Love Mouity – From Refugee to Staff Member

Love Mouity – From Refugee to Staff Member

Love Mouity has degrees from several colleges: SU’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Onondaga Community College and a few universities in Paris. The degrees from Paris are good ones, but didn’t translate well in the American job market. So, when he arrived in Syracuse as a refugee from the Republic of the Congo 11 years ago, he went back to school. His Bachelor’s from Maxwell is in International Relations with a specialization in International Security and Diplomacy. He shrugs off the suggestion that this is a lot of years of schooling to go through.

Catholic Charities’ Executive Director Mike Melara (left) and Love Mouity

“I like to be living proof to my peers, the newcomers,” Love says, speaking of refugees who are currently resettling through our Refugee Services.  “I like to be able to show that with will and confidence, you can make it.”

Love cares deeply about the success and well-being of today’s refugees. In addition to leading by example, he works for our Refugee Services to assist new arrivals as a Health Care Assistant Coordinator. In this position, he helps recently arrived refugees attend doctor’s appointments and serves as an advocate and translator. (He speaks, in varying degrees, 7 languages.) He’s been in the position for a year.

“It is a way to give back to the organization,” he says. “I had always hoped to be able to do that.”

Love came to Syracuse with two of his brothers. One is now a financial advisor and the other is an engineer. Occasionally, he says, it occurs to him that he could leave Central New York, go to New York City or Washington, D.C. and maybe seek new opportunities. Whenever these thoughts occur, though, his ultimate conclusion is the same.

“I am a Syracusan,” says Love. “I love this city.”

Love’s dedication and his unique skills and life experience mean he is especially well-suited to helping others. In that way, he is like any member of our staff. Not all are so aptly named, of course, with the notable exception of CYO staff members Wisdom and Hope. Other staff members joke tongue-in-cheek that the days where the CYO has Wisdom but no Hope or Love are rather bleak, but thankfully, those days are few and far between.

Every day in all of our programs, we rely on a unique team to live out our dedication to serving the most vulnerable people in our community.  It is an honor to count dedicated, compassionate people like Love among our members.

 

Posted by Bridget Dunn, Communications and Community Outreach Coordinator 

Refugees Services and School Preparation

Refugees Services and School Preparation

Above, a staff member helps a young girl with homework after school.

Tarana* is a bright, determined 18-year-old. She is also an Afghani refugee from Pakistan. She arrived in Syracuse just two months ago with no English skills and limited formal education.

CYO Summer Academy students pose after their graduation ceremony.

Starting a new school as a teenager is undeniably challenging. Doing so in a new language and culture is more so. But Tarana is determined to succeed.

Before starting high school, Tarana was enrolled in “Academy” at the CYO (our Refugee Services Center). Academy is a month-long course designed to help youth like Tarana make the transition into American schools. It includes English language classes and introduction to American school culture. For refugee youth, many of whom have spent years in refugee camps, formal schooling conventions are unfamiliar. Tarana learned quickly. As Case Manager Lydia Andrews helped Taraba get to high school on her first day, Tarana showed off her English. She said “Hello! How are you? Good morning,” and, finally, “From CYO.” Her new knowledge, she meant, had been gained through the Academy program.

Refugee Services staff have been impressed by Tarana’s resilience. “She’s eager to take advantage of the educational opportunities she’s heard are available to her in the American system,” says Lydia. “Similar opportunities were difficult for her to access in Pakistan.”

“She has already grown so much in just a few weeks of class and life in America,” says Lydia. “We look forward to hearing more about her success.”

 

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*name has been changed

Posted by Bridget Dunn, Communications Coordinator

Project Joseph at the Cathedral

Project Joseph at the Cathedral

Above, members of the Project Joseph team tend to St. Agnes Cemetery in late summer 2016.

Our Project Joseph team works on a wide variety of jobs throughout the county. They do maintenance and renovations at Catholic Charities properties, repair stones in cemeteries, remove snow at vacant properties and more. Last week, though, they were assigned a special, last minute task. Retired Syracuse Bishop James Moynihan had passed away, and the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception needed to be in top shape for his funeral.

The challenge? The cathedral is undergoing extensive renovations. Last week they were in the midst of repainting the ceiling. There was scaffolding reaching up to the 50 foot vaulted ceilings and drop cloths across the floor. There was dust coating everything, and the Diocese was expecting a full house on Friday the 10th (including 100 priests and 8 bishops).

Between Monday the 6th and Thursday the 9th, seven Project Joseph team members assisted the painters in dismantling their scaffolding and then carrying planks, ramps and tarps out of the cathedral. They stayed on to dust the pillars and pews and mop the floor.  The job was mostly complete by Wednesday afternoon, leaving one day for fine tuning before the cathedral filled to honor Bishop Moynihan on Friday.

The Project Joseph team will continue to be part of the cathedral renovation, which started up again on Monday after the team carried back in the planks, tarps and ramps. They’re vital to Phase II of the construction, which includes pulling up the floor to install a new heating system. Most of the crew members who are part of this work are Nepalese refugees.

Project Joseph was proud to be part of preparing the cathedral for this special mass. The team looks forward to continuing to play a role in the renovation of the Diocese’s mother church.

Family Photo Day at CYO

Family Photo Day at CYO

Above, two brothers take a look at their portraits with Kate Holmes, CYO staff member. 

 

Every holiday season for the last few years, our CYO (Refugee Services), has offered people the chance to get a family portrait taken. This year, we took advantage of the flexibility of MLK, Jr. Day to offer another opportunity. Several families came by in the morning to get their photos taken by Kate Holmes, BIA Rep and ONA Manager at the CYO.

“A lot of these families haven’t had portraits taken,” Kate said as she waited for another family to step up to her makeshift studio. “Or if they have, they’ve only been for documentation purposes. So they don’t smile. They’re very stoic. But they do smile when they see the results.”

The photos are printed, framed, and distributed to the families. For people who may not have had a place to call home for years, having a portrait to put on the mantel is a small but tangible indication of a new chapter.

Kate with a family.
Kate, staff member and photographer, with a family.
A family reviews their photo with staff member and photographer Kate Holmes.
Reviewing the photo.
Grandmother with two granddaughters.
Grandmother with two granddaughters.
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Kate: Is Grandma saying she doesn’t like your hair in your face? -Yes. Kate: Do you like your hair in your face? -Yes. Kate: I guess we can leave it, then.
A young refugee, in purple, reacts in slight confusion to seeing her photo, while her family looks on.
A young refugee, in purple, reacts in slight confusion to seeing her photo, while her family looks on.
Two chairs and a backdrop await more subjects in the CYO gym.
Two chairs and a backdrop await more subjects in the CYO gym.

 

To support this and other programs,  visit our website.

 

Posted by Bridget Dunn, Communications Coordinator

Holiday Festivities at CYO and Vincent House

Holiday Festivities at CYO and Vincent House

This week has been full of holidaying happenings throughout our programs. Yesterday was a particularly busy day with present distribution at the CYO and a holiday party at the Vincent House Youth Center. CYO present distribution was made possible by Governor Cuomo’s regional office; OTDA Commissioner Sam Roberts was on hand to help kids make their choices. At Vincent House, staff, parents and supporters put together a party with activities, dinner, presents and gift bags after school.

Thank you to all who help make the holiday season brighter for the people we serve. Because of your support, over 400 families were supplied with Christmas presents for their kids, more than 220 turkeys were distributed, our centers were able to hold special events and much more. Your generosity is a true show of the spirit of the season, and we are deeply grateful.

Posted by Bridget Dunn, Communications Coordinator

Halloween at Catholic Charities

Halloween at Catholic Charities

Happy Halloween!

Throughout many of our programs, kids and youth have been enjoying some spooky fun in honor of the holiday. On Friday, kids from several of our centers headed up to Syracuse University for Greek and Treat, visiting different Greek organizations for a range of games and treats. We joined the crew at the CYO for costume picking and face painting. Today, our preschool class at the Northeast Community Center joined senior citizens for a festive lunch and then trick or treated through the halls in full costume.

Check out the gallery below to take part in the fun! Thank you to all the staff and community members who help make special events like this possible. Enjoy a safe, happy Halloween!

Posted by Bridget Dunn, Communications Coordinator

An Afternoon in the Kitchens

An Afternoon in the Kitchens

“You like fattoush?”

“Hm? Fa…ttua?

“Fattoush,” said Victor. As explanation, he offered a bowl of mixed vegetables and fried pita chips.

“Oh, sure, thanks!”

It is a treat to be invited down to the kitchens at the House of Providence on a day like last Thursday, when the CASS students were working on dishes from their home countries. CASS (Culinary Arts for Self-Sufficiency) is a program that provides training in industrial culinary skills for people who face significant obstacles to employment such as recent refugee status or generational poverty. The class last Thursday was made up of recent refugees. They were preparing a meal for their graduation ceremony the next day, when their family and friends would join them to celebrate their completion of the program.

The ingredients list for the graduation meal.
The ingredients list for the graduation meal.

The CASS program is a 5-week course. It includes kitchen safety, food prep skills and ServSafe Certification upon graduation. Most of the lessons cover the sort of food skills you need in an industrial kitchen or local deli. Students make tuna and egg salad, learn how to slice meat for a deli and are trained in proper sanitizing.  They even practice taking and fulfilling orders and run the kitchen as a deli for House of Providence employees.

One dish was stuffed veggies and grape leaves. it required several sets of hands to cook, empty and then stuff the various veggies.
One dish was stuffed veggies and grape leaves. it required several sets of hands to cook, empty and then stuff the various veggies.

Graduation dinner was a chance for the students to create their own menu and they clearly enjoyed preparing foods from their home countries. Gary Coe, the instructor, was amused by the change of roles as the students taught him their own dishes, though he found the experience of shopping for all of the spices a little frustrating.

“Look at this!” Gary said, picking up a small spice container from the many on the counter. “You wouldn’t believe how much this was.”

“It is not so expensive at home,” Geni, a student, said as she stuffed an onion skin.

“Really?”

“No. But you buy in market. Grind at home.”

“Oh,” Gary said with a shrug. “Well, it was expensive but, then, I’m glad ‘grind all the spices’ wasn’t on the to-do list.”

Students form an assembly line to stuff vegetables.
Students form an assembly line to stuff vegetables.

Many of the students were clearly experienced cooks. A few mentioned that a dish was a particular favorite of a family member, or a regular staple at home. They enjoyed explaining the process and offered visitors samples of finished dishes.

A perfectly stuffed grape leaf.
A perfectly stuffed grape leaf.

The five students in the class were from five different countries. They chatted and negotiated the kitchen space in a mix of shared Arabic and English. Gary relied on the more proficient English speakers to translate when they got into a language jam, but the operation in general was smooth.

Students carefully stack stuffed vegetables, enough for the 20-30 guests expected at their graduation.
Students carefully stack stuffed vegetables. They’ve prepared enough for the 20-30 guests expected at their graduation.

The program has been very successful with an 88% job placement rate for graduates. The opportunities made possible by the program help lift families out of the poverty many struggle with after first arriving in the U.S. Many go on to food service jobs, but others take jobs in hospitality or a related industry, buoyed up by the references our instructors can give them.

The final (unfinished) product awaits another round on the stove.
The final (unfinished) product awaits another round on the stove.

For more information about this program or to learn about hiring graduates, contact Cody Maggi at cmaggi@ccoc.us or 315.362.7551.