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  • Festa

Festa Empowers

Updated: Apr 18

“I met Festa through a friend when I was going through a tough time in my life. I was in a situation in my life where I needed resources to start over, and I was very lost and down.

 

“As an immigrant, I was totally alone in this country. I had no family and I felt lost. I didn’t have hope that it would ever get better for me. I couldn’t fix everything that had happened on my own. I didn’t know how to start over or do anything to make my situation better. When I spoke to Kim on the phone, she made me understand that I'm not alone. She encouraged me that my life could be fix-able, even if I had to start from zero. Knowing that I had resources was the most encouraging thing; I didn't know there were any resources for me to use, or if the government was against me and would just send me back home if I asked for help.


“I remember [Kim and I] first met at a church. I almost didn’t go to the meeting. I was told I was allowed to come to the church any time I wanted. Kim explained there's police and many other people that could help with what I was going through; I thought the police would be against me because I’m not from here. She introduced me to a lawyer for immigration and went with me to meet with them. The lawyer gave me some peace of mind that there was hope of safety for me here.


“The hardest part about being immigrant is that you just don't know about how any of the systems work. I constantly would think, ‘I'm going to be in trouble. The government doesn’t want me and they won’t help me.’ That’s what the government is like in my country. I'd been told that American people are bad, and not to trust the American people and police and government. So I really couldn’t trust anyone. I very much felt isolated. Even when I started to make some friends, they would ask if I wanted to go out for a playdate with our children and I questioned that. I was scared that they were planning something bad for me because of what I’d been told - don't trust, don’t trust, don’t trust.


“Starting your life over is very stressful. I had to learn to trust other people and that was hard at the beginning, but the people I met through Festa kept showing up for me. It was amazing to have those kinds of people around me. I was surrounded by good people. The biggest gift I was given was learning I had options. It's not like I had to do everything one way or else I was going to be in trouble. I was making decisions for the first time in many years by myself. I was empowered. At first I kept questioning myself – ‘Am I doing the right things for myself and my son?’ It was hard. Throughout everything the Festa staff was following up with me all the time. They were always reaching out to me asking me how things were going and telling me about more people they could introduce me to that would be able to help. Then the court and the police started helping. It was like puzzles being put together and I finally realized I wasn’t in danger around these people.


“Festa gifted me a laptop and it was the best thing ever. I started applying to jobs on Indeed and I also signed up to go to school. One of the first times I used it, I was at the gym sitting in an armchair in the lobby area because I could get free childcare for two hours at a time. I literally had zero money. I was using those two hours to apply for jobs and make phone calls. After a while the battery wasn’t functioning, so I had to get up to plug it in, and when I moved out of the chair, the cushion moved to the side and I found a $20 bill. I was surprised. When I sat back again in the chair, I found another $40 in the exact same spot. I didn’t know what to do but I knew that was not my money. I called one of my friends and told her what happened, and she's like, ‘I promise that is for you. God is taking care of you. When you have more money someday, you can share with someone else who needs it.’ I still felt strange, but I desperately needed gas and some basic stuff, and it was just enough money for that.


“Festa helped me figure out all the tasks as a series and make a plan for myself step by step. Getting a job, getting a home, getting childcare, going to school. When I got my first job, I remember I was like, this is fantastic. Something to start with. I found a temporary place to live and childcare for my son. And then I was able to do a lot of healing for both of us. Friendship was my most important resource at that time. My friends were compensating for me not having a family here. I feel like they are my family now. Anytime I was feeling down and I had no hope to continue this process, the reminded me that this was going to be a very long process but that I was doing everything to stay on the right track. ‘You're doing well. Keep going. Don't give up.’  


“It's been interesting for me to look back. I can just now understand how much I achieved and how important the people around me have been. It’s hard to see when you’re in it; you just feel how stressed you are, how down you are, how much more work there is to do. When you look back, you'll be like, ‘Oh, I went so far. How did I do it? I did it with amazing friends.’ A lot of negative thoughts can still control you. You will need people to remind you: you’re doing a good job. This is your life. You still have options.


“When I finally had my graduation, a whole group of my supporters and people who love me and walked through the journey with me were there to celebrate when I walked across the stage. And when I moved to my next apartment that was bigger and and gave us more space, they welcomed me in and helped set everything up. I have done things to volunteer with Festa, helping other people who are experiencing the same things I went through. I don't want to think about what my life would have been like without Festa.”

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