By Elaine Johnson
Our connection with the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) began as an outgrowth of Calvary’s Green Committee. Thinking that we should approach a new recycling campaign holistically, I was asked to reach out to organizations that would get residents into the environment that is affected by our recycling efforts.
Two organizations that came to Calvary over the summer were the Anacostia Watershed Society and WABA. Both groups gave wonderful presentations, but the representative from WABA was serious about getting women at Calvary on bikes and feeling the freedom and ease of movement that they remembered from childhood.
That day finally came on a recent beautiful October morning. With the help of three expert volunteers from WABA and Capital Bikeshare, eight women ventured out on bikes, many for the first time in decades. First, pedals were removed from all of the bikes for the walk down to the Anacostia Recreation Center parking lot—that way women could focus on the weight of the bike in their hands and using hand breaks (versus coaster breaks from their childhood). In the parking lot, they practiced balance exercises with no pedals and power starting with one pedal. Later they had the freedom to bike at-will around the parking lot with both pedals on. The joy was palpable!
Everyone did so well that there was time for a lesson in group ride etiquette before cycling confidently back to Good Hope Road.
We have another ride scheduled for this month…and who knows after that?
Elaine Johnson is the Education Coordinator and oversees LEAP at Calvary Women’s Services.
Lisa has always been an independent woman. Although she moved all over the country as a young woman, she always found a job. When her marriage collapsed after just a few years, she worked hard as a single mother to support her family.
It wasn’t long after Lisa came to Calvary that she started pursuing a different kind of work that is beneficial to herself and to others. She learned about the Foster Grandparent Program through a community action agency in DC. Foster grandparents serve as role models, mentors and friends to children in the community with special needs. They volunteer their time at hospitals, daycare center, juvenile correctional facilities and other locations.
Lisa set her sights on becoming a Foster Grandparent at a hospital, and went through the lengthy process of applying and undergoing a full background check. She was accepted to the program and took a two-week instructional class before being placed in a daycare. Now every weekday, she spends several hours providing comfort and care to babies in need by feeding them, rocking them and playing with them. She hopes that soon she will be able to work in a hospital.
When Lisa first came to Calvary, she says that she had lost more than just a home – she had lost part of herself. Volunteering her time to care for others has revived Lisa’s spirit. She beams with pride as she talks about caring for infants and comforting them when they cry.
“You always learn from mistakes. I’ve had plenty of them, but I always learned,” Lisa says with a broad smile. “I’m still Lisa. I’m proud of myself.”
Last November, a small but mighty group of cyclists participated in the first Roundabout Century Ride – a 100-mile bike ride organized to raise funds for Calvary Women’s Services. In less than one month, the 2nd annual Roundabout Century takes place! The Roundabout Century was organized by Calvary’s IT consultant, Gillian Cook, and her friend Matt Bond. Both Gillian and Matt will be participating in the ride again this year – we thank them for their enduring support of Calvary.
There are still spaces for riders interested in participating in the ride on November 1. Please visit http://bit.ly/roundaboutcentury for more information and to register for the event. Your registration fee and any additional funds raised will be donated directly to Calvary Women’s Services and used to support our housing, health, education and employment programs for women.
This year’s event is generously supported by The Bike Rack, a DC bike shop. The Bike Rack will accompany riders on the route and perform bike tune-ups and adjustments prior to the ride. Female cyclists are welcome! The Bike Rack is committed to promoting women in cycling at all levels, from casual cyclists to commuters to competitive riders.
Riders will enjoy a healthy lunch at the Amsterdam Falafelshop in Annapolis. Amsterdam Falafelshop is offering riders a 10% discount on their meal. Immediately following the ride, participants and friends are invited to a happy hour celebration at the Ugly Mug located in Southeast DC. Celebrate your 100-mile accomplishment with hearty food and drinks. The Ugly Mug will also be donating 10% of sales from the group to Calvary!
By Lindsay and Emily Dessem, volunteers from the Junior League of Washington
We’re happy to announce that after a summer hiatus the Calvary book club got back to reading a few weeks ago! Every other Sunday, Junior League volunteers meet with women at Calvary to discuss the current book. The PEN/Faulkner Foundation provides books for women and even arranges for the author to visit for certain books.
The book club at Calvary brings together women from different walks of life and gives us a common purpose. We all come from different experiences but the books we read unite us in a passion for reading. Our discussions in book club show us how alike we are and remind us of our common experiences as women. Books serve as the common ground through which we share, learn and form friendships.
This fall we are focusing on short stories, followed by a novel in January and poetry in the spring. Currently we are reading Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self by Danielle Evans. The collection of short stories has been well-received and has sparked great discussion about growing up, motherhood, race and family. Danielle Evans visited Calvary last spring and gave us all great insight into her process and world views.
The engagement and enthusiasm of everyone in the room is apparent during book club meetings. Book club encourages women in the process of changing their lives to adopt a healthy habit for life and inspires us all (whether living at Calvary or not) to read more. We look forward to many more books and many more great discussions at Calvary!
Eva has been a wonderful asset to Calvary’s Life Skills, Education and Arts Program (LEAP). She currently teaches Conversational Spanish and Yarn Works classes, expanding the horizons of Calvary’s residents. Her enthusiastic, conversational approach to learning can be applied to any topic. Eva has also battled with a knee injury since joining us, and her response has been a lesson in and of itself – she sent knitting photos from her hospital bed, told tales of navigating public transport with crutches and shared her attitude of keeping an optimistic outlook through difficult times. Thank you, Eva, for caring for women at Calvary by sharing from your experience! Read about Eva’s volunteer experiences at Calvary below.
Where are you from?
I was born in Mexico and grew up in Los Angeles.
Share a fun fact about yourself!
I have my own podcast where I talk about sports, culture and news topics of the week.
How did you first hear about Calvary?
I did an online Google search for a women’s shelter and Calvary came up!
Why do you volunteer at Calvary?
I chose Calvary because I did similar professional and volunteer work in Los Angeles in the Skid Row area before coming here. I was looking for a small organization that provided the rare smaller program environment to their participants. Calvary is unique because it focuses on quality vs. quantity!
What do you like best about your work with Calvary?
I like that it’s a close knit community. Being a volunteer in a small organization allows me to meet more women at the center and connect with them at a real level.
What has been your most memorable experience at Calvary?
This summer I had surgery on my knee and the women made me a get well card with Spanish phrases!
What has surprised you most about volunteering at Calvary?
The fact that every five days one woman moves from Calvary and into her own home.
What would you tell someone considering getting involved with Calvary?
You are always learning something at Calvary! Calvary staff and participants want volunteers to enjoy their experience and learn as much as possible about the programs they offer. You are offering your time and a service to help but the volunteer learns a lot too!
If you had to choose ONE word to describe Calvary, what would it be?
LEAP facilitators such as Eva are committed and enthusiastic instructors who lead educational and enrichment classes on a wide variety of topics for Calvary residents on weekday afternoons. We welcome volunteers who can commit to lead ongoing classes for up to 15 participants that offer tangible skills and promote well-being. This is a great opportunity for skilled volunteers to share their knowledge, and a great chance to develop a meaningful relationship with our residents. If you would like to learn more about volunteering at Calvary, please contact Catherine Bisson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 678-2341.
September is National Recovery Month and this year’s 25th anniversary theme is “Join the Voices for Recovery: Speak Up, Reach Out.” Schwanna Cockerham-Qualls leads individual and group therapy sessions, and offers a reflection on the National Recovery Month theme in relation to the experiences of women at Calvary.
By Schwanna Cockerham-Qualls, LPC, MA
“I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” –William Ernest Henley
There is no easy way to give voice to yourself or your experiences. In order to speak up and reach out you have to first think that you can. Calvary Women’s Services provides a safe haven for women to begin to think they can. Through individual therapy, case management and group counseling services, Calvary educates and promotes speaking up and reaching out.
Women come to Calvary with multiple experiences of trauma, little or no family support, addiction, mental illness, unhealthy relationships, homelessness and low self-esteem. When an individual has been living in dysfunction, they become loyal to the dysfunction. They live and breathe it. Recovery becomes a challenge for those familiar with dysfunction. Groups and individual therapy help women learn how to take care of themselves so they can be present in recovery. In my work, I offer a safe place for women to lay out dysfunction and face it.
Through psycho-educational groups such as “Healthy Relationships,” “Understanding Mental Health Disorders” and “Relapse Prevention,” women find their voices. The psycho-educational groups are not just about offering information but helping women understand themselves on a deeper level. An example of this is through the “Healthy Relationships” group, where we focus on fear, attachment, control and entitlement that is brought into relationships. We also explore how we see ourselves in relationships, what we learned about relationships within our family, how we communicate to others and how to set boundaries.
These deeper levels of exploration help women talk about themselves. It is the stories we tell about our lives and our experiences that help us to reach out. At Calvary, women work to understand their stories, know their stories and voice their stories. In time, women become who they believe they are.
On Monday we welcomed health care professionals and volunteers for the Fall Health Fair, where women had the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about health issues that matter to them. Some of the topics discussed during the day included menopause, breast health, mental illness and colon health. The Fall Health Fair was organized by Calvary’s summer intern Sara Mullery.
Representatives from the Capital Breast Care Center located in Southeast DC started the Fair with a presentation on breast health, mammograms and the importance of doing regular self-exams. Students from the George Washington University School of Nursing followed up with a presentation on menopause. Women recognized some familiar volunteer faces from the first “Your Health” class at Calvary held earlier this month. Next, a speaker from the National Alliance on Mental Illness Northern Virginia, spoke candidly about her lifelong struggle with depression. She shared moments from her “dark days” as well as the diagnosis, treatment and coping techniques that allow her to manage her depression and still have a full life. Finally, women heard a myth-busting presentation about colon health given by Jessica, a program assistant from the Howard University Cancer Center.
Following a morning full of interactive and engaging presentations, residents enjoyed lunch and visited stations where they could have their blood pressure taken, get a relaxing massage, check their body mass index (BMI) and learn about sustainable farming practices that produce healthy fruits and vegetables.
The LEAP space bustled with activity as women visited different tables. Many women commented positively on the amount of information they picked up. It was hard for anyone to pick their favorite topic of the day! Conversations surrounding women’s health will continue as the weekly “Your Health” class focuses on subjects like diabetes and dental hygiene.
Thank you to all of the groups and individuals who contributed to the Fall Health Fair, including CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield, the George Washington University School of Nursing, Howard University Cancer Center, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Northern Virginia, Common Good City Farm, the Capital Breast Care Center and massage therapist Kelly Bowers. Special thanks to CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield for generously donating reusable bags, lip balm, toothbrushes, hand sanitizer and pedometers.
View more photos from the Health Fair on our Flickr page.