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A Village at Your Back: Parenting at Saranam

One of the sentiments that we hear over and over from our families is what a big impact our parenting classes have on them. To learn more, we caught up with our Director of Education, Ian Vetter, to learn what Saranam’s parenting classes cover and why they are so impactful. 

Mother and two boys smiling at camera, enjoying some relaxing time togetherWhat are the major focuses of our parenting curriculum?

Parenting is a huge job- really, our most important job. What we try to do in our parenting classes is to give parents a framework for understanding their children’s development and help them develop tools that will enhance their family relationships.

Some of our focuses are:

  • Strategies for modeling good behavior
  • Effective communication strategies between parents and children
  • Developing tools to build familial capacity for increased empathy and resilience
  • Helping kids increase their social and emotional skills, like building self-esteem, and understanding their emotions
This is one of the things parents consistently point to as a huge success of their time at Saranam. Why do you think parenting classes make such an impact?

Mom holding two young girls in her lap, looking down lovingly at her smiling toddler and baby dressed as a pumpkinParenting makes up so much of our happiness, our daily life and our future plans, but it is very difficult. At the end of the day every parent is working to give their kids a good life. Getting support from fellow parents and learning useful strategies helps every parent reach that goal.

“I am most proud of my better parenting. Through Saranam parenting classes and counseling I really learned how to better de-escalate my daughter.” 

For example, when families come to Saranam they make big adjustments in the flow of their days. Taking time to purposefully craft a family dynamic, a new workable routine, and new ways to bond that meet these changes can make a less stressful home environment.

I have a better balance between my priorities and needing spend time with my son. I am more patient.  I have better confidence so I deal with him better.

In addition, the more you know about something, the more confident you feel in doing it. Understanding their children better develops a sense of agency and advocacy for parents. And seeing the positive changes in their children builds confidence in their ability to develop this, and all parts, of their new lives, in a way that works best for them. It becomes a building block in the foundations they are setting down for their new lives.

As an organization committed to trauma-informed care, how do our parenting classes help families?

Mother and son smiling together during some bonding time. Mom is wearing stickers on her face and son seems to know how they got there. All the families who come to Saranam have undergone some sort of trauma and stress, including experiencing homelessness. A significant part of our programming is devoted to acknowledging the role stress plays in shaping us as human beings. Adverse childhood experiences, trauma, and chronic stress tend to determine how we respond to stressors in our lives and how effective we are at managing them.

“Because of Saranam, my son and I are able to unite and build as strong foundation and bond that’s had been neglected until now.”

Our parenting classes are a safe space for parents. They talk through these things and share ideas as they grow and heal.

Like most aspects of our program, the parenting classes seem intentionally community based. How does this setup enhance what we do in our parenting classes?

Families play together at the Weil Family Center. Here two adults and three children are looking up and getting their arms ready to catch a football.Parenting is always easier with a village. Since our parents are both peers and neighbors, using a community-based approach helps them realize the support and resources that are available to them in this space – not just from Saranam, but from each other.

“As a community we shared our knowledge and parenting experience with each other; how do you get through the terrible twos or console the first heartbreak, or even just keeping your sanity during bedtime.”

How do the parenting classes help families move toward their goal of ending homelessness?

This gets to the crux of what two-generational programming is all about; working to enhance the well-being and functioning of the family as a whole.

To begin, when parents have more support and tools at their disposal, they are more effective and can devote more stress-free, fun time to bonding.A mother is helping hold her baby stead as she is learning to take her first steps.

That positive parental connection, along with added consistency and decreased conflict, enormously benefits kids and helps them perform better in school and social relationships.

As parents learn more, they increase their capacity to be strong advocates for their kids. This in turn helps ensure kids are getting what they need academically and emotionally.

Mom is smiling down at her baby boy, who is looking at the camera with a big smile.Kids succeed as a result, which gives parents confidence in their ability and capacity to push further in their own goals.

Finally, as parents reach those goals and move up the income ladder, they can give their kids access to more resources that will help them grow up successfully as well.

It becomes a mutually reinforcing cycle of encouragement and growth.

“I earned my son’s trust back. Now we play, read, tickle each other, just have fun.  We love each other.”
By |2021-09-20T03:48:05+00:00September 20, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Becoming a Lighthouse for Others

by “M”, Saranam parent

seanhopkins2020.pngIn a normal year, November would signal our chance to gather together at Los Poblanos, share a laugh with friends, and hear families’ courageous stories at our annual Sean Hopkins Memorial Dinner.

While we must put this event on hold this year, the hope remains, the courage of our families has not stopped, and we are more deeply connected as a community than ever. We don’t want to let the month pass without hearing the stories fueling our dedication to help families end homelessness.

This is a story from one of our mothers, “M”, about her journey from homelessness to becoming a lighthouse for others who are finding their way.

 

casserolemarcy.jpgM was never given much opportunity to learn, but she is a natural teacher. Like all good teachers, she uses the lessons she learned from her challenges to inspire and guide others.

M’s childhood was riddled with drug use and instability. “I don’t think we ever stayed in a place more than 6 months”, she remembers. She was eventually placed into foster care. The move, fraught with heavy police interaction, was a foreshadowing of her poor experience in the system. At 18 she had grown up, but wasn’t raised, and entered the world unprepared to support herself and maintain a home.

She managed the best she could until the birth of her first son, who entered the world two months premature and with Down Syndrome. When they were released from the hospital, she found it difficult to find a job and living situation that would enable her to support a special needs child. She found shelter at the Ronald McDonald house but after that, she says, “it was one bad situation after another.”

In the next years she survived a series of several abusive relationships and had two more children. In her final relationship in this cycle, she stopped going to work and became utterly dependent on her partner. When he left, she slipped into deep, debilitating depression and became increasingly incapable of taking care of herself and her children.

Marcyfriendscommunity.jpgShe hit her rock bottom when the police showed up to investigate a gas leak and saw the state of her house. CYFD immediately took custody of her kids and she was sent to jail. “Those two days were the worst days of my life. I had no idea where my kids were or if I would ever be able to see them again.”

Though traumatic, those days gave her precious perspective. Upon her release, she worked with CYFD to create a safety plan so she could maintain custody of her kids. She vowed to never place her kids in such a dangerous situation again and took steps to change.

The first thing on her list was to find a safe place to stay, which she found with our community partner, Barrett House. She was told about Saranam on the first day of her stay and applied. The interview was the most nervous she’s ever been, but the compassion showed by the staff and other families reassured her that she would have the support she needed to get through. She was so thrilled when she got word of her acceptance, she accidentally hung up. “I was fit to be tied!

M has finally found stability at Saranam. Now she spends her days going to school, taking care of her physical and mental health, and playing with her kids. She has even found that the move to online classes has given her more time to be a mentor for first-year families, helping them navigate things she was never taught as a child, like laundry and time management.

Her attachment to the Saranam community, she says, has been one of the biggest surprises at all.

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M has channeled her natural talent for teaching into a high-demand career as a special education teacher. After years of working with her son, she knows every child has the potential to thrive and she wants to help them find a way to use their unique gifts. She is working closely with the TRIO program at CNM to transfer to UNM for a four-year degree.

Her true happiness, as always, is in her children. They have grown so much in their time at Saranam. They now take pride in keeping their rooms clean and happily go to school, knowing that home will be waiting for them. She knows her steps forward will continue to teach her kids.

“For the first time,” she says, “my kids are proud of me. They see that I can do it, so they can do it.”

M

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Support more transformations like this.  Your gift will change a life.

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By |2021-09-02T20:45:54+00:00August 9, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

New Person, Fresh Life

By “C”, Saranam alumni

We so dearly wish we could have met to hear from these amazing women in person at our Annual Sean Hopkins Memorial Event, but are honored to share their powerful stories with you here.

“C” is one of the remarkable women you would have met and she was kind enough to share with us how she believes she became a new person at Saranam.

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To meet “C” is to see a woman full of confidence, strength, and self-assurance. But this, she says, is the new person she has become at Saranam. Her old self, she doesn’t recognize anymore.

C’s journey began with a simple oral surgery, when the pills prescribed for her recovery began a drug dependency.

She hid her addiction throughout her seven-year marriage, suffering silently without help or support. She was cut off from her family by her emotionally abusive husband and spent her days isolated with her two kids.

She can no longer pinpoint how she summoned the strength, but she sought help and entered rehab.

Her marriage, already broken, formally ended during her time in rehab. This meant that she exited the program without a home, without her kids, and without a way to support herself. “It was worse (upon exit),” she said. The next years of her life were punctuated with drug use, meaningless jobs, and three suicide attempts. She tried rehab again, but her demons still haunted her, “I was still in the same place- I couldn’t handle being alone and sad.”

When she became pregnant again, she knew she needed to change for the sake of her child. She bravely reached out to her family, who advocated for her to be put into a different rehab program that focused on building a network of support and job skills. It gave her the leg-up she needed.

She stayed at Barrett House for a period upon her successful exit and had a good job with the State of New Mexico, but still didn’t have a place for her other children to join her.

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She needed a big change to get her where she wanted to be and knew that getting into Saranam could get her there.

Her life hasn’t been the same since her acceptance. “Saranam has changed everything…,” she says, “my plan when I got here was to do something quick. I didn’t think I could get to do what I really wanted. To me, I was a drug addict and I wasn’t worth it. But the first semester went well, and as time went on, I (started to think) I could do what I wanted to do. Now I know I can do it. She has big goals and has completed the first year of her studies to become a nurse.

She draws a large amount of her confidence from the community that surrounds her. Her friends at Saranam have encouraged her and taught her how to both give, and receive, compassion.

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The stable housing at Saranam has also meant that she is able to have all her kids back under one roof. They have steadily healed as a family, regaining trust and learning how to function together again. She feels proud that her kids now feel comfortable enough to sleep in their own beds and play outside with the other kids. Her goal is to make sure they always have confidence that she will be by their side- no matter what.

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C knows she will never be without support again. She has started to build back her relationship with her mom. “She always tells me how proud she is of what I’m doing and for not giving up. That feels good.” She also plans to stay involved and add new faces to her support network when she leaves. Her hope is to use her current favorite community activity- gardening- to bring people together in her next place.

“There’s never a way to fully explain what Saranam has done for me,” she says, “I’m a completely different person now.”

 



Support more transformations like this. Your gift will change a life.

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By |2021-09-20T04:03:22+00:00August 9, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Going Full Circle: The Next Chapter

The best gift we could receive this holiday season is to know that families we have served are thriving.

We caught up with Mayra, who successfully left Saranam 9 years ago. She has brought her story full circle- from homelessness to selling homes as a real estate agent.

Can you tell me a little bit about your journey to Saranam?

I had a bad relationship with my ex-husband. Let’s just say that he wasn’t nice. One day he told me that it was over and packed the baby and my bags into the car and made me leave.

I didn’t have a college education or a job to support myself. I didn’t know what to do.

I didn’t want to go to my parent’s house; I didn’t want to be a burden to my mom. So, I went to a shelter, who told me about Saranam.

When I got into Saranam I was so happy, this burden was lifted off me. I felt like I couldn’t take any more weight on my shoulders. Saranam took the tension off.

What did you find most beneficial about the program?

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What I love about Saranam is that it doesn’t just give you somewhere to stay- they’re opening doors. Their focus on education is so important. I knew I couldn’t do two things at once and they supported me so I could get an education.

The support is what it is all about. I knew I wasn’t alone at Saranam.

It felt so warm. There were people willing to reach their hand out in a time of need.

Where does Saranam fit into your story?

It’s the middle of my story; it was the break I needed to focus. Saranam gave me the push to get started on the next chapter.

I finished an Associates in University Applied Science at CNM while in the program and went on to get a Bachelor’s in Middle Eastern and Latin American Studies with a minor in Arabic at UNM.

I am thinking of going back to school to get my Master’s degree. I want to be a P.A. (physician’s assistant). I know it’ll be hard but I have a supportive husband and I’ve done a degree before so I know I CAN do it.

Your hands are full with 5 kids 😊. What hopes do you have for your kids now?

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I want my kids to be able to succeed. To get an education. That’s something we push a lot in our house. And it’s working out.

My oldest is so smart; he’s at CNM’s College and Career High School and will graduate high school with his Associate’s degree. We’re very proud of him.

What is one of the challenges you have faced since leaving the program?

Before Saranam, when I was around 19 years old, I enrolled in a semester at UNM. I had a miscarriage and left but never dropped my classes. Little did I know that those grades would reflect in my future GPA.

After receiving my Associate’s Degree at CNM, I went back to UNM to get a Bachelor’s degree. Having that GPA on my record made it really hard to get scholarships and financial aid. I struggled a bit. It took me 3 years but finally got (my GPA) over a 3.0.

It sounds like you gained some valuable resilience in the process.

daydreambeliever.JPGExperiencing homelessness at one point and trying to finish a career was a challenge, but many things can be achieved with dedication and persistence.

You have to really want it- for yourself and for your kids. I have had many obstacles that were hard, but not impossible.

What advice do you have for families at Saranam?

Try your best. This is a rare program to be able to come into. You can BE somebody. Take advantage of having a stable home and getting your bills paid to do as many credits as possible while you can.

You can do this. Only we can push ourselves to create dreams. It won’t be fast to finish, but your hard work will pay off. You just have to be patient.

You’ve really taken your story full circle from experiencing homelessness to selling homes. Wow! Do you mind if we share your contact information?

Yes! Please do. My name is Mayra and I work for RE/MAX EXCLUSIVE. I am here to help or answer any questions related to real estate. Share my contact information with family and friends.

I know how important a home is for a family and would love to help others find theirs.

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Mayra Reyes

Associate Broker, Re/Max Exclusive

(505) 833-1400 (office)

Mreyes0435@gmail.com

By |2021-08-09T00:34:54+00:00August 9, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments
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