Posts Tagged ‘South Bronx’

Pregnant and Sleeping in Parks

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

mocha-goodcounselBy Alice Kenny

Worn out, desperate and five months pregnant, Mocha slept in parks, shelters, subways – any place she could find — before she found her way to Good Counsel Homes, an affiliate of Catholic Charities.

“I felt like I was the lowest of the lows,” she says, her brown eyes batting back tears.

Her experience is typical of women served by Good Counsel Homes, says its co-founder and Executive Director Christopher Bell as he steers a 2008 blue KIA minivan, dropping off donations of diapers, baby food and changing tables at Good Counsel Homes in Spring Valley, Harrison, Hoboken and the South Bronx.

“Women who come to us are all in crisis,” he says. “Their boyfriends told them to have an abortion.  Their moms threw them out when their babies were born.  Fewer than half have high school degrees.  Our job is to help them rebuild their lives.”

Counting Mocha, Good Counsel Homes has rebuilt nearly 6,000 lives since it began in 1984.  Similar to most, Mocha stayed there for nearly a year and a half.  She gave birth to her baby, worked two jobs, studied to become an electrocardiogram technician and learned how to be a mom.

“As soon as I stepped through the door I felt I had a home where I could get back on my feet,” she says.

Begun in a converted convent with a lot of help and little money, Good Counsel Homes now networks with maternity homes throughout the nation.

But, Mr. Bell says, it is caring for a single lonely mom and a single helpless baby that matters  most.  For Mocha, Good Counsel Homes gave her and the little boy she bore a chance for rebirth.

Today she and her now three-year-old son have a home of their own.

“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them,” Mocha says.

Meet Mocha in this video.

Do you know someone facing a crisis pregnancy?

“Anyone from anywhere for any reason at any age can call our crisis help line,” Mr. Bells says.

Call 1- 800-723 8331.  Call now.

Giving Ex-Offenders a Second Chance

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

By Alice KennyATI & Families Shared Meal Time

The Catholic Charities federation of 90 agencies provides a wide range of human services throughout the Archdiocese of New York. Some are sponsored by religious communities, while others have grown from parish communities. Still others were founded by charismatic clergy, religious, or lay leaders. Together they form the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York: a federation of administered, sponsored and affiliated agencies touching almost every human need.

This summer offers a great time to spotlight their impressive histories and the unique, unparalleled services they offer.  Today, let’s learn about Abraham House.

This Catholic Charities sponsored agency traces its origins to two Roman Catholic clergy, Sr. Simone Ponnet, a Belgian nun of the Little Sisters of the Gospel order and Fr. Peter Raphael, a French priest who volunteered as a chaplain and celebrated mass with inmates at Rikers Island maximum-security prison.

Alarmed by the continuing cycle of repeat offenders, they founded Abraham House in 1993. Located in the Mott Haven neighborhood of the South Bronx, Abraham House offers the incarcerated, ex-offenders and their relatives, regardless of their religion, a place of hope and community where lives can be rebuilt, families mended, lessons learned, and men, women and children deeply marked by crime can receive the spiritual, social and practical tools to become productive citizens.

Their innovative programs include an alternative-to-incarceration program for first-time offenders, especially those convicted of nonviolent crimes. Sponsored by the Catholic Charities Alliance, Abraham House offers extensive services to hundreds of adults and children affected by incarceration or other social factors like poverty, violence and truancy.

Find out more.

Riding the River for Peace and Justice

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

By Alice Kenny

bxrivercanoeIt’ a sunny day in the South Bronx and David Shuffler climbs into a canoe. Hemmed in by four major highways – the Bruckner, the Cross Bronx, the Bronx River and the Sheridan expressways—his Bronx River neighborhood’s one-square mile houses the nations’ highest respiratory-illness rate, places one out of every two youth below the poverty line and is infamous as the spot where police shot dead unarmed Amadou Diallo.

But it also has a rare treasure that, until recently, was mostly abused; the Bronx River.

Mr. Shuffler, today the executive director of Catholic Charities affiliate Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice (YMPJ), was once one of the kids coming up on the streets here.  YMPJ started when drug dealers owned the neighborhood, burning down a church to retaliate for a prayer vigil held to close local crack dens’ doors.

Now, thanks in large part to YMPJ’s mobilization, residents are taking their neighborhood back. They got the Army Corps of Engineers to clean up three tons of debris–  including 15,000 tires, cars and filth –abandoned along the waterfront.  They took back a crumbling cement plant and converted into a public park. They replaced menacing streets with an arts and education outlets for teens.  And they are fighting back poverty by providing wrap-around support services for parents.

But nothing, Mr. Shuffler says, better symbolizes what YMPJ is accomplishing – or makes him feel better – than YPNJ’s canoe program.

As part of it, neighborhood teens are taught the camera’s intricacies of shutter speeds and angles. They learn how to monitor air and water quality.  And with their newfound expertise, teens that never before touched the river then tumble into YMPJ’s 10 canoes.  They snap photos and sample water purity as they paddle by the Botanical Gardens, the Bronx Zoo, all the way up to the splendor and stonework of the Kensico Dam.

“As you go up river it’s a crazy experience to see how access to the river changes,” Mr. Shuffler says.  “In Kensico people just walk up and touch the river.  Our teens say ‘why isn’t that the case in our community,” why is it lined with fences and gates and bobbing with plastic bags and pollution?

“Our creative arts-based curriculum opens young people’s eyes to the issues of environmental justice, police reform and opportunities they have to make a real difference,” he adds.

David gets this deep down. He was 13, going on 14, when his parents pushed him into becoming one of the then-new agency’s early participants.  Begun in St. Joan of Arc Church basement in 1994, YMPJ gave him a safe place to hang out while fostering his skills in soccer, journalism, arts and culture.  He worked his way up from participant to youth organizer.

Now, nearly 20 years later, he serves as its executive director.

“There’s an army of other soldiers coming up now,” he says as his paddle gently splashes the water, “children who will ideally move on into the banking world, political scene and nonprofits where they will share the principles and values they learned with us of community and peace and social justice.”

Learn more about Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice.

Art, Salsa and Stickball: A Celebration of the South Bronx

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

You might not expect to hear a trumpet fanfare, see a game of stickball or witness a performance by the award-winning dancer Arthur Aviles on the streets of Hunts Point and Longwood, but on Saturday, October 6th, that’s exactly what audience members experienced. The final event in last weekend’s celebration of the South Bronx featured 88 performers showcasing the music, dance and games that contributed to the vibrant culture of the neighborhood throughout history.

Earlier that day, visitors met at Casita Maria Center for Arts & Education for a walking tour of the South Bronx Culture Trail. A two year initiative, the Trail celebrates the rich cultural history of the South Bronx. For example, visitors heard about some of the biggest names in Latin music who came from the area, and they learned that salsa legends Eddie Palmieri, Joe Quijano and Ray Barretto went to school at P.S. 52.

After the tour of the Trail, participants viewed the opening of the HOME exhibit at Casita Maria. The exhibit features objects brought in by members of the Casita Maria community that answer the question, “What does home mean to you?” Also on display are collaborative works between artists and the South Bronx community.

The celebration culminated in PASEO, which means “promenade.” Performers and audience members alike took to the streets with a parade through the neighborhood accompanied by lively music and dancing. On the street known as Banana Kelly, pigeons were released from a roof overhead. Participants also got to see games of stickball, double dutch and skelsies.

Created by Casita Maria and Dancing in the Streets to encourage community members and visitors to embrace the fascinating history of the South Bronx, the South Bronx Culture Trail helps bring people together and keep younger generations engaged in their cultural past.

Find out more about Casita Maria, view photos from Saturday’s celebration or watch a video of PASEO’s festivities.

How do you celebrate the cultural history of your neighborhood?