Family and Children’s Passage House
"My name is Lydia*and I am a survivor of domestic violence. I lived in a domestic violence situation for 17 years. I did not think there would ever be any hope for me, or that I would ever make it out alive. I not only suffered emotional and physical abuse, but I was severely abused with weapons. It took me 14 tries to finally get up the courage to leave the situation. With the help of the few strong amazing women in my life who believed in me. They linked me with Family and Children Services of Niagara’s domestic violence shelter Passage House.
When I left I was terrified of what would happen to my child and me but through safety planning we have a plan in action. I have had to be retaught many things and I now see what the red flags are. If you think that there is no hope, I am here to tell you there is a way out. I know I once lived it. I was once weak and now I am strong. A little girl who once had no voice has truly found a strong one. I used to tremble at the sound of his name, now I soar and am not afraid. Once for so long I was silent and now I am ready to speak. Always remember the scars you have tell a story but they prove you are a survivor that through many storms is still standing strong."
YWCA of Niagara Frontier Carolyn’s House
My name is Kimberly, I am 42 years old. I am the mother of 5 beautiful children, and have been blessed with one grandchild.
I had always been a bit mischievous growing up but it wasn’t until I met my husband Mark* that my life started to take a drastic turn. Mark and I shared a strong bond and together created a beautiful family. However Mark exposed me to a dangerous lifestyle, and it was a fast downhill ride from there. He became increasingly angry, started lashing out at me and eventually striking me. It was then that I started using drugs and became addicted to them.
Our life together revolved around the chaos of addiction and abuse. We both worked full time and invested our whole income on drugs. We were evicted from every home we lived in and our 5 children were left in the care of their grandmother. This is how I spent 21 years of my life, half of my lifetime.
We had been living in our car for months, we were driving around aimlessly and our car ran out of gas. I was stranded with no shelter, no food, and separated from my children. All I had in my life was Mark and drugs. Was that even considered a life? I thought to myself “I am done with this life style”. My children deserve more than this, I can never change the mother I was but I could change the mother I would be. At 40 years old I made the change. I was scared of the unknown but I took that leap of faith. Let me tell you it was worth every second of hard work.
I put in calls all over the country to rehabilitation facilities. It was very hard to get into one. I finally got accepted into Northpointe Council’s First Step: The Chemical Dependency Crisis Center, and from there I got clean from drugs. Once I left First Step I moved to a halfway house. I started taking GED classes at Carolyn’s House a supportive housing program for homeless women and children run by the YWCA of the Niagara Frontier. After completing my stay at the halfway house, I had nowhere to go. I eventually moved into Carolyn’s House on June 13th 2016 and that was when my life really began to change.
Although I was clean from drugs and alcohol, my relationship with Mark was still a huge strain on me. Mark made me believe I would never recover from my drug dependency, that I would never actually accomplish anything in life. I would die an uneducated, drug addicted loser. The women at Carolyn’s house really proved to me that would not be the end to my story. They helped bring me out of the emotional trap I had been stuck in for half of my life. The women at Carolyn’s house empowered me. I was the one making all of the accomplishments. I mattered. I had a voice. They provided me with the life skills to be able to live independently. I was reunited with my children and now I get to be the mother to them I should’ve been their whole lives.
I stand here June 26th 2017, 20 months sober, With a GED certification along with many other workforce certifications. I am enrolled in Niagara County Community College with a dual major in Human Services and Chemical Dependency Certified Counseling. I have been awarded an internship and scholarship with the YWCA of the Niagara Frontier. I am also starting a group through Carolyn’s house to mentor women, who like me had no hopes of a bright future. I am proof that it is NEVER too late and you can always make the right change.
I just want to help every woman I possibly can. Every woman reading this must know that it is scary entering the unknown but there are people on the other side of the door just waiting to help. I am now one of them.
Literacy New York Buffalo-Niagara
Literacy New York Buffalo-Niagara has been fortunate to have a family of dedicated volunteer tutors for the past 50 years, including volunteers like Chuck Curran. Chuck is an avid reader and active volunteer for a variety of community agencies. After retiring from a career in government social work, he joined LNYBN in 2013 and has been tutoring Constance Lansberry at the Niagara Falls Main Library ever since. Chuck finds the one-on-one tutoring approach to be quite fulfilling as tutors share in the success of their students, forming a personal relationship. As is true with most volunteer work, the volunteer gets as much satisfaction as they give to those they are helping.
According to Chuck, “Constance is the ideal student. She is always on time, prepared and even came to her appointments while in a cast.” Constance, a lifetime resident of Niagara Falls, worked in the hospitality industry for many years and has five children and 12 grandchildren. She says she wishes she knew about our literacy services years ago, because when her children were young, Constance had to pretend to read to them by making up a story to go along with the pictures. She continued to do so until she became involved in our literacy program and is now pleased to say, “As time went on, I was doing it less until not at all because now, I don’t have to. Now, I can read!” Constance and her family are proud of her achievements. Agreeing that it is never too late to learn to read or to help someone achieve that goal.