Transformations CDC is a non-profit originally started by the bilingual Episcopal church, The Church of Our Saviour/La Iglesia de Nuestro Salvador, to help serve the needs of the undocumented immigrant community in Cincinnati.
Transformaciones/Transformations CDC Director Nancy Sullivan provides a glimpse into the many self-empowerment and problem solving advocacy services provided by this robust organization:
Spring and summer brought many immigrant families to Cincinnati, some of whom had been waiting for more than two years in very dangerous situations in Mexican border towns to apply for asylum in the US.
One young man remains traumatized by all that has happened to him. A gang in Honduras murdered his father and torched their home. He fled with his mother and brother to Mexico, hoping to enter the US and apply for asylum. Instead, they were stuck in Tijuana by President Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy. During their two year wait, another tragedy befell them: his 14 year old brother was murdered in the street. They didn’t even have the money for a proper burial. When the border reopened this spring, his mother sent him across alone as an “unaccompanied minor”.
He was stuck in a shelter for weeks while Transformations assisted his young uncle to complete all the paperwork to become his legal guardian, and we helped arrange transportation from Texas to Cincinnati, supplied him with a bed and clothes and helped enroll him in school. He made it here just in time to participate in a four week immersion course in English provided by Cincinnati Public Schools. But he still struggles with depression and is haunted by the trauma his family experienced.
Transformations is working with CPS School Board and school personnel to figure out how to get mental health care for recent arrivals like him. Typically mental health care is provided in schools through Medicaid, but these non-citizen students don’t qualify.
With so many immigrants coming to unite with family members here, beds were in short supply and out of reach of many poorly paid workers now offering hospitality. Fortunately, networking enabled Transformations to supply at least 40 beds, plus additional furniture, to families. Several partial days of sweat equity enabled families to pick up beds from a university whose dorms were going to be torn down. We also delivered beds to many families who lacked transportation or single mothers of young children who couldn’t come themselves.
NKU also had a dorm full of furniture they were replacing, so we made two trips there with a large UHaul to get more beds and other furniture, which quickly found new homes.
Westmont Outdoor Pantry
In late winter we started a weekly Saturday pantry in a largely immigrant low income apartment community in Price Hill, with some value-added activities. Each week we serve between 18-24 families, (a total of 75 – 100 people including many children). People can easily walk to the central location in a little playground.
A Spanish-speaking social worker with the Addictions Services Council had a rapt audience for her two programs, first on general parenting and talking to your children, the second on how to talk to them about drugs and alcohol.
Another program has brought very tangible results. A savvy new hire for Cincinnati’s Metro system came to ask residents about their bus use: did they use it, where do they typically go on the bus, do they know how much it costs, what are the barriers to bus use? This whole area, with hundreds of apartments, is far from the closest bus. Residents, including high schoolers who often must get on the bus when it is still dark in. the morning, have had to walk down a steep, winding, dark road to catch the bus. After listening carefully and discovering that some students had dropped out because of transportation problems, the young man convinced the Metro board to add a new bus line! Bus #65 officially went live this week, in time for these students’ first day at Dater or Western Hills High Schools.
“Basta” means “enough, as in “stop, enough” in Spanish. Last year saw a terrifying increase in aggravated assaults on immigrants in several specific areas. People were threatened at gun or knife point and robbed and the community had had enough, especially after one man died after an assault. We had several Basta public events in a central little park and worked with the police to improve surveillance, putting in cameras in specific areas, etc.
As a result the violence largely subsided and the community relaxed, but this summer it has ramped up again. We held several more events, including Women Helping Women offering an excellent Active Bystander Training, as well as individuals talking about their recent experiences of assault.
Each year Transformations schedules a canoe trip down the Little Miami for kids and families. The best part is always when we stop on a sandbar and play in the water! Everyone gets into the act and the only hard parts are organizing transportation to the river and then herding people out of the water and back into their canoes! This year we had at least 45 people, from small children to senior citizens, experienced paddlers and first-timers. What a great day!
Transformations has been fortunate to forge a partnership with My Nose Turns Red Youth Circus over recent years. In addition to after school programs at Roberts Academy, they have provided scholarships for many students in the Learning Club to participate in their camps. This year two students were accepted into the two week advanced circus and then participated in three shows in Cincinnati area parks. Another ten students with less experience had their own 9 am – 3 pm weeklong class! The result? Greater self-confidence, exposure to new ideas and people. These opportunities are only possible Transformations can offer them transportation, as we did for five children of immigrants who participated in a free weeklong photography camp in Price Hill.
Enabling them to “Fish”!
Rural Hondurans and Guatemalans who’ve immigrated to Cincinnati lived as subsistence farmers and know how to grow their own food, what they lack here is land. For years they have asked, “Where can I get a little patch of ground to grow some corn?” This spring Transformations negotiated with the Enright Ridge Urban Ecovillage to provide land for gardens and someone donated a dump truck load of composted manure to enrich the soil, other groups donated plant starts and seeds. Six families have participated, growing corn, squash and a variety of other food, some unfamiliar to most of us such as epazote or yerba mora.
In addition to providing food, this garden has been a crucial link to their indigenous cultures and allows them to pass on their experience to their children. We plan to enlarge and improve it next year, as well as introduce ideas such as cover-cropping, unfamiliar to farmers from the tropics.
Submitted by Nancy Sullivan, Transformations CDC Director. August 2021
To learn more about the extraordinary work done by the Transformations CDC Program, check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/621542117877767/
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