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  • Mariah Scheuermann

Comfort's Compassion

Comfort’s story demonstrates her power in trusting her heart and making bold moves like the ones that brought her to the US, to Sarah’s, and through her educational journey, all while being led by her compassion. She represents the admirable selflessness and dedication evident in all of Sarah’s residents.

At the MSP Airport, Minnesota’s winter weather was Comfort’s first greeting to the US. At age 18, she had never experienced freezing temperatures in Zimbabwe, her home country, so she arrived underdressed. The cold made a lasting impression in Comfort’s memory, and it wouldn’t be long before she left her mark and touched many hearts in Minnesota and beyond.

Comfort began her undergraduate schooling at St. Catherine University, working towards a degree in Nutrition. Taken aback by the out of pocket costs, she had to work multiple jobs to cover tuition fees. In her third year of school, Comfort was married and found herself in an abusive relationship. Along with the emotional toll, she stopped going to school. When Comfort found out she was pregnant, the abuse only worsened. She knew this wasn’t the life she wanted for herself or her child.

During this time of endless worry, Comfort recalls driving past Sarah’s during her commute. Though she had no idea what the building was, she was drawn to it, strongly enough to stop and find out that Sarah’s was a home for women in need. She attributes this extraordinary coincidence of finding Sarah’s when she needed it most to divine forces leading her where she needed to go. Relieved to find that Sarah’s was nothing like the women’s shelters Comfort had heard about, she felt confident in her decision to leave her husband and move into Sarah’s, a place that could provide her safety and anonymity from her abuser. Comfort has known friends left dehumanized by their experiences in shelters, but Sarah’s stood out as a home that treats its women with dignity. She explains, “At Sarah’s, I felt a level of respect and sisterhood. There’s healing that happens here.”

Though all of Sarah’s staff contributes to our mission to provide a safe space for residents to build self-esteem, self-sufficiency, confidence, determination, and community, Comfort remembers Sister Maggie to be most influential in her journey at Sarah’s, and fondly refers to her as a mother figure. Sister Maggie, or Margaret L. Kvasnicka, was involved with Sarah’s from its founding in 1995, and served as director from 2003-2010. While establishing an environment where Comfort knew she wasn’t being rushed out the door, Sister Maggie encouraged and inspired her to go back to school to finish her degree.

Comfort left to live with her pastor before giving birth, and though she was only a resident for a few months, her time and relationship with Sarah’s was far from over. She remembers receiving a gift basket from Sister Maggie shortly after giving birth and being surrounded by reminders of Sarah’s. While going back to school and getting a second degree in Social Work, Comfort joined Sarah’s advisory council. Here, she was proud to be a champion for Sarah’s residents and a bridge between them and the rest of the council, knowing the difficulties and traumas they come in with firsthand as well as coming out of the hardships empowered. Comfort recalls the excitement she felt when she realized that the council’s other advisors viewed her not as a victim of what she had gone through, but a victor.

Comfort prides herself in the time she spent on Sarah’s advisory council, but said goodbye when she felt called to Iowa to help the populations of African immigrants and refugees in need. Still, Comfort heard Sister Maggie’s voice in her head, encouraging her to go back to school. Comfort obtained her master’s degree in Public Affairs and Leadership from University of Minnesota, all while still living in Iowa. On top of furthering her education, she stayed busy. She analyzed college policies to advocate for marginalized communities and those affected by domestic violence, did caucusing work for Hillary Clinton, and was part of a fellowship.

Now back in Minnesota, Comfort is a part of the Bush Fellowship, focused on establishing avenues for culture-specific paths of healing, especially in the African immigrant communities and women. Proving her love of life-long learning and growth, Comfort is now pursuing her doctorate in psychology and family therapy. Throughout her life, Comfort has been led by her compassion. She says, “I just yearn to make a difference.” Comfort started the non-profit, Phumulani Minnesota African Women Against Violence. In her words, “Since 2018, Phumulani has grown to become a hub for African Immigrant families, primarily serving women survivors of violence. To date, over 6,890 clients have walked through our doors. Our mission is to bring independence and sustainable resources to the women we serve so they can live high-quality lives. We fulfill this mission by providing our clients with a safe place to call home so they can embrace personal growth and healing.”

Phumulani opened the Plymouth Peace Home, cutting the ribbon to welcome several women with children, on December 2, 2022. About the location, Cheryl Behrent, Sarah’s Director, comments “Plymouth Peace Home reminds me of Sarah’s in so many ways. I see the peace and love that Sarah’s gives women and that Comfort obviously carried with her in developing this location for the healing of women survivors of violence from Africa and their children where they will begin new lives. Surely they will feel peace and love in this beautiful location. I’m so proud of Comfort in the work that she is doing.”

Though Comfort’s schedule keeps her busy, she loves making time to visit Sarah’s or connect with staff and residents whenever she has the chance. Her personal experiences with trauma guide her life’s work in helping others get the resources and care they need, and Sarah’s provides her with a working model that it can happen. Comfort reflects, “One of my dreams is to win the lottery. Then I [would] duplicate this model, because it works.” People like Comfort prove that there is no shortage of compassion to go around, and accurately she identifies funds as a necessity to the operations for organizations like Sarah’s. “My dream is to see more people donate to Sarah’s.”

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