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CAMBA Connection May/June 2012

Park Slope Women's Shelter Goes Organic, With a Little Help From Friends

CAMBA Connection, May/June 2012


The grassy, green front yard of the Park Slope Women’s Shelter looks like the perfect spot for some good, healthy outdoor activities. And now, thanks to a huge local collaboration, one of those activities will be the tending of a new organic garden.

The shelter’s garden came to be on a Sunday afternoon in mid-May, when business owners, organizational leaders, shelter staff and some helpful kids joined PSWS residents for the big planting day. The group worked together to put down garden beds, plant seeds and lay the groundwork for future fresh meals. Cooperation was the theme and spirits were high.

“It was wonderful to see the excitement and how everyone was working together,” says Eugenie Woo, co-founder of Brooklyn Commune, a nearby café and one of the garden’s main supporters. “Whenever the group completed something, there were high-fives all around.”

Now planted, the garden will provide shelter residents with an ongoing project, and it will soon put forth a plethora of organic vegetables and herbs, including lettuces, radishes, cherry tomatoes, other salad greens, lavender and marigolds, to name a few.

And beyond the food, the personal benefits for the shelter’s women were already visible at the planting. Woo spoke with one of the residents at the event and took away the following: “This whole experience is really filling a void for her. It was encouraging that this could mean that much. Some of them [the residents] are saying that they’re going to watch over this with all their hearts.”

As warm as the feelings were that day, getting there took its own collective effort of support and generosity. Just a few weeks before, Brooklyn Commune held a weekend of dessert-based fundraising, with a strawberry shortcake eating contest and dessert bake-off that drew a crowd. The weekend, along with Brooklyn Commune’s ongoing fundraising drive, brought in $900, which went toward the plots, soil and seedlings.

So much support on an in-kind level also made the garden possible. The local nonprofit Adopt A Farmbox donated an additional farmbox (the garden plot); the children at the planting learned all about urban agriculture with Grounded Knowledge, another Brooklyn-based organization; and Project Eats, an urban farming organization already collaborating with Brooklyn Commune, made a last-minute contribution of some seedlings.

“Park Slope Women’s Shelter staff and clients had an uplifting experience working side by side with our amazing and generous community partners,” says Faye Merolla, Program Manager at PSWS.

Now that the garden’s been planted, you can stop by and check the progress. The shelter is located at 1402 Eighth Avenue in Park Slope.  And stay tuned for possible news of events, using the garden’s tasty crops, later in the season.

Have any great summer vegetable recipes? Send them to and people could be enjoying them at one of our events.


English Language Teachers Gather to Learn From a Master

CAMBA Connection, May/June 2012


For almost three decades, CAMBA has been on the cutting edge of teaching English to immigrants and refugees whose home countries span the globe, from Bangladesh to Haiti and beyond.
One reason our English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes are effective is because our staff is always learning too.
Recently, we hosted international expert and author Bill Bliss, who presented a professional development workshop for almost 100 CAMBA staff and ESOL teachers throughout New York City. Since 1974, Bliss has held many roles in English language teaching, including managing a refugee center, providing expert literacy advice to government and schools and advocating for immigrant and refugee education. His textbooks are a cornerstone in ESOL classrooms.
At CAMBA's workshop, Bliss focused on two issues that are especially challenging for ESOL instructors: working with "low-literacy students" who lack basic reading and writing skills and integrating activities that address all students in a multi-level class.
Gina Vellani Ellis, CAMBA ESOL Program Supervisor, organized the workshop and reported an enthusiastic turnout.
"I've dreamed of meeting Bill Bliss, and it was everything and more than I ever hoped for," said one participant. "The activities, his down-to-earth approach, his respect for the participants and his love of the craft were obviously clear."
Another participant immediately put her new knowledge into practice, noting that "I have been using his [Bill Bliss'] materials and using his methods for years, but learned them through other instructors. The workshop gave me much more insight. It was very useful since last night I was evaluated... and used one of his dialogues and methods during the demonstrations. It went very well."


Team CAMBA Walks Against AIDS

CAMBA Connection, May/June 2012


On an early Sunday morning in late May, about 30 CAMBA staff, clients and family members made the trip into Manhattan to add their numbers to the fight against AIDS. Team CAMBA was on its way to Central Park for the 27th Annual AIDS Walk New York, where they joined 45,000 others who were out for the cause.
The festive walk through the park raised over $6 million for GMHC and 40 other local HIV/AIDS service organizations. According to organizers, AIDS Walk NY has raised over $120 million since 1986 for HIV/AIDS programs and services in the tri-state area, and it has grown into the largest AIDS fundraising event in the world.
The CAMBA group included showings from Case Management and Supportive Services (CMSS), Health Homes, HOPE, Scattered Site, Winthrop Housing Programs, the Park Slope Women's Shelter, the Supportive Counseling and Family Stabilization Program (SCFS) and 1720 staff.
Clients from programs at 19 Winthrop St. went out and walked for several weeks leading up to the AIDS Walk to train for the event and as part of a new health awareness initiative.
"People are really happy celebrating this great event, being part of it," says Carlos Guevara, a CAMBA Program Manager and AIDS Walk participant.
If your walking appetite has been whet, stay tuned for news on how to join Team CAMBA in the NYC Pride March on June 24th.



Employee Profile: Annette Rivera

Director, The Gathering Place Drop-In Center
CAMBA Connection, May/June 2012

What is your current position and program and how long have you worked at CAMBA?
I am currently the Director at The Gathering Place Drop-in Center.  I've been in this position for the last seven years, but I have been with CAMBA for a total of 20 years.

What other positions, if any, have you held at CAMBA and at what sites have you worked?
I started out as a case manager at the Eviction Prevention Units, for three years, then I worked with the Food Pantry and Homelessness Intervention Program for five years. In 2000, I started up the first (original) Homebase program until 2003. From 2003 to 2005, I oversaw the Rental Assistance Program, Relocation and Employment Assistance Program, while still overseeing the Food Pantry and HIP.

What part of your job do you find most rewarding? 
I no longer have as much of the one-on-one interaction with clients to feel that I am personally instrumental in assisting them to overcome their obstacles, but I enjoy passing on my knowledge and experience to case managers so that they can share in their clients victories.

What are two important things that you have learned while working at CAMBA? 
1. You need thick skin in this business. 2. Gratitude is great when you get it, but you can never expect it. If you do not get personal satisfaction from your accomplishments, you will become miserable.

Why do you do what you do (your job)?
I've always enjoyed puzzles.  The puzzles I work on these days are human beings. Tapping into an individual's strengths, weaknesses and motivation is what drives me and makes every day a new challenge.

What one thing would you most like colleagues at CAMBA to know about you that they may not already know?
I'm an open book; I can't think of anything.

Where did you grow up?  Are you originally from New York City?  If not, how long have you lived in NYC? 
I grew up and lived in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn for 30 years.  I now live in the Bronx.

What are your favorite styles of music?
I enjoy R&B, jazz, oldies, Salsa, Bachata, ballads and some hip-hop and pop.

If an actor/actress were to play you in a movie, who would it be and why? 
Rosie O'Donnell for obvious reasons.

What is your favorite spot or thing to do in New York City?
Sitting on a Brooklyn stoop on a warm summer night with family and friends telling stories.

Where is your favorite place to get lunch in Brooklyn?
Best Deli on the corner of Grand and Atlantic Avenues. Any chance I get to pick up one of their salads, I'm there. 

What profession other than your own would you like to try out? 



Community Profile: Suheiri Rodriguez

Peer Leader, Teen Relationship Abuse Prevention Program (RAPP)
CAMBA Connection May/June 2012

What’s your connection to CAMBA?
I have been a Peer Leader with CAMBA Teen RAPP since the summer of 2009, during my sophomore year in high school.

Where did you grow up, where do you live now?
I grew up for the most part in Washington Heights. I have moved around a lot to different homes because I am in foster care and was relocated an array of times. I am currently still living still in Washington Heights in a kinship home with my grandmother's cousin.

What is Teen RAPP?
CAMBA Teen RAPP is a relationship abuse prevention program that teaches teenagers like myself about the five forms of abuse, sexual harassment and bullying so that we as teens can talk to teens like ourselves about dating violence and how it can not be tolerated. The whole idea behind it that it is better for teens like myself to teach other teens about dating violence so that they may relate.

How and when did you first get involved with CAMBA?
During my health class, David Introduced himself and the program and, ever since then, I have volunteered and dedicated myself to this program. I was first hired for the summer of 2009, rehired in the summer 2011 and during each school year, I have volunteered hours to advocate for the program during rallies at City Hall and to educate other students on abuse, sexual harassment and bullying.

What has CAMBA meant to you?
CAMBA has always represented more than just a job to me. Over the years I have come to learn that it has been my outlet to any adversities I have gone through or am going through. CAMBA has given me a support system that was dearly needed not only for myself but, as I have noticed, for so many other students who have gone through unimaginable things at the age of 17, 18, even 14.

How’s your life different now than when you first started with CAMBA?
I have learned to not tolerate any abuse from any form of relationship, whether an intimate one, friendship, family or same sex partnership. Abuse should not be tolerated or done because it takes a huge toll on individuals. Whether it is noticed or spoken about, or not, it is still done. It has allowed me to balance out my life and see who should be in it. I can now see who is my friend or partner and who will support me or hurt me.

What’s your most vivid memory or most lasting impression of a CAMBA experience?
My first summer with CAMBA I met about 16 to 20 students who were first-timers like myself. I obviously expected to learn about different forms of abuse and how it affects people, but I didn't know that summer would be the way it was. Basically each student there let their hearts out, including myself, telling each other what we have been through and are going through. And we all realized that that summer was so successful and worth it because of how we got the help of social workers. When we did outreach events with students who have little to no knowledge on the program we were able to say with no hesitation, what we did, how we did it, why we do it and how we can help them! It was just a great emotional learning experience that we were all thankful for. Unfortunately summers like these don't last forever.

What are your plans for the future?
I am now at Niagara University, studying communications with a minor in sociology and philosophy. I plan on trying my best to continue with RAPP or create a program identical to it so that the endeavors and beliefs these programs relate will continue. I believe it is my obligation as a senior peer leader at RAPP to continue this work.

How happy are you with your life right now?
I am extremely happy with my life. I cannot complain because, already being in the foster care system since the age of seven and being through a number of traumatic experiences at a young age, it was assumed that I would be lucky even to make it through high school. Now I'm in college. I can't complain and wish to change nothing. I would just like to continue my success.

Tell us something really interesting about yourself.
There's not much to say. I am now 19. I have been published twice before the age of 18. I was granted the Horatio Alger scholarship for adversity last year, which I use now to assist me in paying for college. In high school I went to school six days a week because I was a part of a nonprofit called Sponsors for Education Opportunity and they, along with CAMBA, helped me because they were really the ones that put the idea of college in my mind. They actually paid for me to go to a pre-college program at Skidmore College during my Junior year in high school.



Thanks For the Food!

CAMBA Connection, May/June 2012

This year's Spring Food Drive brought in a whopping 1,885 donated items for our Beyond Hunger Emergency Food Pantry. We want to give a huge, heartfelt thanks to all the individuals, organizations, schools and businesses who help keep the pantry open to feed so many hungry people.

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