Last Wednesday, over 100 kids as young as 6 months old and their parents gathered at a church downtown. There was no AC and everybody was sweating. Some families had to travel over 2 hours to get to their groups, yet every body was smiling. I felt like a family. A BIG family reunion. One in which everybody was a little nervous yet excited.
Women went to their groups. Most of the them knew each other and everybody seemed engaged and participating. They talked about everything, from scholarships for their kids to alcohol issues.
Men went to theirs, led by a facilitator wearing a soccer jersey, just like many of the men in the group wore. The kids split up per ages. The little ones were supervised and screened for developmental disabilities or other issues by Georgia State volunteers, older kids did homework, read, played games and made some music. Young adults led their own group and discussed plans for the summer, work opportunities and research, because some of these kids are trying to publish their research in academic journals.
WHAT? I thought this was a program focusing on Partner Violence….
Some time ago, as part of the group discussions, the teens decided to start a collaborative project addressing some of the questions they had regarding their status and what was going on in their lives; what they saw every day.
They needed answers and nobody knew them: How does the community react when they learn about a family in which violence occur? How did they deal with the violence at home? What is the consequence of the current immigration laws in relation to domestic violence?.
Encouraged by their group leaders and under the supervision of CL founders, they researched and arrived to their conclusions. “La Voz” has now presented in dozens of venues, including audiences in NM, DC and other states and yes; they found answers to their questions. Most importantly, they found the answers by themselves and learned to acquire them using a scientific method.
Jessica Nunan and her team (6 full-time, 2 part-time) serve approximately 750 individuals every year (approximately 16,000 services) with case management, individual counseling, weekly group meetings, substance abuse education, HIV & STD testing through partners, tutoring, protective orders, liaising with schools and courts and in general becoming advocates for all what is needed to improve, empower and facilitate these families’ lives.
Caminar Latino evolved to what it is today because of the women in the program. What started as a support group 25 years ago, evolved into this comprehensive non-profit by listening to the needs of the community it serves. Whereas is childcare and programs for the kids, programs for men and youth, music classes, leadership groups, parenting classes, etc. if the community needs it, they figure out to get it. The community comes up with their own ideas to acquire funds (to fund themselves). This is how a yard sale has become a large fundraiser for the organization.
CL does not work WITH the community. They work IN the community and are led by what the community needs and IT WORKS.
The national benchmark for men staying in Domestic Violence Intervention Programs is between 35%-75%. CL has a 75% completion rate, putting them as one of the most successful programs in the country. Best of all, the men that stay on the programs stay long AFTER the required time and are encouraged to take all workshops and classes FREE of charge.
Reina, pictured above is one of the participants of this group. She joined at 12 and today, at 18, she has received a 4 year scholarship to pursue college by the Goizueta Foundation. Part of what set her apart was her participation @ La Voz. Even though her family situation is better, she has decided to stay in the group because after all, every week when they meet IS like a Family Reunion. She told me after joining the group, she was no longer alone.
Caminar Latino hosts several fundraisers a year. They have a yard sale (this year’s took place in May), a bowling event on July 22th (“Strike Out Family Violence”) and a “Gracias” party on October 9th this year. They are hoping to raise enough to underwrite a training to serve the Latino LGBT community. They have a participant that has been turned away from 5 organizations. Nobody knows how to address his needs so CL decided they WILL learn. “A Family is a Family” that is all.
Caminar Latino was part of a video developed by the Office for Victims of a Crime by the US Department of Justice. Click below to hear what they have to say on min. (3:35)