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Helping Moroccan Women Access Land: Soulalilyates Campaign for Land Reform

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Just over ten years ago, the family of Rkia Bellout, a woman from the Kenitra region of Morocco, sold its ancestral land. While the men in her family reaped the profits, she did not receive any compensation. Rkia is a member of the rural Soulilyate minority in Morocco, and like other women in this group, she had no rights to her land.?

Rkia decided to take action and sought the counsel of Moroccan women’s organizations to help her claim her right to participate in decisions over land ownership. When she brought her complaint to an NGO called ADFM (l’Association D’mocratique des Femmes du Maroc), the organization helped mobilize a national grassroots movement of Soulaliyate women calling for equality in land ownership. For over 10 years, ADFM has been building the leadership skills of rural minority women to advocate and participate in political processes for this cause.

ADFM is a member of Women’s Learning Partnership (WLP), a coalition of autonomous women’s rights organizations located throughout the developing world that promote women’s leadership and human rights. WLP organizations promote gender equality through training programs, advocacy campaigns, and capacity building. Since 2000, WLP partners like ADFM have been empowering women and girls to make change in their communities. (Click here to read more about WLP’s global impact on its Catalogue for Philanthropy profile.)

ADFM’s advocacy for Soulaliyate women’s rights pressured Morocco’s Ministry of the Interior to pass a specific law guaranteeing equality between men and women in communal land ownership and transactions. The Ministry reacted to the pressure, but not nearly as decisively as ADFM demanded. The government issued a series of non-binding ministerial guidelines called “circulars” that merely paid lip-service to the Soulaliyate movement. The latest one, Circular 17, recognized Soulaliyates’ right to land ownership in theory, but not in practice.

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Then, to mark the 10-year anniversary of the Soulaliyate movement, ADFM organized its greatest advocacy push to date: a three-week “Caravan of Soulaliyates.” From October 24 to December 15, 2017, the caravan mobilized 660 Soulaliyate women and allies who traveled to three regions: Fez, Daraa-Tafilalt, and Rabat-Sale. The caravan met with policymakers and raised the voices of Soulaliyate women.

ADFM also held 10 leadership workshops during the caravan, with an average of 50 women attending each one. They used WLP‘s manual on inclusive leadership, Leading to Choices, which has been the cornerstone of ADFM’s capacity building work with the Soulaliyate communities since the movement’s inception in 2007. The leadership methodology in the manual empowers Soulaliyates to participate effectively in decision-making processes in their tribes.

Three to four Soulaliyate movement-leaders from different regions shared their advocacy experiences at each stage of the caravan. This dialogue between Soulaliyates from remote corners of the country fostered camaraderie. Even though 465 kilometers and the Atlas Mountains separate the coastal city of Kenitra and the Algerian border-town of Errachildia, women from these two areas discovered that they have shared experiences and are working towards a common goal. The caravan’s mobility strengthened the bonds of solidarity among Soulaliyates across the country.?

ADFM President Saida Drissi Amrani emphasized those bonds, “We have met women who, even if they do not know how to read or write, are very aware of the principle of equality,”?Amrani told HuffPost Maroc. “They denounce contempt and they are ready to fight. We will support them until the end.”

In July 2018, their campaign resulted in a major victory — for the first time, Soulaliyate women of the Ben Mansour and Ouled Mbarek tribes in the Kenitra province were awarded financial compensations and land transfers. While ADFM and WLP celebrate this success, they continue to campaign and fight for equal land rights for women throughout Morocco.

Why School Lunch Will be Better This Year: Real Food for Kids

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I don’t know who’s happier that school’s back in session, me or my kids. Some days it felt like the longest short summer ever. But now, we’re back in the groove and I’m adjusting to the rhythm of having twins in high school. I know — I’ve been warned. Thankfully I’ve always been pretty good with routine, even if it doesn’t always make me very popular at 6:00 AM. The moment I see the opening of one sleepy teenage eye, my first question is “whad’ya want for breakfast?” Imagine how that goes over.

But, I’ll bet those of you like me who have kids are asking that same question and making sure they’ve eaten something before heading off to the bus. Why? Because this is what you know. When kids are fueled up with healthy, delicious foods they are fired up to learn.

Here’s something we at Real Food for Kids know. School meals — when done right — fire up kids to learn.

But here’s something you may not know.

School meals these days are a lot better than you’d expect. And we can take some credit for that.

  • The quality of food in our school lunchrooms — after decades of decline — is improving. Every day we are blown away by the school nutrition professionals we get to work with who care as much as you do about what your kids eat every day. These are their customers and they are demanding. The response has been impressive. It’s just that a lot of us haven’t peeked into the cafeteria recently to see the transformation that’s been happening. If you haven’t, you should.
  • School meals have a solid, balanced nutrient profile. Studies show that the meals kids get at school — in most cases — power them better than lunches sent from home. Think about it. I’m the first to admit that what goes out in my kids — brown bag isn’t always ideal.
  • At the schools where kids regularly, consistently eat school meals, their attendance, concentration, grades, test scores, behavior, and physical activity all improve. The schools actually improve. This is all backed up by valid research, not just stories.
  • When done right, school meals not only increase kids — fruit and vegetable consumption, they increase kids desire to consume more fruits and vegetables because they learn how delicious they are. What parent doesn’t want that?
  • School meals can — and do — impact the choices our kids make outside of school walls. Done right, they can have a lasting impact on their health into adulthood. But there are still so many challenges that keep our kids from having the best school meals experience they can. And those are the challenges Real Food for Kids is working to change.

Our school systems are still grappling to understand that school meals — when done right — are an integral part of learning. When we shift that mindset, our kids can truly begin to make the connection between what they eat and how they learn. As one of our wonderful school nutrition partners likes to say, school food is an “education intervention.”

School lunch continues to be viewed as a support service to the instructional day instead of a critical component to student success (just like recess). The environment in which kids eat is less about nourishment — social, emotional and physical — than it is about hurrying on to the next academic subject. And food services staff — even though they are wonderful and love our kids — are often relegated to the sidelines of our school communities, limiting their interaction with our students to a 10-second transactional relationship.

When the culture of the lunchroom becomes integral to the culture of a school, we create an environment in which healthy relationships are organic and lifelong healthy eating behaviors are inspired and embraced.

Real Food for Kids‘ work in the Metro DC area over the last 8 years has resulted in changes to the quality of school meals served to over 250,000 kids. Now it’s time to change the environment in which they get those meals so they can be fueled up by the food and the experience, ready to learn, ready to thrive.

This fall, our funding will go directly toward work already underway to identify best practices in school meal environments and how to change perceptions so that those practices can be replicated in our schools — in your schools. Your support will go a long way to pushing that tray down the lunch line.

This post was written by Mary Porter, Director of Programs.

Community Advocates for Family & Youth Launches SafeNight App

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Community Advocates for Family & Youth (CAFY) is a non-profit victim services agency that works in partnership with the Prince George’s County and City of Laurel Police Department. CAFY offers victim support services such as court companionship and financial assistance along with counseling and pro bono legal services. The newest venture coming out of their organization is the SafeNight app.

SafeNight sends an alert to its users when a victim of crime needs a place to stay and there is no available space in a shelter. Users can make an immediate anonymous donation to pay for a hotel room for the person in need.

“I was in a very stressful and trying, abusive situation,” said one woman who was able to get shelter after she became a victim of domestic violence, thanks to a SafeNight donation. To protect her safety, the woman wishes to remain anonymous. “That’s what I needed, was time to think, reflect, gather my thoughts so I can know which way I’m going,” she said.

“We really believe we can place hundreds of people, that we can be in a position where no one is turned away when they’re trying to get out of danger or trying to leave a domestic violence situation,” Arleen Joell, the Executive Director of CAFY, explains.

It’s so simple to become a SafeNight donor:

1. Search in your app store for “Safe Night” (available on iPhone and Android).

2. Select “MD” and click “Community Advocates for Family and Youth.”

3. When survivors contact the organization for help, an alert is sent out to donors.

4. Donors can accept the request and make a donation.

Donors do not have to live in the DMV area. You can sign up anywhere. Once a survivor goes to the hotel, oftentimes escorted by police, the funds are released. All donations are tax deductible.

If you or someone you know needs help, CAFY can be reached 24/7 at (301) 882-2002 and online at www.cafy.org

A Window and a Mirror: Summer Mentorship at Inspired Teaching

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A Space for Inquiry

It’s 2pm and I’m standing in a classroom in northwest DC holding a yo-yo.

Two brand new Inspired Teaching Fellows (teachers-in-training) are standing next to me, asking me questions.

“Do you, uh, think you can do a trick with the yo-yo called ‘walk the dog?’” one of the teachers asks.

The other one offers: “Could you maybe try, like, throwing it sideways?”

I try to throw the yo-yo sideways and end up dropping it on the floor. I walk away in frustration.

On this particular afternoon, I’ve volunteered to play the role of a student, and the Fellows have been instructed to teach me how to use a yo-yo — but only by asking questions. No statements allowed.

The Fellow pauses and then asks: “What do you think you need to do to be successful with a yo-yo?”

My eyes light up. Unlike her first few questions, she doesn’t know the answer to this one. It’s all on me. She may not realize it yet, but this is the space where the magic of learning happens.

“I think,” I say, after genuinely thinking about it, “that I need to just be able to do 5 regular swings without stopping.”

Now we have a new lesson plan – and I, the student, am in charge of my own learning.

This is what teacher training looks like in Inspired Teaching’s Summer Institute, a 3-week long jumpstart for teachers who are beginning the Inspired Teaching Residency.

This exercise helps new teachers learn how to provide a space for inquiry instead of a list of directions. And the reason I know this activity so well is because I was a brand new Inspired Teaching Fellow myself, standing in this very classroom, doing this exact activity, 5 summers ago.

This summer, however, I’m returning to play the role of the summer mentor. And while I’m stepping into the first year Fellows’ classroom to help out, my primary responsibility is to advise the second year Fellows.

The second-year Fellows have just completed their residency year. They’ve been learning from, assisting, and eventually taking over for their lead teacher, someone who has modeled great teaching practices. Now, they’re starting from scratch, in their own summer school classrooms, with a fellow cohort member. I’ve been assigned to help two teaching teams, four teachers total.

As the summer begins, I watch my mentees struggle with the fact that, with a brand new class coming in next week, there’s no veteran teacher to set everything up. It’s a bit like learning how to drive a car for an entire year and then finding out that you now need to build your own car out of spare parts. And quickly.

The Gap

Even though summer school is only a month long, it can sometimes feel like an entire school year stuffed into four weeks. It’s not uncommon for teachers in summer practicum to re-connect and disconnect multiple times with their passion for teaching. It’s not uncommon for teachers to discover just how much of a gap exists between the teacher that they are and the teacher that they want to be. And it’s not uncommon for those teachers to work excruciatingly hard to close that gap before the summer ends.

The result of all of this reflection and learning is evident because, by the end of the summer, I notice that the Fellows’ teaching powers that I am mentoring have grown. At the start of the summer, I would take copious notes while observing a mini-lesson. I’d analyze every movement the teacher made, every word that they said. And by the end, it’s hard to even find a place to take notes. Classrooms are bustling with students in every corner, working on interesting projects and directing their own learning.

During our final meeting, I ask one of the Fellows, “So now that it’s almost over, do you feel like you’re the teacher you want to be?”

“No,” she laughs. “That will take a while. But before the summer started, I hadn’t even thought about what kind of teacher I wanted to be. Now, I ask myself that question almost daily. My vision is much more clear.”

Remarkably, she is learning to ask herself questions that don’t have an immediate answer.

A Window and a Mirror

I’ve said before that the role of a teacher is to offer their students a window and a mirror. A window with which to see the world through many different lenses and perspectives, and a mirror to allow students to understand the power of their own perspective and potential.

But as a summer mentor, I came to terms with something else: a teacher must also stand in front of their own mirror. It is there, in the glow of their own reflection, where they will do their most challenging work. They will confront every imperfection. They will think about what they will do differently tomorrow. They will, simultaneously, berate themselves and strive for self-acceptance. They will do all of this for the good of themselves and the good of their students.

And it occurs to me that I, the summer mentor, have very little to do with the mirror. But maybe, I hold the window. If I was able to help these wonderful teachers catch a glimpse of all incredible possibilities that lie ahead, then, mission accomplished.

Written by –Zia Hassan

Parkinson Foundation of the National Capital Area Recognized by the Catalogue for Philanthropy

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Thinking back to when I was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, I suppose my reaction was much like it is for the tens of thousands of other Americans who contract this disease annually. Disbelief, concern, melancholy (even a few tears); but once the shock had subsided, it was time to take this thing seriously.

My approach was first to learn as much as I could about Parkinson’s. What is it? A disease caused by a loss of dopamine in the brain. What causes it? No one really knows though genetics and certain environmental exposures are thought to contribute. What are its symptoms? Although everyone is affected differently, most of us with Parkinson’s have some of the following — slowness of motion, tremor, rigidity, problems with balance. And, because dopamine is also a mood enhancer, people with PD may suffer from anxiety and depression.

I learned that the most effective ways to combat Parkinson’s, and improve my quality of life, are 1) to work with a neurologist specializing in movement disorders to determine the most effective medication regimen, 2) to maintain a positive attitude, and 3) to stay active.

To stay active. Recent research studies have concluded that physical activity, of virtually any type, not only slows the rate of deterioration in PD patients, it can literally improve strength, flexibility, and balance. And it has secondary effects — PD sufferers who exercise regularly are less likely to be anxious or depressed.

But where to do these exercises? We all know about the grandest intentions — just show me what to do and I can do them at home; but, honestly, will you do them?

Enter the Parkinson’s Foundation of the National Capitol Area (PFNCA), whose mission is to “improve the quality of life of those impacted by Parkinson’s disease by offering exercise…programs to strengthen their physical and emotional health.”

Operating with a small, enthusiastic group of dedicated individuals, PFNCA utilizes donations received throughout the year, but especially at the annual Walk Off Parkinson’s fundraiser at National’s Park each September, to provide more than 250 exercise, communication and education program sessions at 29 locations in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.

More than 2,000 people impacted by Parkinson’s are served by PFNCA each year. The variety of exercise venues and the geographic scope of providers allow each person with Parkinson’s to select the type of activity, the trainer and the location they prefer for everything from yoga to rock climbing.

I participate in three exercise activities sponsored by PFNCA?– a fitness class focused on balance, strength, and flexibility; boxing, a relatively new Parkinson’s exercise that provides great physical and cognitive benefits; and a Parkinson’s-specific activity called “Big and Loud” therapy. I also play tennis and work in the yard — everything counts.

I firmly believe exercise has helped me cope with Parkinson’s, and that the programs offered by PFNCA have been instrumental in slowing its progress.

Recently, the Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington named PFNCA one of the best small non-profits in the Washington D.C. area. The award recognizes PFNCA’s success in fostering a sense of community for people with Parkinson’s, and that it is the only organization in the D.C. area that provides holistic programs year-round.

Because the Catalogue for Philanthropy thoroughly vets each organization, donors can be assured the dollars they donate are being well spent.

Being named one of the best small non-profits by the Catalogue is a huge honor for PFNCA and should help ensure that more dollars are donated to “The Cause.”

After all, isn’t that what it’s all about — additional venues, more and more types of exercise, a more diverse compendium of locations and instructors. And, ultimately, a higher quality of life for people with Parkinson’s

Rick Vaughan — Oak Hill, VA — August 2018

Students striving to make better lives for themselves and their communities.

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For the past 4 years, After-School All-Stars (ASAS) has convened a leadership training event at the 4-H National Conference Center outside of the Nation’s Capital: All-Stars Leadership University (ASLU). ASAS is a national non-profit, providing free and comprehensive after-school programs to Title 1 middle school students, and the Washington DC chapter is the local office serving over 600 students at 7 schools within the district. 19 of our chapter cities are invited to send student and staff representation at ASLU. Each Chapter sends two youth, a Rising Youth Advisory Board Mentor (YABs) and a Returning YAB Mentor, as well as an Adult Mentor to come to DC and learn about self-leadership, serving others, and how to serve and advocate in their communities. YABs are selected for these positions based on their commitment to the program, as well as their academic performance and leadership abilities. The 4-day retreat includes leadership training, team building exercises, opportunities to create service projects for their local communities and thoughtful reflections on each student’s respective communities and the issues they all face.

ASAS DC was extremely proud to have 2 YAB students representing our chapter. Ajani Atkins from Somerset Prep DC and De’Quan Atchinson from Charles Hart Middle School (now a rising Freshman at Eastern High School) both attended earlier this summer. Ajani assumed the role of Rising YAB while De’Quann had the opportunity to be a returning YAB mentor.

De’Quan is a great example of an ideal YAB and ASAS DC student. He has been with the program since 6th grade and is now a proud graduate of both Hart MS and the ASAS DC program. He has grown immensely in that time, learning to be a better public speaker, convener, and leader amongst his peer group. We had the chance to speak with him about ASLU and his broader experience in the program.

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De’Quan, along with many of the other YAB participants, was particularly struck by one of the special presenters at ASLU. Thanks to our partnership with Essentia Water, Joe La Puma attended the event as a guest speaker. Joe is the Vice President of Content Strategy at Complex Magazine, and host of the magazine’s “Sneaker Shopping,” a program that takes you inside the sneaker shopping process for such celebrities as Wiz Khalifa, Kevin Hart, Antonio Brown, and A$AP Rocky. De’Quan has a myriad of interests ranging from athletics to community service, but he is also extremely passionate about fashion. It was invaluable for him to be exposed to someone like Joe, who has worked hard to make a name for himself in a progressive sector of work that resonates with our students. Across the country, we are intentional about exposing ASAS students to unique and accessible career paths. Joe’s journey was one that had a profound resonance with the YABS. De’Quan admitted that hearing Joe speak inspired and excited him. It was a narrative that he could genuinely connect with and aspire towards, whereas those sources of inspiration were previously hard to come by.

De’Quan looks back at his journey from 6th grade and acknowledges how much he has matured within the ASAS DC program. Initially, he didn’t dedicate enough time to his classes and homework, opting to spend evenings with his mother. Due to her intensive work schedule, they could only spend the late evenings together, and that wasn’t conducive to completing all his work and developing an interest in school. An attitude change was as simple as providing him with a safe space and a positive environment. ASAS DC dedicated academic time allowed him to progress more in his school work, and that culminated this past year when he made the honor roll for the first time in his academic career. He recalled his mother’s reaction, and that she was quite literally “in tears of joy,” overwhelmed by her son’s success.

The exciting thing about De’Quan as well as the ASAS DC chapter, is that this is just the beginning. In speaking with De’Quan it was as if his experience in the program gave him a new lease on life. Not only is he excited for high school, but he already has plans to join the track team and as many clubs as he can get his hands on. De’Quan’s 3.5 GPA is something he is proud of, but at Eastern, he wants to build off of that and achieve even higher marks in his first year. He has a strong desire to seriously pursue his interests at the next level in the fields of leadership, athletics, academics, and fashion.

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As De’Quan reflected back on his experience it was no surprise that above all else, personal connections were the most meaningful to him. He credits ASAS DC staff for “getting him out of his shell” and inspiring him to be a leader. On more than one occasion he referred to the ASAS DC Program Manager Tierra Stewart as “Superwoman,” a sentiment that many of her colleague’s share. He knows that in 6th grade he wasn’t the type “to open up to just anybody,” but with the help of mentors like Tierra he began to make that transition to a more outgoing and charismatic person. He made that change because he along with his fellow ASAS students understood that our instructors genuinely cared about their well-being and future. As is the case with many of our 600+ students in the district, our staff have close relationships with De’Qunn and his family, and that level of understanding and communication is inextricably connected to his growth and success.

The DC chapter is proud to showcase De’Quan’s story. It is a unique and compelling narrative, and at the same time, we know that there are tens of thousands of ASAS students across the country having a similar experience. He didn’t have time to complete his homework, ASAS DC provided him that time and space, he was shy and unmotivated, he is now going off to high school as a leader with aspirations to be the captain of every team and club he joins, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life, ASAS DC showed him what it looks like to succeed in school and have an attractive career. As he reflected back on his own journey at the 4-H center, eyes welling with tears, his heart was full: for his family, his ASAS mentors, and mostly for his fellow students that are striving to make better lives for themselves and their communities.

Adams Morgan was a Completely Different Place 45 Years Ago

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Before the close proximity to public transportation and nightlife, a few hopeful members of the Church of the Savior saw promise in the 20009 zip code. They saw a need for safe, clean, affordable housing and responded.

Eventually they pooled their resources and purchased two buildings in Adams Morgan — The Ritz and The Mozart. This was the start of what we now know as Jubilee Housing. Since then, the organization has purchased and developed nine buildings with a tenth building under construction. In addition to providing permanent, deeply affordable housing in a thriving neighborhood, Jubilee also provides after-school programming and summer camp for the children of working families, counseling for individuals looking to stabilize their financial status, and supportive housing for people returning home after incarceration.

Washington, DC?is experiencing a period of unprecedented growth and development. Unfortunately, not everyone is benefiting from this prosperity. Today, one-fourth of DC residents earn less than a living wage. Market-rate rents in Adams Morgan range between $2,500 to $4,000 a month, which is far beyond the reach of District residents with the lowest incomes.

With a new?five-year plan, Jubilee Housing is determined to create a city where everyone can thrive. One of the most ambitious goals of the plan is to create an additional 100 units of deeply affordable housing, in Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant, and Columbia Heights, over the next five years.

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In a city where big developers are fighting for the chance to turn old properties into luxury condos, this is a tall order. To make these 100 units a reality Jubilee launched an innovative financing tool — the Justice Housing Partners Fund. This $5 million dollar fund will provide quick-strike acquisition capital for bridge financing, enabling Jubilee Housing to compete with market forces and build 100 units of deeply affordable housing in high cost neighborhoods.

Jubilee is seeking social impact capital for the Justice Housing Partners Fund for three-year investment terms, with a 2 percent capped return. This will provide Jubilee the critical time needed to assemble permanent financing. Once Jubilee obtains construction financing for a project, the original investment can be repaid with interest or reinvested, if desired.

The Share Fund — a donor-advised fund of the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region — led the way with a $1 million match investment, which inspired other institutional investors such as United Bank, which committed $250,000. To date, Jubilee Housing has raised over $2 million in commitments for the Justice Housing Partners Fund.

Jubilee Housing maintains that justice housingsm?– deeply affordable housing in thriving neighborhoods with onsite or nearby services — is a proven model that can keep our city diverse and make its communities equitable. Justice housing allows long-time DC residents to stay in their neighborhoods despite soaring rents, and for our city’s lowest income residents to move to communities with the most opportunity. The Justice Housing Fund makes it possible for DC to be a city where all races, ages, and incomes can thrive.

Registration Open for 6th Annual Teddy Bear 5K & 1K Walk/Run!

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Registration is currently open for runners and walkers of all ages for the 6th AnnualTeddy Bear 5K & 1K Walk/Run?on Sunday, September 23, 2018. The race that awards all participants a pint-size teddy bear when they cross the finish line this year moves to the morning with the 5K starting at 8 a.m. and the 1K starting at 9:15 a.m.

To register to run or walk, or to volunteer at the event, go to www.tinyurl.com/TeddyBear5K-1KWalk-Run

Note that children under 12 must be accompanied by a registered adult in either the 1K or the 5K. The 5K also includes a stroller division.

The 5K course takes runners through the shaded Pimmit Hills neighborhood, west of Falls Church City. Runners are urged to check in at the registration booth behind the Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center at 7230 Idylwood Road and participate in the Teddy Bear parade at 7:45 pm to the 5K Start/Finish Line in Pimmit Hills Park, between Arch Drive and Griffith Road.

The 1K course follows awards to 5K winners, starting on the field behind the Children’s Center (also home of Lemon Road Elementary School.)

5K runners, boys and girls in 6 age groups for children, from ages 6 to 18, and males and females in 7 age groups for adults, will be eligible for prizes from local businesses, including gift certificates to: Panjshir Restaurant and Hilton Garden Inn of Falls Church; The Greek Taverna, Assaggi Osteria, Cafe Oggi, and Kazan Restaurant of McLean. For kids: A shopping spree at Doodlehopper Toy Store, a Soccer Party with Golden Boot, and more.

Proceeds of the event support Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center, a high-quality, nonprofit preschool dedicated to giving young children from low- and moderate-income, working families the strong start they need to be ready for success in school and in life.

Several local individuals and businesses are generously sponsoring the event including Ric and Jean Edelman, Anne Kanter, State Farm Insurance Agent Lynn Heinrichs, VA Delegate Marcus Simon, Hyphen Group, Chain Bridge Bank, Net E, Senior Housing Analytics, Susan and Donald Poretz, Powell Piper Radomsky, Berman & Lee Orthodontics, Lewinsville Presbyterian Church, Drs. Love and Miller, Digital Office Products, and VA 529. Sponsorships are still available by calling 703/534-4907 before August 30 to have logos printed on runner t-shirts.

Founded in 1969, Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center is celebrating its 50th year of providing an affordable, comprehensive, full-time early childhood education program designed to give all children, regardless of their family’s financial resources, a strong foundation on which to build the rest of their lives. For inquiries about openings this fall, call 703/534-4907.

Casa Chirilagua: ‘Yo Hablo Ingles’ English Language Learning Program

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“I’ve never been to the National Mall before,” said Juan, as he sat on the Metro heading towards the Smithsonian.

“Now that I know how to ride the Metro, this will be easier to come by myself,” his friend Pedro declared. Soon they would both be experiencing the National Mall for the first time in their lives.

They were among the sixteen students from Casa Chirilagua‘s Yo Hablo Ingles English Language Learning program to take a field trip to DC in late April. Soon they would be seeing the sites and practicing their English through a scavenger hunt. Volunteers from Restoration City Church accompanied their peers to support each student with their English skills.?Students arrived on the National Mall in wonderment, marveling at the beauty of the famous horizon. Some began taking photos of the Washington Monument while others pointed out, “Look at the water! Look at the ducks!”

Their first stop was the National Museum of Natural History. When students entered, they were immediately greeted by Henry, the museum’s elephant. They were impressed by the rotunda and began to explore this area and take photos. For many of the students this was their first time to the museum.

“It was really awesome!” exclaimed Marilu, “I need to come back with my daughter.”

During their trip students practiced English by finding exhibits in a scavenger hunt and earning points for each discovery. Various animals were among the exhibits as well as the famous Hope diamond. More photos ensued!

Afterwards, the students enjoyed a sunny picnic in front of the National Monument. Reflecting on this visit, Maria noted that, “It was great to come on my own without my kids to explore and really enjoy the sites.”

This was particularly true for students who work in the city but have never had the opportunity to enjoy the museums and National Mall. A team of volunteers provided childcare back at Casa’s community center so that parents could enjoy this trip with their classmates.

Students took advantage of many opportunities to practice English conversation with the volunteers. They were very patient and helpful as students eagerly conversed with them. Later Mario commented, “It was beautiful to share with you…I tried to take away my fear. Thank you because even if you don’t understand me you try to talk with me. You are cool.”

Their final stop was the Jefferson Memorial. As they walked the Tidal Basin students were amazed by the surrounding trees and enjoyed the refreshing walk along the waterfront.

“It’s beautiful!” said Adriana as she saw the impressive marble monument in the distance.

“I love the tour!” Jose agreed. He was very excited as the group walked to the monument before the group returned to the Metro.

It was a joyful day as students deepened relationships with volunteers and each other while building stronger English language skills. As students bring their newfound language skills into the world they will have the confidence, support and knowledge to flourish. We are grateful for your support and to the amazing group of volunteers who make this possible. As Jorge says, “Thank you for your time that you are providing us for the trip. It was very nice! We learned a lot in the museum. God bless you.”

Celebrating 30 Years: More than Housing, Hope for the Future

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Thirty years ago, as the Gaithersburg area began to grow, so did the homeless population. Faith leaders quickly realized homelessness was a problem, and they came together to provide food and other necessities. However, they knew that providing a hot meal was not enough for families, especially those with young children. In the winter of 1987, a few churches came together to discuss the problem and try to come up with a solution, and thus The Dwelling Place was born. It was agreed the organization would provide transitional housing and case management to single moms with children. For the first year, the organization served four families. There were no paid staff, only volunteers. In late 1989, the first Executive Director and Case Manager were hired. For the next two decades, the organization would experience tremendous growth, serving up to 35 families in the Gaithersburg/Montgomery Village area. We understood the importance of intensive case management in order to help families identify the barriers that led to homelessness and make sure that they would not allow those same triggers to get in the way of their stability. We believe that providing housing is not the answer to a family’s problem, there has to be a real connection and relationship, the one they build with their case manager.

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Thirty years later, we continue to serve homeless families in Montgomery County. Our programs have changed a little bit, but we still hold true to our core values: providing our families with intensive, wrap-around case management. Through our program, we not only provide them affordable housing, but we prepare them for life after they exit The Dwelling Place. We emphasize financial literacy, and strongly encourage our families to be a part of our savings program. When they leave, we match a certain amount. We provide career counseling services, and set a goal to increase income every six months. We provide life skills classes, in which families decide what topic they want to discuss which will contribute in their journey to self-sufficiency. We work with the children in the home to make sure they’re thriving and have a greater chance of breaking the cycle of generational poverty. We also work with the young adults, many who are ready to leave their homes and go out on their own. We had a difficult year last year when we lost a major HUD contract, but like our families we remain resilient and committed to working hard to serve those that need us most. We are proud of the work we have done over the last thirty years. We have worked with close to 300 families, all of which transitioned out to permanent, stable housing. To celebrate this amazing milestone, we will be celebrating our 30th Anniversary with a gala at the end of the year. We are excited to reconnect with old supporters, past program participants, and former board members. More than anything, we are looking forward to thanking the community for their support, which has allowed us to do the work we do. It takes a village, and we are proud of the village we have built for our families. We hope you join us in celebrating our work!