Transformations CDC is a non-profit organization created by Church of Our Saviour/ Iglesia de Nuestro Salvador, Cincinnati. Its mission is to build bridges to recovery, restoration and self-reliance for persons who have struggled to survive; overcome the legacy of slavery, prejudice and racism; find ways out of oppressive poverty; strengthen families and households; nurture and support children; restore community; and connect people with spiritual power.

Candidate for ordination Charles Graves IV tutors a young boy at the Price Hill Learning Club

We are often asked, “What does Transformations CDC do?” Our mission is clear, and what we do can change as we listen and respond to evolving needs in the community.

Immigrants are terrified by the prospect of increased deportations under the new administration. Many have lived in the US for years and have citizen children. If a parent is deported, how can their minor children get passports and reunite with them? Children of single mothers who have been detained or deported often go into the foster care system; some are adopted out because the courts say the parent has “abandoned” them!

It is almost impossible for a single mother to get a minor’s passport when the father has been deported. How can she keep her child out of foster care? (Hint: Power of Attorney) TCDC researched these questions, with detailed info on Tristate passport offices, and created a handout in Spanish available around the region. An agency working with African immigrants has asked permission to translate it into French for their clients.

The after-school Learning Club for English Language Learners, (mostly children born in the US, in Spanish-speaking households), is one of our oldest programs. In addition to assisting with homework and encouraging reading, etc., tutors like Charles Graves IV and the Rev. Bill Scrivener address health and hygiene issues and safety concerns. For example, if your parents had an outhouse before coming to the US, you may never have been taught about toilet seats! Learning Club tutors have gamely explained to boys about aiming for the bowl and when to put the seat up or down. Girls similarly hear about hygiene-related issues in the bathroom.

Ten-year-old Norma, who recently received asylum in the US, receives a commendation from Cincinnati Police Department for her bravery when she called 911 after her brother was badly injured. Norma is shown with Officer Richard Longworth, immigrant affairs liaison.

Talking about basics like dialing 911 may have dramatic results. Recently a nine-year-old boy injured his arm with broken glass, resulting in a 12” long laceration and two nearly severed tendons. When neighbors refused the mother’s plea for a ride to the hospital, his 10-year-old sister (who had practiced with a tutor) knew to dial 911. The Cincinnati Police honored her with a certificate in “Recognition of her bravery in an emergency”.

Education leads to improved employment opportunities and more economic stability for an individual and the whole family. Locally, the Ohio Carpenters Union has an apprenticeship program open to Spanish-speaking as well as English speaking workers. To complete the program, participants must have their GED, which also enables them to enroll in Cincinnati State for an Associate’s degree in construction.

The new GED test is very difficult. Most who plan to take it first enroll in a GED prep program; around Cincinnati you can get individualized help navigating through the practice books. However, although you can take the GED test in Spanish, there appear to be only two GED preparation programs in Spanish, in the entire nation. TCDC has networked with education institutions around the region and researched best practices for such a program. Armed with research as well as the potential market for local GED prep in Spanish, TCDC will team up with a respected community education organization, hoping for a joint launch by mid-summer.

Advocating for immigrant inclusion is an ongoing, worthy challenge. The Cincinnati Women’s March scheduled in January had a Facebook invitation, in English only, although Cincinnati is home to many women who don’t read English! When TCDC pointed this out, the organizers invited us to create a FB invitation in Spanish.

The Women’s City Club is bringing nationally known TV reporter Maria Hinojosa to speak about immigration issues, but hadn’t considered that local immigrants would be interested. TCDC called WCC to recommend simultaneous translation and publicity in Spanish. They agreed and are following up with the Interfaith Worker Center to get the resources. We also suggested that scholarships for the event go preferentially to immigrants.

The mother of a Learning Club student working on her own literacy while her son receives tutoring.

What is next on the horizon? Finding ways for the immigrant community more effectively to address issues like domestic violence, trauma and alcoholism, which are constant themes in many lives. Of course, it all revolves around legal and economic insecurity. Wherever we step into the circle, the needs will intersect.

Photos by Nancy Sullivan

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Nancy Sullivan is a community activist, organizer of Transformations CDC and a member of the Church of Our Saviour/ Iglesia de Nuestro Salvador.