Spotlight on CASSY

cassy-logoCASSY, Counseling and Support Services for Youth, is another charity supported by this year’s WWW luncheon fundraiser and has played an important role in ensuring the emotional and social well-being of many students at Bay Area schools. CASSY partners with local schools to provide therapists that offer counseling, crisis intervention, and proactive mental health education. One such student needed someone to lean on when he lost his mother at only 9 years old. Here is Luis’ story.

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Megan, CASSY Therapist, received word from the principal of the school she works in: one of their students had lost his mother.

When Luis was nine, he and his mother, Camilla, visited his brother in college. While visiting, Luis expressed feeling sad to his mother, missing his friends and his dad. Camilla wanted Luis to be happy and decided to end their trip early. Tragically, Camilla had an undiagnosed heart condition and died suddenly on the trip home.

“When I met Luis, he asked, Why did this have to happen?He was questioning and felt it was very unfair that he had lost his mom. He had also lost his home due to the change in family income. He didn’t want to talk to anyone about what happened,” said Megan.

Megan met weekly with Luis, where they did art while talking. Luis shared that he felt guilty; if he hadn’t wanted to come home so badly, maybe his mom wouldn’t have died. He shared that he did not have a photo of his mom to look at when he missed her. Megan got to work and helped him find a photo, which is now displayed where Luis can always see it. Luis also used this time to write a letter tofather-son his mom, telling her how much he missed her.

Luis’ dad, Marco, also met with Megan and shared that he works three jobs to make ends meet, making school based counseling services the only option for Luis, and was concerned that Luis expressed that he wanted to die. Megan worked with Marco and Luis around communicating and talking about mom, and how Luis felt scared to get close to his dad, worrying that he would lose him too.

“This year, Luis is focused on school, more at peace, and spends time with his friends. He’s engaged and smiles a lot more,” Megan tells us. She continues to see him weekly, where they make paper airplanes and talk about how difficult holidays are without his mom.

Luis is one of the 33,000 students within the CASSY mental health safety net in communities around the Bay Area

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[This is an original post to Witchy Wonderful, the official blog of the Bella Vista League, the non-profit organization behind the annual Wonderful Witchy Women With A Cause luncheon and silent auction. This year’s event will be held on October 28th, 10:30am – 2:00pm, at the Fairmont Hotel, San Jose.]

Spotlight on WANDA

wanda-logo-colorThrough education, mentoring, and savings programs, WANDA (Women’s Achievement Network and Development Alliance) has become a critical foundation for success for many single moms in the Bay Area.  The stories of these single mothers working to better themselves and create a stable life for their children is inspiring. Here is one such story:

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“When I found WANDA, I was newly single. I literally had no job, no car, no education, no money, no house and two small kids (who I homeschooled) on top of it. When I was accept
d into the WANDA program, the first valuable lesson I learned was that my dreams were attainable and I could be successful in my own right. I loved being with a diverse group of mothers with different backgrounds, and while at different stages, were finding common ground in their goal setting and level of financial education. I love knowing that there is support for women who might not have pedigree or resources or education, and that despite of or even because of the struggles and hurdles they (we) face, there are strong believers who support women where they are and to become who they want to be. 

WANDA supports personal growth. What is more valuable and stabilizing in a society than supporting, educating, and uplifting mothers? The skills I learned through the Wcohort-7-copyANDA workshops have taught me to save money as well as manage money. Having a nest egg has given me a free mind, a “being in abundance,” and security even in my relatively modest savings to make bold business moves that are aligned with my values, beliefs and passions. Because of this safety net, I felt confident to invest in the simplest of tools to elevate my business and thus grow my business into what it is today. I used my money to buy a computer and business software. In the bay area, a culture of polished start-ups and business savvy clients, I was able to shift to professional billing, and also track my spending, earnings and profit margins on projects. The new laptop gave me the ability to interface with clients professionally. I was able to brand myself via website and business cards and create corporate identity using programs that were not compatible with my previous, very old and outdated computer. 

Another considerable purchase was the down payment on a work truck. When I started WANDA, I managed to scrape up $1,000 and work off the rest to get a 1999 ford explorer with 3 working doors, chipped paint, stripped down upholstery. On any given day I could be seen cruising down El Camino with a truck full of plants, trees, orchids, bags of soil, once a bag of manure that I am sure lingers to this day. Then I would go and pick up my kids from school with all these plants in the car, and there wouldn’t be any room, but we somehow found a way, to “be careful of the products!”…”just crouch down, don’t bend that branch, we are almost home!” were common phrases to the little ones. It was just what we had to do to get by. 

WANDA funds allowed for a down payment on my work truck. I bought a used truck with a cab large enough to accommodate for my children in the back seat while still allowing for trees and plants in the truck bed. The day I bought the truck I got a sod installation job. Normally I have to hire a guy with a truck to deliver large, miscellaneous items to my job site. Not this time! Instantly that truck made me over $300! I still remember my fist day in the truck picking my boy up from school. It was directly after I had worked with sod, soils, and wheel barrels…I picked up my boy and the cab was clean and he was so proud, he gave me a big high five. That means so much to me to show him how strong, resourceful and capable I am of providing for our family.

img_0721The message of success through saving, perseverance and dedication to a dream I believe in came through strong. I have no doubt that stories among WANDA alumnae would be similar in their gratitude and pride in saving and realization of goals. 

When we get to show our babies what success looks like we get to shine. We are superwomen and WANDA is helping illuminate us, through education, support and community. 

I have graduated from the WANDA program and have fully realized my savings goals. At this stage I am nine credits away from my Associates Degree in Health Sciences and poised to enter University next fall. I have used some of my WANDA savings to fund my education in my health services career path by adding yoga certification to my tool belt. 

Sometimes, when the day is so full of drudgery and I don’t know why I am so crazy and bent on my big dreams of a holistic healing center, I think about my journey over the last 4 years, how my community has supported me thus far. I have experienced miracles. I have shown my children through gritty, bloody, sweaty hard work, through determination, by not giving in, that we CAN make our wildest dreams our lives. We are valuable, our work matters, we are part of a bigger picture than ourselves. WANDA is part of that message.”

My deepest THANK YOU for the people that make WANDA what it is. 

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[This is an original post to Witchy Wonderful, the official blog of the Bella Vista League, the non-profit organization behind the annual Wonderful Witchy Women With A Cause luncheon and silent auction. This year’s event will be held on October 28th, 10:30am – 2:00pm, at the Fairmont Hotel, San Jose.]

Spotlight on My New Red Shoes

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The personal stories of the women and children served by the organizations supported this year by the WWW luncheon fundraiser reminds us quite humbly, how important are our collective efforts.

Here is one such story from My New Red Shoes:

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Rathana and his mother arrived with only a single duffel bag containing both of their belongings. Leaving their abusive home in a state of emergency, Rathana was unable to grab all of his possessions including the shoes he uses to play soccer. To ensure his mother’s safety, he willingly took temporary leave from school (sacrificing his old friends) to relocate to our shelter. Traumatized and financially-stricken, Rathana’s mother worked with a family advocate to access resources and slowly rebuild their lives. During this time, Rathana had little motivation to play soccer, a game he once loved. Instead, he spent most of his time playing video games and kept to himself. Thanks to My New Red Shoes, Rathana received a pair of shoes that he could play soccer in. This has encouraged him to make friends at his new school and return to his old hobby. He now plays soccer every day after school. 

These simple gifts of clothing and shoes to children in need boosts their self esteem and gives them the confidence to engage with other kids at school and perform to their best abilities.

Please join us in helping My New Red Shoes to continue to support these kids by attending our Wonderful Witchy Women With a Cause luncheon fundraiser. Tickets are on sale now until this Sunday, October 23rd. Hope to see you there!

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[This is an original post to Witchy Wonderful, the official blog of the Bella Vista League, the non-profit organization behind the annual Wonderful Witchy Women With A Cause luncheon and silent auction. This year’s event will be held on October 28th, 10:30am – 2:00pm, at the Fairmont Hotel, San Jose. Tickets are on sale now.]