Bere finds another home at the 601 building with her neighbors and the Community Building Initiative grant.
Twenty years ago, Berenice moved from Tijuana to the Maple neighborhood. Eventually, she moved into a home across the street from a building at the end of Valencia. Bere watched as that building went from being an abandoned church to a new community center full of activity and life. Little did Bere know, the 601 building would someday be a second home for her and her family.
After signing up her two daughters for the new summer program SOLFul in 2012, Bere befriended Solidarity staff and soon got involved by attending neighborhood parties, cooking for events, and connecting with her neighbors at the 601 building.
Last October, Solidarity was awarded an incubation grant for the Community Building Initiative (CBI) through St. Joseph Health. CBI is a community development strategic process of gathering leaders, surveying the neighborhood, identifying a community issue, and creating a plan for the residents to work together toward solving this issue.
Berenice was a clear choice to be on the core lead team, a team of twelve residents meeting every other Thursday at the 601 Building. The first step of the process was building trust and informing the group of the CBI process. Bere came to the initial meeting, unclear of what CBI was, but left hopeful. She appreciated that it utilized teamwork for identifying and solving a community issue. She could see how CBI would lead to more participation between children, youth, and adults, creating a deeper sense of community in Maple.
Bere can be quiet and shy, but as CBI moved forward, Veronica, Solidarity’s Maple Community Building Lead, noticed Bere was finding her voice. Veronica was inspired by Bere’s words and commitment. “Usually [Bere] is quiet, but when she spoke, you could see the other women would listen,” said Veronica. She went on to share that Bere was so invested that even when terribly ill, Bere would still make the meetings. Bere’s commitment spoke volumes to the rest of the core team.
A community within the community began to grow. As the core leaders interacted, they built trust with one another. This led to a unique opportunity for deeper community through a woman’s Bible study, led by Hope International University professor Kelly Dagley. Once a week, women studied the book of Ruth through the lens of a female’s immigrant journey. Bere and the rest of her neighbors opened up candidly sharing their fears, the trauma, and hopes through their own immigration stories.
One of Bere’s initial dreams entering the U.S. was to go to school and get her degree. Due to the adjustment of learning a new culture and having to support her family, she was never able to invest in her own education, and soon forgot about her dream of college.
CBI and the bible study unlocked a new hope for Bere. Not only did she discover her voice by being a part of the core team, but she recalled a forgotten passion. The small community of women encouraged Bere to finish her GED in order to enroll in higher education in the future.
Bere’s daughters know that when their mom is not home, more often than not, she is at her second home across the street with her friends, investing not only in their neighborhood, but also in herself.