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Thursday, March 7, 2024

This Women’s History Month, We Celebrate the Resilience and Courage of the Women We Serve

In honor of Women’s History Month, we share a few of the most compelling stories of courage and resilience from women we have the privilege of serving and working with across the Agency.

To every woman strong enough to seek help and support when needed––from the young mothers balancing motherhood with high school diplomas, to the women determined to learn new languages, and who do whatever it takes to find safety and security for their families––we celebrate you.


She Will Do Anything for Her Children

“My number one goal was for my daughter to see me graduate. She is the number one reason I was able to do it,” said Danayzah, a 20-year-old recent graduate of Catholic Charities Boston’s HiSET program in Lynn who recently lost her beloved daughter, Jasely, to medical complications.

Having dropped out of high school shortly after becoming pregnant with Jasely, when she was just 16 years old, Danayzah spent years eager to earn her degree and set a good example for her children but was unsure where to begin.

She says discovering Catholic Charities North’s HiSET program in Lynn was a blessing, not only opening new doors for her but also leading her to find strong female role models and mentors who helped her to conquer her goals, including her case manager Colleen Caro.

“Colleen never gave up on me,” she said. “She always said, ‘Keep trying. It can never hurt to try.’”

Shanish, a young mother in Catholic Charities Boston’s Healthy Families program, is a living testament to this sentiment. Having immigrated from Uganda and become a mother only two years later at age 20, Shanish not only had to acclimate to a new country, with no family around, but also to the uncharted waters of motherhood.

Through joining the Healthy Families program, however, she gained confidence in herself as a mother and as an immigrant woman advocating for herself in the U.S. Today, she is a member of a committee comprised of both Healthy Families home visitors and Healthy Families clients, who seek to raise awareness on ways to address racism and prejudice in everyday life.

“Through all of this, I’ve learned to believe in myself,” she said.


She Channels Adversity into Opportunity

When Karen M. lost her son, Nick, to substance use disorder, she said she spent months quietly grieving with her family, longing for a more public space to talk freely about her beloved son and the struggles he endured with addiction.

Through Catholic Charities Boston’s Recovering Connections retreats, a program that offers case management and support groups to the children and families of those with substance use disorders or in recovery, Karen found solidarity and drew strength from other mothers who had been in her shoes. She soon became committed to helping other struggling women with loved ones impacted by substance use disorder. Today, as an active member of Catholic Charities Recovering Connections retreats and the director of a support group called Family Healing and Recovery Ministry, she channels her heartbreak into helping others heal.

“We shouldn’t only be talking about this [substance use disorder] in dark back rooms behind closed doors,” Karen said. “My dream is to see it talked about freely––to see it addressed at the pulpit in mass and among politicians. There’s just so much isolation for those affected by it.”

Doris, who graduated from Catholic Charities Boston’s El Centro program this year, shares Karen’s resilient spirit. In December 2015, she was in a car accident that left her paralyzed in her legs and subsequently spent nearly a year separated from her 11-year-old son while receiving treatment. She credits this traumatic experience for teaching her to make the most of every day. Upon joining Catholic Charities Boston’s El Centro program in 2021, shortly after moving to the U.S., Doris quickly became a leader among her classmates, modelling the power of never giving up.

I would like to see everything I can and explore the world, even from my wheelchair,” Doris said. “I feel free in my wheelchair. I would like to see everything that life has to give to me.”


She Had the Courage to Build a Better Life

Born and raised in Afghanistan, Zarlasht was forced to flee her home in search of safety after the Taliban takeover of Kabul in 2019 – an experience she said completely shattered the life she and her family knew.

“We stayed for two nights at the airport. It was a disaster. It was really one of the worst situations you could ever imagine,” said Zarlasht.

Now, four years later, Zarlasht is working as a paralegal for Catholic Charities Boston’s Refugee and Immigrant Services, where she works with Afghan refugees in need. She credits her success and growth to her Catholic Charities Boston POWIR group, a program that connects refugees to volunteers who help provide housing, transportation, food, basic needs items, medical resources, and advising on academic and career opportunities.

“When we arrived in Boston, I couldn’t believe how kind and welcoming everyone in our group was,” Zarlasht said.

Now, she pays it forward every day by helping other refugees find hope for a brighter future. “I love helping people,” she says.

Philomise, who made the journey from Haiti to the Catholic Charities Inn with her husband and children, almost entirely by foot, is in the process of building a new life for her family.

A devoted mother, she says she is determined to provide her children with opportunities she didn’t have.

“I want my kids to receive a good education,” she says. “I want them to live in a comfortable home.”

Day by day, she is taking steps toward her goal of finding affordable housing and a steady income for her family.

“We just have to have patience,” she says.

These are just a few of the dozens of stories of brave women who walk through the doors of the Agency’s programs every day, helping to maintain the special sense of community that makes Catholic Charities Boston what it is.

Read more clients stories here.

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