Archive | Story

Annual Report 2018 : “it takes a collective”

“We are overwhelmingly grateful for the opportunity to grow with the over 1,000 Members and 250 Advocates who show up every day to care for each other. It encourages us to learn from and lean on one another as we move forward together. Thank you for believing in this community of boundless support as we grow towards the abundant possibilities we have before us.”

0

Meet Our 2019 Chapel Hill Interns!

Meet Serena.

Serena Singh

What brings you joy?

Advocating for what I believe in brings me so much joy. I have seen firsthand the power of activism, and every baby step towards tangible change is always so refreshing. Additionally, the people closest to me bring me more joy than anything. No matter what’s going on in my life, I know I can depend on a core few to stand in my corner.

What about CEF excites you the most?

The perspective I have gained on oppressive systems and the world as a whole definitely excites me the most. I learn so much every single day I’m in the CEF Office, and I am incredibly grateful for the advocates I’ve met, the members I’ve worked with, and other community individuals I’ve had the opportunity to have meaningful discussions with.

Share a story about a meaningful moment that you attribute to your experience with CEF.

One of the first meetings I ever had as a full advocate, I was asked to help a member write a paper for a class that was due at noon. It was 11 and we only had an hour, but together we cranked it out — MLA format and all! She was so appreciative and gave me the biggest hug. That was a fantastic way to begin my experience with CEF!

What brings you joy?

People and the little things around me bring me joy! I love seeing how people interact with each other and the world around them – I get joy from my everyday interactions with people, whether it’s talking with an old friend or sharing a moment with a stranger.

What about CEF excites you the most?

Everything! I love the philosophy at the heart of CEF – it’s so genuine and inclusive. I really love getting to know more people from the community. CEF is so exciting because I get to build relationships with really great people while also engaging with issues of injustice in a meaningful way.

Share a story about a meaningful moment that you attribute to your experience with CEF.

I ran into a member I had been working with every week a few semesters ago on the bus the other day! She had gotten a job that she’d been wanting for a long time! It made me so happy to catch up with her.

Meet Sophia.

Sophia Janken

Meet Joy.

Joy Stouffer

What brings you joy?

Running, cooking, reading books (especially realistic or historical fiction). Sitting on my porch drinking coffee.

What about CEF excites you the most?

I love that I can collaborate with a wide variety of people, from members to staff to other advocates, in order to convey that each and every one of us is important and should be heard.

Share a story about a meaningful moment that you attribute to your experience with CEF.

My freshman year I worked with a member who needed immediate housing. We had to call several shelters in the area and finally secured him one at a spot in Durham. This experience was meaningful to me because I realized that housing is definitely not a guarantee–each night in your own home is a gift.

What brings you joy?

Conversations that lead to meaningful connections bring me the most joy. There is so much to learn from the people around us and I could sit and listen to stories of lived experiences all day. It makes me happy when someone can trust me and I can trust them – creating a bond.

What about CEF excites you the most?

The members excite me the most because they come in with hope for a better quality of life and it’s exciting to be on the passenger seat helping them while they drive and take control of their life.

Share a story about a meaningful moment that you attribute to your experience with CEF.

I was working with a member from Russia for about 2 hours and we ended up talking more about his time there and lessons he’s learned.

Meet Inaara.

Inaara Mohammed
0

CEF Staff Profile: Maggie Mraz

Maggie joined us last May on staff after working as an Advocate for years! She has a heart of gold and a gift for making people feel wholly heard and cared for! Maggie has been an incredible support to our Chapel Hill community, working one-on-one with Members and as an in-office support for Advocates and Members during our regular office hours.

In your own words, how would you describe the work you do at the CEF?

The work I do with CEF centers in encouraging and supporting CEF members to become all they would like to be. I have the opportunity each day to offer positive, practical help in the hope of assisting people to reach their goals in life.

What strengths, skills, and experience do you bring to this work at CEF?

I sincerely love people,  I am a mom, and I believe I can influence changing the world. These three powerful realities impact how I approach each day. I hope to be intentionally present and attentive to people and their current life situations.

What led you to work with CEF generally, and also to this particular role?

I began serving as an Advocate several years ago after meeting CEF people through the Durham office. I was looking for a place to practically help people struggling with life circumstances impacted by poverty. When I met CEF I said to myself, “I want to be like THEM!”

Where do you find energy and renewal?

I regularly enjoy taking naps and I am inclined to pray often. These two practices consistently renew me for the work I do. I also have a beautiful family. They bring me a lot of joy. The perspective I have for the work I do is shaped largely by a rhythm of rest, spiritual practices and quality time with my family.

What challenges you, and how do you seek to find the best way forward?

The most challenging thing for me about the work of CEF is the constant potential for being overwhelmed by the immediate needs of people. There is no magic wand to wave to make life struggles transform in an instant. I find being present to people and offering my best self in the immediate moment makes all the difference. Ms. Yvette’s desk has a tiny rock painted with the words, “Keep Showing Up”. I expect being consistently mindful of wisdom like this will influence my work of caring for people through CEF now and in the future.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I am extremely grateful to be part of this beautiful community of people. To me it just feels “right” to be part of all that happens in this place. With CEF, is where I want to be.

0

A Farewell to CEF Durham Advocates!

Graduating Senior Advocates Gianna, Hayes, and Grace

With the return of warm air and long evenings, we at CEF Durham are forced to say goodbye to our Senior Advocates as they graduate from Duke and head out into the world. These Advocates have contributed hundreds of hours, given an immeasurable quantity of energy, and formed CEF in more ways than we can put into words. As they left CEF, a few Senior Advocates offered up some parting words to share with the CEF community.

Grace Mok joined CEF as a summer intern through Duke Engage. Years later, Grace has completed over 120 CEF Member meetings, shaped Advocate training curriculum, and served as Special Projects Coordinator. Grace shared, “CEF has given me a different vision of how organizations can run and change for the better. Shared leadership and whole personhood are not ideas that all organizations strive for. I hope I can work for an organization as passionate and caring as CEF has been.” Further, Grace explained the ways in which CEF will stay with her as she moves away from Duke and Durham. “Some of the gifts are very concrete — a mug that a Member made himself that I put my silverware in now in my room. Some of the gifts are ephemeral — stories, advice, smiles. I am thinking about “coaching” as a lifestyle tool and I am thinking about community. I am so glad I have been able to build as many relationships as I have and had the opportunity to touch as many lives as I have, to learn with and from folks about so much.”

Gianna Giordano joined CEF during her first semester at Duke, and has since completed over 90 CEF Member meetings and served as Employment Services Coordinator on the student leadership team. Throughout her career at Duke and as an Advocate at CEF, Gianna applied what she was learning in the classroom to her work at CEF, and vice versa! “I have a huge appreciation for the way CEF recognizes that it is traumatic to constantly have to interact with a system that was designed to ensure that you lose. At Duke, I’ve spent a lot of time studying the child welfare system and other social policy issues, and I have observed that this trauma-informed mindset is missing from many discussions about human service delivery systems. When dealing with complex problems involving societal structures, many people look right past this. They see unfair policies and widespread injustice, but they do not recognize that the affected populations experience cumulative trauma that permeates every aspect of their daily lives. From my experiences at CEF, I’ve learned that there is not only a need for structural change but to be with people, support them, and help them recover,” Gianna explained. In her personal life, Gianna shared that, “CEF has encouraged me to value genuine friendships and relationship-driven service work, but it has also taught me to pay close attention to power structures that perpetuate injustice and push against them in creative ways. CEF Members have inspired me by their resilience, tenacity, and selflessness, and CEF staff and advocates have inspired me by their hard work, passion, and constant willingness to learn. The bonds and friendships I have formed with Members and other Advocates these past four years will motivate me to challenge structural injustices for the rest of my life.”

“CEF has been the longest-standing commitment I have had at Duke. I will never forget the Activities Fair on the East Campus Quad, where I saw Liz at a club booth and went to chat with her. I signed up for CEF that day and enrolled in the House Course for the fall semester of my freshman year,” shared graduating senior Hayes McManemin. Since then, Hayes has completed over 65 meetings with CEF Members, worked at CEF’s on-site office hours at the Families Moving Forward shelter, and served as Communications Coordinator on the student leadership team. Hayes shared, “In my opinion, CEF played an integral role in helping me decide what career trajectory I wanted to pursue. Now, I am sure I want to work in a non-profit setting where I can interact with those for whom I am advocating, and have a chance to build meaningful relationships with those same people. I have learned so, SO much about empathy and have gained so much perspective about the ridiculously privileged position I am in. This organization provided me a different way to engage with the Durham community and learn about this city outside of the Duke bubble. I love CEF very much and am going to be very sad at my last office hours!”

We are going to miss our seniors so much, and wish them all the best in taking what they have learned at CEF out into their new careers, cities, and communities. Wherever they go, we know they will make a positive impact in the lives of those around them, always remembering that all people are creative, resourceful, and whole.

0

Meet Regina

Regina and her four kids’ lives changed rapidly with the onset of company layoffs, a serious illness, divorce, and loss of their home. Previously, she had built a stable career in military and corporate life. “Don’t ever think that you can’t ever be sitting in the bottom,” she shares.

Regina first met JV, her CEF Advocate, while she was saying at Families Moving Forward, an emergency shelter for families in Durham. Each meeting, she worked on new goals, from building savings and credit to pursuing housing stability and professional growth. “While I connected with CEF, I was also able to take time not only letting my body heal, but letting my family heal. And through that, I gained a career that I love to death — or love to life!”

Now, 1.5 years after joining CEF, Regina has rebuilt a professional life that is driven by passion. After earning certifications in wellness and recovery, she is now an independent recovery coach. She regularly connects her clients with CEF. I’m a huge advocate! It’s like family … [And] a good connection for whatever you want to grow and be in life.”

Having found stability, Regina is finding ways to weave her success with that of her community’s, by creating job opportunities and leading community change. She founded a successful cleaning business that is dedicated to hiring single parents and people with conviction histories and substance abuse histories. “We’re fighting the same fight,” she shares of the company’s 4 employees.

She also serves on the Board of Recovery Communities of Durham, volunteers as a youth mentor, and advocates for mental health policy and equitable wages. It’s good to be a part of that change.”

This story about Regina was featured in CEF’s 2017 Annual Report!

0

Meet Rosa: CEF Staff Interview

Rosa joins CEF's Staff in Durham in a new position as the Office Services Coordinator in Durham!

What led you to this work at CEF?

—Being a Member of CEF and seeing how they directly impacted my life in dealing with stuff with my credit. When I found out there was a position open, I was passionate about working here. This is a job I will have that feels meaningful, and I will go home knowing I made a difference.

Where do you find energy for your work at CEF and where do you expect to find challenges?

I try to handle each situation as if I was the Member. I will try to handle each situation the way I would want someone to handle my situation, if that makes sense. I think it’ll be challenging to keep that work-home balance. It will be challenging because I am both a Member and an employee of CEF. It will be challenging to turn on and turn off that work feeling!

What strengths and perspectives do you bring to CEF?

The strength I bring is that I can directly relate to the Members of CEF because I myself am currently dealing with homelessness. I feel like I bring a perspective of hope, because I mean we don’t expect an employee of CEF to be dealing with homelessness themselves. Hopefully I can inspire someone else to think, “This too shall pass.”

0

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.

0

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!

0

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!

Give by Card

Give by Card Monthly

$

0

Fred is Home

“CEF is using all of its strength to push the community together. There's so much joy and so much talent and everyone has ideas and something to contribute.” - Val

“It’s like it was meant to be, ya know,” says Fred. After living in a tent for six years, he was just about “ready to lose [his] faith in the human spirit”, when someone at the IFC kitchen said he should “go check out CEF!” There he met his Advocate Val and began getting connected to a wide range of healthcare, housing, and income services. Together, Fred and Val have found community at CEF.

“CEF man—I’ve got a lot of things accomplished there. I got my retirement in three weeks. I was in the tent. I done picked up my mail at CEF and I had a stack of it and I didn’t read it till the next morning when it got light and I could see inside the tent. I got to the last letter and I open it and it says ‘Congratulations! You have been awarded such and such amount of money for your retirement.’ I ran out the front door of that tent and ‘Tarzan-called’ right through the woods. It was a godsend!”

“You know, it’s just kept ballooning from there, escalating and everything, right? I got all my ID I had lost along the way. I got all that back! Where did we go from there?CEF got me hooked up with the VA and that was the first time I had a physical in 44 years and they convinced me to quit smoking. I haven’t smoked a cigarette in 19 months now and I had smoked for 52 years!”

“I’m starting to feel the human spirit again,” shares Fred. This fall, having secured a housing voucher and found a place that he could afford, Fred moved out of his tent and into his new home, and he’s feeling inspired. He shared his story with a crowd of over 200 people at the Piggy Bank Bash this October; at the CEF Holiday Party he volunteered for over 8 hours preparing and serving the food; and just last week he showed up at CEF’s office to present an Advocate with a bicycle that he had spent months building and refinishing! We are humbled to be in community with Fred. “Just seeing the teamwork of people in the community, you know what I mean? And I want to give back part of it like everybody else gives.”

We hope that you’ll join Fred in sharing your support for this community by making a year-end gift to CEF. Your gift is matched, (every dollar up to $30,000!) thanks to the generous support of CEF donors! As 2018 comes to a close, we’re abundantly thankful for the amazing humans who make up the CEF community. Together, we thank you for your support!

0
CEF: Community Empowerment Fund

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

cef