I often forget how little culture can mean when it comes to relationships. Even if we come from two different continents, upbringings, languages, our ways of connecting can be so similar. We can understand one another so easily if we only seek to do such. And we only find how similar we truly are if we engage in experiences with one another. I forget in a place like America, where hip hop was born and women’s empowerment is strong, our ideals and influences are from the very continent these women of Sarah’s come from. Here in America, African traditions have been explored, borrowed, assimilated, and appropriated. I believe our world is much closer than we think. And I believe we are all much closer to being friends than we believe. It’s only a matter of loosening your fists, glancing over, and listening. Letting your eyes be opened and assumptions dropped. We can celebrate each other; we can celebrate the world. Read on….
World Refugee Day ~ Our Friends at The Advocates for Human Rights
The Impact of Sarah’s… an Oasis for Women
As Sarah’s enters its 22nd year of ministry in July, it’s important to pause and reflect on the depth and breadth of Sarah’s impact in the Twin Cities, greater Minnesota, and the world.
There are numerous transitional housing programs located in the Twin Cities that serve specific populations. Examples include domestic violence shelters, homes for the elderly and/or disabled, homes for HIV-positive persons, and programs for homeless teen-agers. Few however are suitable for asylees, refuges and other immigrant women who lack access to these and other public programs and resources.
While waiting for an interview with the U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Service—a daunting process in itself—there is no access to public assistance programs including housing. Refugee resettlement programs receive funding for the first 90 days of a refugee’s stay in the USA, after which the refugee is expected to be self-sufficient. Adding to the complications are language and cultural barriers, misogyny, racism, and untreated trauma resulting from torture, discrimination, war and other types of abuse.
Sarah’s holds a unique place as a one-of-a-kind transitional home in Minnesota serving primarily immigrant women who are struggling to become established in the USA. Housing women who face similar challenges allows Sarah’s to tailor its community-based service model toward the needs of residents. The women of Sarah’s find strength and resilience living in a community of women who are going through comparable experiences.
On a national level, Sarah’s Director, Cheryl Behrent, has been involved in building a nationwide network of faith-based, like-minded housing providers. She has participated in an all-volunteer steering committee on behalf of the Migrant Housing and Protection Community of Practice (COP) that includes representatives from all over the nation working towards common goals to support asylum seekers.
Sarah’s has served over 650 women from 70 different nations and stands as a testament to the impact of the CSJ mission: always moving toward profound love of God and love of neighbor without distinction. Under the current political climate, your support and gifts of time, talent, and treasure are needed now more than ever. With this in mind, Sarah’s extends deep gratitude to you for your support.
WHO LIVES AT SARAH’S?
- Women age 20+ and not currently parenting
- Women of any ethnicity, creed or religious affiliation
- Women for whom no other resources are currently available
- Women who do not need licensed agencies
- Women who are medically independent and chemically (addiction) free
- Women with a willingness and ability to live in community in a group setting where space, food preparation, household and grounds work and living are shared.
- Women whose transition is ordinarily completed within 1 to 1.5 years
written by Martha West, Community Relations Associate
Women of Substance
Two weeks ago, a group of women from Sarah’s and I went to a Lizzo concert at St. Catherine’s University during their Women of Substance Festival which seeks to bring empowering and inspirational women to campus for a beautiful week of events. It was a beautiful spring night and the ladies of Sarah’s were dressed to impress in each of her own ways varying from our sister from Kenya in her habit to our younger resident in ripped jeans and Nike’s. Going to a concert is a rare occasion for the women of Sarah’s let alone a hip hop concert, so needless to say this was a big event. I mean, Lizzo is famous.
In my endeavor to round up concert-goers, I learned that the women of Sarah’s love experience. When our sister in-residence came to me asking if she could go see Lizzo, I honestly laughed. The image of risque lyrics referencing butts shaking and the dance moves on stage to match in front of her very eyes made me anxious and giddy all at once. Since when do sisters like hip hop I thought? So, I reminded her “It’s a hip hop concert, Sister. Very loud and very…different”. And all she replied with was, “I know, so can I go”? I was floored. How ready she was! By the end of the day, we had two of your youngest residents, a woman who is highly religious in practice but loves to get down, and a sister all excited to attend the concert.
In our mini-van, we drove off to St. Kate’s double-checking we all had our tickets and talking about who the opener for Lizzo would be. I gave the women a “pep-talk” in case I was still right about being hesitant to bring some to the concert. I explained that there would be a lot of singing about butts and cussing accompanied by dancing, bodysuits, and all. “Anyone want to turn back now?” I thought in my head.
It wasn’t long after hustling through busy crowds and long aisles that we found our seats and prepared ourselves for a wonderful show. Walking into a concert venue followed by a nun and three other African women is probably the most amusing moment as a 22 year old white American women. Watching people gazing and most likely wondering how we were all connected. Wondering what our purpose is being at this concert. How did I get to this moment of attending a Lizzo concert with a group of refugee and asylum-seeking women through a Catholic program? Seven months into the St. Joseph Worker program, and I still am surprised every day and amazed at the things I do, hear, and see. I find myself in experiences I never imagined to have.
This night was a beautiful example of such unexpected experiences I will cherish from a year of service at Sarah’s. The opening performances were delightful and with much applause we welcomed Lizzo on stage to a spectacular show. All that was expected happened. Speeches about body empowerment, female empowerment, black empowerment, people empowerment. Beautiful singing that carried through the auditorium and dancing ladies doing splits on stage happened. Twerking happened. And I tightened my fists before glancing over at the residents to my right. What were they thinking? Did they hate it?
After the song finished and there was a moment of quiet, I turned to the women to hear their opinions. Our sister from Kenya only said, “We should do that at Sarah’s”! “…..What?! Really?” I replied. “You want to “twerk” at Sarah’s”? The women laughed and nodded. I played along and suggested we should have one of our many volunteers come and teach us sometime. And what was the response you might ask? The most perfect answer of all that told me this night was truly special and I had only assumed the worst: “In Africa, we don’t need someone to teach us this. Because this is how we dance.” We all laughed and settled in to see Lizzo and her beautiful body empowerment, body suits, and…twerking…as I thought about all the assumptions I had made that day to only be taught different.
written by Lindsay Schaefer, St. Joseph Worker