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CEF Summit 2019 Reflections

Written by Joyce Yao and Connie Longmate

“Stay in school, stay in the Movement.”
— Reverend Liz Theoharis of the Poor People’s Campaign,

On the first weekend in March, CEF Advocates from UNC and Duke put aside their rivalries, to come together and co-host the 2nd annual Summit on Homelessness and Poverty! The three-day summit brought together over 100 students from  25 schools from across the country to share experiences, workshop ideas, and learn from longtime local community organizers. Their collective goal was to continue to grow a national coalition of student organizations dedicated to dismantling systems that perpetuate hunger, homelessness, and poverty.


“The cost of poverty, broadly, is so much higher than the cost of paying people fairly.”
—Jill Johnson, Mayor Pro Tem

Last year, students at Brown University held the inaugural Summit on Homelessness and Poverty that brought together a coalition of student organizations from across the country dedicated to dismantling systems that perpetuate homelessness and poverty. In the 8 months of planning, the summit vision truly came together when Megan Miller and Olivia Simpson proposed that the theme of the Summit be “Abundance,” with the idea that the communities we work within have an abundance of love, resilience, and (as CEF likes to say) people who are “creative resourceful and whole”— and therefore our work should be about uplifting and celebrating that abundance. Hosting this summit meant that we got to help to create a unique space for students to reflect on and share about the abundance in their own communities.

“Joy can be an act of revolution!”
—George Barrett, The Marian Cheek Jackson Center

The weekend was a tremendous labor of love. A true test of the commitment to the work we do, as well as of our ability to open ourselves up to new forms of the pursuit of social justice, which is important perspective when you find yourself debating seemingly trivial things like the number of coffee cups to order and the most fitting genre of music for the welcome reception. We succeeded in bringing together students from different regions of the country involved in all kinds of anti-poverty and homelessness work, effectively connecting one another to a network of students engaged in demanding work that requires the solidarity and accountability that community offers. I’m especially proud of the fundraising we chased extra hard with the goal of lowering financial barriers for folks to participate.

“If you don’t know you don’t know, but once you know, I’m going to hold you accountable.”
— Andrea Hudson, Community Bail Fund

We created sessions around Race Policing and Poverty, Vulnerable Populations, Public Health, Urban Renewal & Displacement (watch the video below), Social Service Gaps and How We Fill Them, Advocating for Policy Change to facilitate a space where students could share, learn, and grow from peers. Hosting the summit also gave us the opportunity to spotlight longtime community organizations and organizers who shared their brilliant wisdom and experiences of organizing in the South.

We are so grateful for our community partners and all of the students who are working alongside their communities to fight for justice through the celebration abundance. It was an honor to host the 2nd annual summit and we’re excited to continue to build the Student Coalition Against Homelessness & Poverty.

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CEF Graduation and 10 Year Celebration at the Northside Festival!

Come together and celebrate graduating CEF Members and Advocates and all that is Northside—past, present, and future. All are welcome, free for the whole community! All members of the CEF and the greater community — Members, Advocates, family, friends, supporters, fans, partners, and neighbors. Join CEF graduates, enjoy delicious food, and sing-along and dance-along with the CEF community!

At 2pm we’ll gather in the St Joseph Church at 510 W Rosemary St, Chapel Hill, NC 27516

Rides Available: Chapel Hill, call (919) 200-0233

Sew your square into our community quilt, plant spring annuals to take home, enjoy old-school field games—and kick up your heels to Bubba Norwood and Harvey Dalton Arnold rocking out the blues, the revival of the Jr Weaver Gospel Singers (featuring knock-your-socks-off recording artist, Sheila Caldwell Evans), and a surprise banjo picking guest—

Bring a chair, lend a hand. For more info, call or write the Marian Cheek Jackson Center at 919-960-1670, contact@jacksoncenter.info.

FOOD
Rev. Troy Harrison Honorary Pig Pickin’ w/ Parrish Bros. Farm

HOMEGROWN TALENT
— Rockin’ Blues w/ Bubba Norwood & Harvey Dalton Arnold
— The Jr. Weaver Gospel Singers on stage again!
— MEGA Praise
— St. Paul’s Step Team
— OC Jammers
— CEF Advocacy Choir

FUN AND GAMES
— Community Quilting
— Spades Tourney
— BIG TRUCKS
— Old Fashion Field Games!
— Dancing in the street!

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SUMMIT ON HOMELESSNESS AND POVERTY 2019

March 01 – March 03

CEF student Advocates at UNC and Duke are working together to convene the Abundance: Summit on Homelessness and Poverty 2019 on March 1-3. The Summit is bringing together over 100 students from across the country to think critically about the intersections of homelessness and poverty in the U.S., share experiences and workshop our organizational impact in our communities, and ultimately build a coalition of student organizations dedicated to addressing and dismantling systems that perpetuate hunger, homelessness, and poverty. The full Summit is at capacity but two keynotes and two events are open to the public!

Events Open to the Public

  • March 3rd 12:00pm – Jillian Johnson – CEF Summit Closing Keynote
    Jillian Johnson is giving the closing Keynote at the Summit! She is the Mayor Pro Tempore of the city of Durham, the co-founder of Durham for All, an organization working to build a multi-racial, cross-class, political vehicle in Durham, and a long-time community organizer and activist.  Click here for more details!

Last year, students at Brown University held the first inaugural Summit on Homelessness and Poverty. In doing so, they brought together a coalition of student organizations from across the country dedicated to dismantling systems that perpetuate hunger, homelessness, and poverty.

This year, CEF is partnering with UNC and Duke to host the Summit.  We look forward to welcoming students to our campus from across the country to engage in these critical topics.

Students from the 2018 Summit!
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Mussasa and Denise

In their home in Chapel Hill, Mussasa and Denise share pictures of family members and loved ones, many of whom are strewn across the globe by war. Their son Joshua looks over his mother’s shoulder at the pictures, saying, “This is sad. Oh my gosh, I miss it.”

Mussasa and Denise are both from Congo, and met in Burundi while both were fleeing war in their home country. It was 1996 and they were in their early twenties. As war continued, they moved to South Africa as refugees, where they were married and lived for 14 years. For a long time, they held out hope that they would be able to return to the Congo.

Across borders and amidst isolating, uprooting experiences of leaving family and home, Denise and Mussasa have restarted their lives again and again in the pursuit of a safe, stable home for their family. Denise has begun and built a number of careers, including law in Congo, business management in Burundi, and adult education in South Africa. Mussasa is an incredibly skilled welder, working in welding in every country they have lived, even teaching welding and skilled trades to unemployed youth in Capetown.

In 2016, after 20 years away from their homes and feeling that there was little chance they would ever be able to move back to the Congo, they made the bold decision to move to Durham, North Carolina.

Denise shares, “When we got here we didn’t know where to start, and transportation was a big problem.” With their busy schedules juggling work, school, and family, relying on public transit was significantly limiting their opportunities.

They heard about CEF from a friend and started saving in CEF’s matched savings accounts for a vehicle while working with Advocates to find better-paying jobs.

Denise reflects on what it means that they trust CEF with their personal savings, sharing that, “Being Congolese, it’s a bit difficult because… In 1994, they changed the currency in Congo and the banks just decided to say, ‘Well, you don’t have any money anymore!’ So all we had worked for, just gone back then.”

Despite these experiences with banks abroad, they trusted CEF because of the testimonies of friends, and because of the “emotional connection.” Denise says, “For example, when we got here, everything was too much, and then you get someone to have your hand and say, ‘we can work on goals that you have. We can address certain concerns that you have. Let’s do this one, then the next one, and the next one.’ There’s an emotional connection.

After saving for several months and working with Advocates to get insurance and licenses, they reached their goal and were preparing to buy a car. Right at that moment, one of CEF’s campus partners surprised the family with a donated vehicle! Professor Jim Kitchen’s entrepreneurship class at Kenan-Flagler raised thousands of dollars through their own micro-enterprises in order to purchase a vehicle for the family.

“And when you get a car, it changes your life,” Denise shares. “Suddenly, [Mussasa] could come back home early, and could plan around getting the children from school on time… That is not just a car. It’s that kind of a connection that you’ve got with a place or a person.”

Meanwhile, both Denise and Mussasa have made incredible progress towards better jobs. Denise is now working as a C.N.A. and studying nursing to build a new career here, while Mussasa is working overnight as a welder at AKG and attending English classes during the day.

Here in the U.S., sadly they have still had to worry for the safety of their family. One of their sons struggled with bullying at his first school, which prompted Denise and Mussasa to work with their Advocates to find a new place to live in a different school district. Their son is much happier in this school, and they are hoping to “settle down” now.

Looking forward, their big goal is to own a home. Denise says, “I believe it’s better to work toward your own house than renting someone else’s house.” Because of their refugee status, “That is something we could not do in South Africa,” which will make this achievement even more monumental for their family.

This story about Mussasa and Denise was featured in CEF’s 2017 Annual Report!

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Dear CEF Family

Dear CEF Family,

“What is CEF?” Truthfully, it can be hard to find words for this work that Members and Advocates do side-by-side, day-by-day.

Chinita will tell you, “CEF is not a service—it’s a healing process. It’s a community of members that become empowered, that believes that they deserve to be treated as humans!”

As a CEF Orientation Leader, Chinita has witnessed it first hand: CEF shows up for Members who are trying to meet their most basic human needs. Almost 7 out of 10 Members join CEF without a place to live, 3 out of 10 without any income. And while we know that safe homes and stable jobs are fundamental goals for many Members at CEF, we also know they are often just the step in that “healing process” on a journey towards long-term stability and true flourishing.

“I’m a living witness,” shares David. “When I joined CEF, I found that everything within me was not dead.” Before joining CEF, David found himself in the hospital, fighting illness and learning to walk and speak again. Working with his Advocates at CEF, he now has stable income and a two-bedroom home that he calls his own.

David’s home has been a space for him to heal, where he can lean fully into his gifts. Working with his Advocates, he is breathing new life into his small business—an alterations business aptly named “Graceful Stitches.” This year, his hand-sewn clothing was featured in the first-ever CEF Fashion Show. And, he just launched a project to craft quilts for every CEF Member that moves into a new home. “I am moving forward. I am strong and I am able to do things that I never thought I could.”

David’s story is just one point of light—and 2018 has simply been radiant. Everywhere we look, we find care, creativity, and resourcefulness illuminating our beloved community. We sense it in the celebratory glow of CEF Members whose collective savings reached $1,00,000 dollars this year. We hear it in the songs of the CEF Advocacy choir as Members and Advocates march side-by-side to vote for (and win!) a $10 million bond to build greatly-needed affordable housing. To be able to bear witness to the light of this community is a true gift.

By donating to CEF, you are fueling this radiant community. You are enabling Members not only to meet their basic needs, but to flourish and thrive. Your generosity enables the CEF community to shine more luminously than ever—to care for each other through the toughest of times, to keep “moving forward” and growing in strength together. Thank you for your incredible support.

With joy and gratitude from CEF’s Co-Directors,

 

Jonathan Young                   Janet Xiao

P.S.     Thanks to an amazing group of CEF donors that came together to match year-end donations, your gift to CEF will be doubled through December 31st, up to $30,000!

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$1,000,000 Dollars Saved!

🐖One giant pig. One million dollars saved.💰

Thank you so much to everyone who came out to the Piggy Bank Bash to celebrate CEF Members’ amazing accomplishment last night. We’re proud to be part of such an amazingly supportive community and extremely thankful for all of the warmth and encouragement shared and received last night. We’re also filled with gratitude at the generosity of Grub, who generously hosted and fed us all for free, and all of our West End neighbors and friends, who pitched in with raffle prizes ( Pauli Murray Project, The Cookery, and Steel String  ) and supplying a sound system (the Durham Co-op Market 🎤).

Partners from Families Moving Forward, Self-Help, Inter-Faith Council for Social Service, Vimala’s Curryblossom Café also came out and shared their support in full force! If you want to continue partying it up with CEF this year, we hope to see you at Steel String on Wed, November 14 at CEF’s Night Out at Steel String

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CEF: Hurricane Response

Hurricane Florence and Matthew have deeply impacted the CEF community. Apartments and homes that are at risk of flooding are most-often the more ‘affordable’ units in our communities; and so CEF Members have been coming together to find resources, to relocate, and re-build together. Many have joined CEF as new Members, connecting for the first time to navigate these crises.

In the days leading up to hurricane Florence, CEF assembled and disseminated a Hurricane Resource Guide in English and Spanish, and our Chapel Hill office served as a distribution center the Thursday before the hurricane arrived. That day, over 60 folks dropped by and collected non-perishables, hygiene supplies. We contacted almost 100 people staying outdoors or in unstable housing, and connected them to emergency shelter for the storm! Some highlights from the day: Jon calling in orders of food and supplies to bring to Members on Franklin St., keeping our eyes peeled for and updating the resource document over 368  times, and generally creating a collaborative and supportive environment in the office!

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Piggy Bank Bash – 2018 Celebration

When: Monday, October 29th, 6:00pm – 9:00pm

Where: GRUB Durham, 1200 W Chapel Hill St, Durham, NC 27701

Ticket Price: $30 (100% donated to CEF)

Your $30 donation gets you a ticket to:(discounts for Members/Advocates/Students)

🥘A delicious GRUB Dinner (w/ vegan options) & 1 drink!
👂A chance to learn more about CEF’s work in housing and economic justice!
🎶Songs by the CEF Advocacy Choir!
🎉Hang out and celebrate with the CEF crew!
⁉ What’s in the box?! Find out the secret!
💸The best part? 100% of ticket proceeds go to CEF!

The first 30 folks to use “EARLYPIG” get $10 off the regular price!

We have an exciting secret to share! Join us on Monday, October 29th to support the innovative work of the Community Empowerment Fund through a fundraiser hosted by GRUB Durham. This will be a night of education, food, drink, and camaraderie. There will be ample opportunities to learn about CEF’s work and mission at the event while meeting CEF members, supporters, West End neighbors, and more.

100% of the ticket proceeds benefit CEF. Purchase tickets here. The GRUB Durham team looks forward to celebrating and supporting CEF’s continuing work with you!



About CEF: CEF supports over 1,000 Members in Durham and Orange Counties experiencing homelessness or financial insecurity to gain jobs, secure housing, and build savings. Founded in 2009, CEF coordinates hundreds of trained volunteer Advocates, primarily from area universities, to work alongside CEF Members towards achieving their personal goals.

Can’t make it to the party?

Sponsor a ticket for a CEF Member / Advocate! 

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CEF Featured in Prosperity Now’s Financial Coaching Design Guide!

Prosperity Now’s new “Financial Coaching Program Design Guide: A Participant-Centered Approach” is hot off the press! It’s an incredible guide for organizations interested in creating or refining a financial coaching program and it features great work and wisdom from CEF and other partners across the US! We loved working with the Prosperity Now team to bounce thoughts about what makes a good person-centered financial coaching program, and we learned a ton from fellow advisors as well!

Check out some samples below from CEF’s featured work!

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CEF: Community Empowerment Fund

Chapel Hill: 919-200-0233 Durham: 919-797-9233

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