By Cathy Harasta
The Texas Catholic
The gift that the women bring to their training classes at Catholic Charities of Dallas’ headquarters is something that circumstances, however challenging, never could wrest from them—a pure love of children.
The gift that they receive from the “Getting Back on Our Feet” program is the chance to prepare to work in the child care field and perhaps to operate a home-based child-care business.
“We have a lot of experience and we have the strength to do many things,” said class member Eugenia Alexander, 61, who came to the United States from Mexico City 12 years ago. “I feel so motivated by this class. To have a business of my own is my dream. Everything goes because of God’s mercy.”
Alexander is one of five women in the current session of the five-week program, which is offered by Catholic Charities’ Empowerment Services division and serves women who are age 50 or older.
Program coordinator Lisa Roach said that the five-week course gives priority to refugee and immigrant women. The current class has two women from Cuba and one each from Ethiopia, Guatemala and Mexico.
Roach said that the third-year program’s students have represented 18 nations, including Iraq, Syria and several nations in Africa.
“What is so beautiful about the program is that no matter where the students are from, they bond,” Roach said. “They make friends.”
Their experience as mothers and grandmothers gives them common ground from the start, which was apparent at a class in September.
All the students nodded in understanding as Roach held up illustrations that demonstrated how cleaning supplies can resemble a bottled sports drink to a child.
As Roach passed around cupboard safety locks and special cushions to protect children from sharp-edged tabletops, Alexander used her cell phone to snap pictures of the products.
“This will remind me of what to buy,” said Alexander, a parishioner at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Frisco. “I have experience working with kids, but the training in this class exceeds my expectations.”
The program, which is offered several times each year, creates the opportunity for students to become Listed, Licensed, or Registered Childcare Providers in Texas.
The students receive vocational English lessons and financial coaching as well as training about fire safety, injury prevention and first aid.
Dallas Fire Rescue professionals spent part of a recent morning on a parking lot, where they taught the students how to extinguish a fire.
A nutritionist visited the class several times and gave the students a homework assignment focusing on menu-planning.
Alexander, who had studied to be a medical assistant, said that her goal is to care for children in her home, which she is remodeling to accommodate her future daycare clients.
“With this program, I feel guided,” said Alexander, who has three adult children. “As an immigrant, this is a way to contribute. It is difficult when you first come to this country to open your own space. With this program, I found a way to be myself. I don’t think it’s too late to have my own business.”
She helped classmate Dinorah Reyes–who arrived in the U.S. from Santiago, Cuba, nine months ago—to practice her English.
But the conversation that everyone understood and enjoyed needed no translation. Reyes and Barbara Alvarez, also from Santiago, beamed with delight as they told classmates how pleased they were that Pope Francis had visited their hometown and celebrated Mass there on Sept. 22.
“In this class, you feel like you belong together,” Alexander said. “You feel like you are put together on the same path. We already are planning to have reunions.”
For more information, please contact Lisa Roach at 972-246-6020.