court-ordered class could tell her about her own child that she didn’t already know. But by the end of the 10-week class, Sandra had become the Parent Project’s biggest cheerleader.
“I LOVED THIS CLASS,” she wrote in all caps on the post-class survey. “This class made me realize I needed to stop and breathe and be more consistent as a parent, and others are going through the same thing. After completing this class, I realize we communicate better and now spend more time doing fun things again.”
Patsy Bolden, Parent Project Coordinator, has seen this kind of transformation before — and she never tires of it. The classes empower parents of children ages 11-17 to support their children in making healthier, safer choices so they can become successful in all aspects of life.
For many parents, Patsy says, it’s eye-opening to learn that even teens still need to hear their parents say, “I love you.” The class provides foundational principles for expressing love, navigating conflicts, setting boundaries and more.
When parents like Sandra apply those principles at home, things not only change for the better … the change lasts.
Today, more than a year after Sandra completed the Parent Project and Kaden completed the corresponding WhyTry program for teens, the difference in their lives is nothing short of amazing.
Kaden, 17, is doing well in school. He’s pursuing his passion as a baker and cake decorator, and he even got his first job. Plus, he and his mom enjoy Mother-Son Nights regularly.
Patsy says stories like this are a testament to the power of the program — and to the families doing the hard work to get their relationships back on track.
Veterans Group Helps Welcome Refugees to Their New Homes
As dramatic scenes from Afghanistan flooded our screens in August 2021, veterans were among the first to reach out to Catholic Charities to offer their help in resettling refugees.
That led to a collaboration with Team Rubicon, an international nonprofit organization headed by veterans. Using skills they honed in the military, Team Rubicon specializes in mobilizing aid after natural disasters and in other emergencies.
Earlier this year, the group partnered with Refugee Resettlement Services to help newcomers to Greater Cincinnati settle into their new homes. Men and women alike came together to move furniture and housewares from the Catholic Charities warehouse to houses and apartments that refugee families would soon call home.
They helped assemble furniture, set up the living areas and create a welcoming atmosphere for our newest neighbors.
“We are a nation made up of immigrants. I thought it would be fitting to help them start a successful life,” says Joey Barrow, Team Rubicon’s Logistics Manager for the state of Ohio. “Generations from now, their children are going to be telling their stories about how their families came here and started new lives.”
A graduate of Roger Bacon High School, Joey is a Navy veteran who was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. He served his country honorably; now, he’s proud to serve his community.
Joey has seen firsthand the challenges many people — especially girls — face in other countries. So, he was especially excited to be part of Refugee Resettlement Services’ mission.
“To see anybody, look them in the eye and say, ‘It’s going to be OK’ — it’s been a relief,” Joey says. “Hopefully they can start a good, happy, successful life here.”
Catholic Charities is exceptionally grateful to Joey, Team Rubicon and supporters like you for opening your hearts to the resilient refugees who enrich and bless our community!
We Are Not Alone, Thanks to Creative Connections
When Nick Komanecky’s wife, Jo Ann, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2019, Nick immediately went on a quest for information. He searched online. He bought books. He spoke with doctors and social workers.
But Nick didn’t truly find what he was looking for until he and Jo Ann began attending the Creative Connections program of Catholic Charities’ Caregiver Assistance Network.
Creative Connections, which takes place once a week in 10-week sessions, offers a support group for caregivers while their loved ones participate in music, movement and other uplifting activities.
“I began to understand the human aspect of this disease and how to cope with it as a caregiver for my wife,” Nick says. “I began to get a ‘feeling’ for Alzheimer’s there because the other caregivers openly shared their experiences, the problems they faced and how they coped.”
In their group, caregivers like Nick talk about a wide variety of issues, from medication questions to bathing concerns. The participants know they are in a safe place where they will find understanding instead of judgment.
“When friends pull away and relatives never inquire about your wife’s condition, empathy from other caregivers warms you and gets you through the week,” Nick says.
For Jo Ann, the program reconnects her to music she’s loved for decades and brings a smile to her face. Nick has loved that smile since he met Jo Ann in high school. In August, the couple celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary.
This program is made possible through our partnerships with the Council on Aging and the Giving Voice Foundation as well as by supporters like you!
Mary Sarah’s Story: The Gift of Service
Mary Sarah Kirley loves to help. Living with developmental disabilities doesn’t keep her from using her many gifts to serve the Lord and her community.
She assists with the Children’s Liturgy of the Word at her parish, Bellarmine Chapel. She maintains local walking trails through her involvement with Marjorie Book Continuing Education, and she cares for animals at Brighter Day Farm.
Mary Sarah and her family also participate each year in the Hunger Walk to raise money for the Freestore Foodbank and member pantry programs. She creates a team of friends and loved ones to support her efforts.
This spring, Mary Sarah chose to direct their donations to Catholic Charities’ Food For All program. Together, Mary Sarah’s team of 43 donors raised $3,136!
“Mary Sarah’s heart for service, creativity and empowering others to share their gifts reflects the values and works of mercy that all of us share through Catholic Charities,” says Daniel Sarell, Director of Mission Advancement. “We are so incredibly grateful to her.”
To show her gratitude to her team members, Mary Sarah sent a handwritten note to each person who supported her cause.
“Since she is a non-reader/writer, her donors know this is a big deal,” says her dad, Dennis. “Mary tells her mom what to write to each person. Her mom writes it out, and Mary copies it letter by letter.”
Mary Sarah is a perfect example of how one person can make a big impact by encouraging others to join them in doing something good for the world.
Changing a life, one interpreted sentence at a time…
In May 2022, longtime AccuracyNow Language Services interpreter, Seydina Diop came across a story in the news about a French citizen who found herself in legal trouble. The news video showed that, despite the French woman noting that she spoke some English, she also said that she spoke French and repeatedly misunderstood basic English.
“When it comes to court legal terms, it’s a problem if people say they speak English in a casual way, but don’t understand that more specific language,” Diop said.
That is when Diop decided to get involved. He reached out to the reporter who wrote the initial story and volunteered to interpret on the French citizen’s behalf. Diop speaks French—along with Wolof, Bambara, Mandinka, and English—as it is the national language in Senegal where he grew up.
But Diop emphasized that just speaking French is not enough in helping people. It is his training and experience as an interpreter that makes him effective.
“Some people might not see the importance,” Diop said. “They think I just speak French or this or that language and that makes me a good interpreter. No. You must speak the language but also take the next step to try and get other factors like ethics, reputation, and being on time… People need training to be a good interpreter.”
Trainings like these are provided by and emphasized within AccuracyNow because it not only equips interpreters to be confident and capable, but it also benefits the community at large. Whether in a school, hospital, legal service, workplace, or anywhere else, when someone is faced with a language barrier it is essential they are provided with a well-equipped interpreter.
While there in no way to know how the situation for this French citizen would have developed if she had been provided with interpretation every step of the way, what is certain is that as a part of her due process,she had a right to an interpreter. As hers and many other cases progress, it is people like Diop and programs like AccuracyNow Language Services that work to ensure that right is provided.
Cases like these, when someone is in need of interpretation, are also why Diop got involved in this career and why he continues to work in this field.
“It’s a good thing to feel like you are doing something you like that’s also helping people and making a career for your life,” Diop said. “When I help somebody in a situation by interpreting, I feel a joy. I’m doing something very good.”
A Happy Ending Thanks to Immigration Legal Services
In immigration law, there are at least as many losses as there are wins. But in February, Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services (ILS) attorney Stephany Martinez got a big win when she secured green cards for two sisters from Guatemala after a six-year process.
“These wins for Mariza and Alejandra give us that driving force to say, ‘Okay, there are happy endings!,’” Stephany says. Maritza, now 22, and Alejandra, 23, came to Catholic Charities with their mother in 2016. ILS first helped their mother get a custody order from a juvenile court judge in Hamilton County. The order included legal findings that it was in the best interest of the sisters to stay in the United States. Next, ILS helped them apply for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. Approval for that petition took nine months. That’s when the real wait began.
Navigating the U.S. immigration legal system is extremely difficult and often demands expertise. Because of the backlog of cases from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, the young women weren’t allowed to file for their green cards until August 2021. Stephany took over their case last summer, filed the paperwork in August and got the good news in February of this year.
Now, the sisters are focused on getting better jobs so they can support their mom, their older sister and their nephew as they work through their own immigration processes. In five years, Maritza and Alejandra will be able to apply for U.S. citizenship.
“They were ecstatic when I told them, ‘Your green card has been approved,’” Stephany says. “And they’re very vocal about how grateful they are. For young ladies who have gone through so much trauma, they are very optimistic and very positive in their outlook on life.”
You Walk with Immigrants and Refugees on Their Journeys
Rosa was exhausted — the dark circles under her eyes made that obvious. She was working all night, then going to school during the day. At just 17 years old, she’d already been through a lifetime of challenges and trauma.
She’d come to the United States from Guatemala with her father, seeking the chance to get an education. At home, she’d helped her mother manage a coffee plantation and wasn’t able to go to school regularly. Living in the U.S. would move her closer to her dream of becoming a lawyer.
Then the unthinkable happened. Rosa’s father abandoned her. She was left with no friends or family, very little money and only limited English. Yet …
Thanks to Catholic Charities supporters like you, Rosa wasn’t alone.
Su Casa Hispanic Center’s Bilingual Case Manager Yudith Escobar Leon has stayed by Rosa’s side ever since. She checks in with her every few weeks to make sure she sticks with her schooling, pays her rent and has access to the information and resources she needs to achieve her goals.
Now 19, Rosa is close to graduating high school. She wants to go to college. To pay for it, she plans to open her own artisanal popsicle business.
“My help has been guidance,” Yudith says. “She’s been very self sufficient. A lot of people get stuck, but she keeps trying.”
Your support allows Catholic Charities to walk with immigrants and refugees on their journeys to rebuilding their lives and creating the futures they’ve always dreamed of. Thank you for making sure people like Rosa don’t have to walk alone!
Empowerment through Mental Health
For someone like Jasmine, finding mental treatment is very difficult.
She doesn’t have health insurance and doesn’t speak much English. So when Jasmine began having delusions and dangerous, intrusive thoughts, Catholic Charities was a life line.
“We are one of the few resources in the community for a Spanish-speaking, uninsured individual to get psychiatric treatment for mental illness,” says Laura Hershberger, Mental Health Services Director.
Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, the Mental Health Services team was able to assess Jasmine and get her the psychiatric help she needed. Rosa Reyes-Santana, bilingual mental health therapist, began working with Jasmine in therapy. She referred her to psychiatrist, Dr. Roberto Soria who prescribed her medication to manage her symptoms of psychosis.
Today, Jasmine is working full time and has moved back in with her family. She continues to take her medication, and Rosa has taught her valuable skills, like practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques, to help her manage her anxiety. Best of all, Jasmine’s intrusive thoughts are gone and she’s reconnecting with her child, whom she once feared she might harm.
“It is great to see her smile and eager to come and participate in treatment,” Rosa says. “She knows she can use different tools to calm her mood. It’s just so cool to see that.”
Because of the care you help Catholic Charities provide, Jasmine now has hope for a healthier, more successful future. That also means a better life for her child and their family. And the impact doesn’t stop there.
“The services we provide nurture a healthier community at large,” Rosa says. “That’s important for all of us.”
A Passionate Voice for Her Community
Imagine you are at the hospital. You are in pain or sick. The medical staff wants to help you, but they don’t speak your language. What do you do?
For non-English speakers in our community, language can be a major barrier to receiving the care they need. That’s where interpreters like Suleima Dimas come in.
Suleima joined Catholic Charities’ AccuracyNow Language Services two years ago. What she originally lacked in professional experience, she more than made up for in passion. Today, she is a skilled interpreter.
“I saw her become so passionate about interpreting. I watched her journey from the first training session, asking so many questions, to being so confident about how she would go out and represent us,” says Litz Main, AccuracyNow Language Services Director. “She has done a fantastic job.”
Suleima, 27, is a native Spanish speaker who grew up in the United States before moving to Mexico and then returning to the U.S. as an adult. She had spent her life informally translating for friends and family members. But she quickly realized that professional interpretation requires a larger skill set — and a larger vocabulary.
Suleima might help a laboring mother sign a consent form for an epidural one day, then help a senior neighbor navigate complex hospital paperwork the next.
“There were so many technical terms and medical terms, words that not even a native English speaker might know,” Suleima recalls. But the initial challenges were far outweighed by the joy Suleima feels helping members of her community obtain vital services, such as medical care, or enroll their children in school.
Suleima joined AccuracyNow at a critical time: the beginning of the pandemic. When volunteers were scarce, Suleima filled the void. “I felt like, regardless of the pandemic, people need to be taken care of,” Suleima says. “It was hard, but I was never afraid to step in.”
Leticia Davis, The Power Within
Eighteen months ago, Leticia Davila was a different person. The “old Leticia” was frightened and resigned. After 16 years in an abusive relationship, she had lost herself.
Leticia says her breaking point came when her partner choked her and left her mouth bloodied — in front of their children. She knew something had to change. The next day, Leticia met with her bilingual Catholic Charities social worker, Maggie Waddell, and got the support she needed to make the life-changing decision to leave her partner.
“Maggie said, ‘You are in danger and need to do something now,’” Leticia recalls. “She told me, ‘You have the solution in your hands.’” Maggie helped connect Leticia to organizations like Women Helping Women and Casa de Paz, which provided Leticia with safe shelter, personal items, clothing and other necessities to begin rebuilding her life. Leticia also received access to Legal Aid and had the chance to take exercise and yoga classes to improve her overall wellness.
Earlier this year, Leticia secured a new apartment, achieving her goal of moving her family out of the shelter and into a permanent home. Her children were surprised when she showed them their new place — but they shouldn’t have been, Leticia says. “They said, ‘We didn’t think you were going to do it, Mom,’” Leticia explains. “I told them, ‘If your mom says she’s going to do something, she’s going to do it.’”
Leticia has taken back control of her life. She’s even serving as a role model, giving advice to empower other women to break free from abusive situations. And she continues to receive counseling from Maggie, who says, “The ‘new Leticia’ isn’t actually so new at all. She’s always had it within her.”
Now settled into her new home, Leticia has her eyes on her next goal: owning her own Mexican food truck.
For Young Children, a Brighter Future Starts Now
In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells us: “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me.” Through Catholic Charities, you welcome and support our community’s most vulnerable children.
Children like Adam who was on the verge of being expelled from daycare before Catholic Charities’ Early Intervention Consultant, Maribel Gonzalez, stepped in.
Maribel found a therapeutic preschool program that could provide Adam with proper behavioral and emotional supports. Then she worked with the child’s parents, local social services agencies and the daycare providers to get Adam into the new program while also keeping him at his current daycare.
“It was a journey. But the family has made such strides. It’s so rewarding to see!” says Maribel.
Thanks to a grant received in December 2019, Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation last year expanded its services to partner with the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities to help children birth to 3 years who are engaged in Early Intervention services. The goal of the grant is to assist families of very young children with disabilities or developmental delays access Early Childhood Mental Health services.
Maribel partners with therapists and family members to ensure that even the youngest children are getting the care they need in the way they need it. Sometimes, that means identifying when a child has a medical issue manifesting itself as problematic behavior. Other times, it’s training parents to create strategies and routines that play to their strengths as caregivers.
Maribel says she functions as “an extra set of eyes” to support families, many of whom are in crisis. Part of her work focuses on helping families know when, where and how to ask for help — and to give themselves the grace to ask for help in the first place.
Through collaboration, consistency and patience, Early Interventions can make an impact today that changes a child’s entire future.
“One of our goals is to ensure children are receiving the help they need rather than being labeled as bad behavior and being expelled from school,” Maribel says. “At the end of the day, for a student to be successful in a fifth-grade classroom, they have to have a strong foundation much earlier in life.”
Immigration Legal Services Program
Helps Welcome Samuel and His Family
Samuel is new to Cincinnati, but he’s all too familiar with being considered a stranger.
Born and raised in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Samuel lived in fear of being persecuted for his ethnic heritage as a Banyamulenge Congolese. When he participated in a peaceful protest against the DRC’s government, his fears became reality.
Samuel’s own neighbors reported him to the police. Then, in a horrifying turn, those same neighbors — people Samuel had known his whole life — tortured him, burning Samuel’s feet and cutting them with machetes.
“People he grew up with started betraying him,” said Victor Bugandwana, Department of Justice Full Accredited Representative in Catholic Charities’ Immigration Legal Services Program. “Samuel came here with a lot of scars.”
Samuel had no choice but to flee the DRC. After a grueling trek through 11 countries, he and his family entered the United States through the Eagle Pass, Texas, port of entry and expressed their intent to apply for asylum.
In September 2018, a migrant support agency in Texas, Casa Marianella, contacted Sister Sandy Howe with the Sisters of Charity to see if they would receive the family. They traveled by bus from Texas to the Greyhound station in Cincinnati, where S. Sandy picked them up. In the days that followed, she connected them to Catholic Charities. Victor spoke with the family and ensured they met the criteria for affirmative asylum.
He then built the legal case, prepared all the paperwork, and sent it to government officials. In late 2019, Victor and S. Sandy accompanied Samuel and his family to Chicago for their asylum interview, during which they detailed the danger they would face if they were forced to return home.
Thankfully, the family was granted asylum on Dec. 1, 2020, a year after their interview. While the family waited, they learned English through Catholic Charities’ ESOL program. Catholic Charities also helped Samuel and his wife secure employment cards, so they could get jobs, and assisted them in applying for pandemic relief until they could work.
Today, Samuel and his wife are employed and they look forward to bringing Samuel’s three older children to the United States. With ongoing support from the Sisters of Charity and Catholic Charities, thousands of miles from the land of his birth, Samuel finally has found a place where he truly belongs.