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

Nourishing Change

by Stephanie Johnston, Family Stability Advocate

veggies.jpgMarch is national nutrition month! Addressing hunger is so much more than just filling a belly. Learning about and accessing healthy foods has huge implications for the stability of a person’s transition from homelessness.

We are so lucky that our Family Stability Advocate, Stephanie Johnston, is also a licensed nutritionist. We took some time to talk to her about it.

Why is nutrition so important to you?

I’ve always had a passion for cooking and I really enjoy feeding my family healthy foods. When I changed careers a few years ago, I knew I wanted to make nutrition a bigger part of my life. I’ve come to discover that it touches every facet of our world- from the federal budget to individual mental, dental, and physical health.

How do we integrate nutrition into our work at Saranam?

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Our first-year students are required to take Ideas for Nutrition and Cooking, “ICAN” through New Mexico State University, and in the alumni program I offer ideas for healthy cooking on a budget. Saranam also pays for some extracurricular activities for the kids in the program and that goes hand-in-hand with healthy eating.

I find that a lot of nutrition starts with simple exposure to foods, so I also always make it a point to offer healthy snacks– fruit and vegetable trays, infused waters, and the like at our meetings.

Community has a huge impact on nutrition as well, especially as a parent. Having someone else there to come up with food ideas or share food with is so helpful. One of the big ways we do this is incorporating gardening in our curriculum.

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What is the link between poverty and nutrition?

cookingpic.JPGWell of course, food insecurity is synonymous with poverty- but the impact is deeper than that.

Not having food security or any control over what we can eat can also be extremely stressful and discouraging. When a family experiences homelessness, they often don’t have access to refrigeration, food storage, a stove, a blender, etc., so it’s hard to prepare healthy foods. It’s empowering for families to have a choice of foods and know that they have the capacity to provide for their families’ health, rather than just focusing on survival.

This self-sufficiency is something we don’t often think of. It’s crucial to not take away people’s autonomy over the foods they eat, but to teach them the right balance to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle. There are no bad foods- there are just foods we should eat more of than others.

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Also, it may seem counterintuitive, but obesity and poverty are linked. When someone’s income is limited, you focus your dollars on what will fill your belly up and not what is necessarily healthy. And foods that are less healthy are sometimes less expensive. Doing this for extended periods of time can be harmful.

It sounds like there are long-term effects of poor nutrition. Is that right?

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Of course. There is research that shows your insulin resistance decreases with a steady diet of simple carbs. When that happens, your energy drops and you just don’t operate at full capacity.

There have also been countless studies that show kids who eat well do better in school, have fewer behavior problems, and better attendance. And those things compound over the years.

We know that poverty often follows a generational cycle. Is the same true of nutrition?

Our eating preferences develop very young- sometimes even in utero. We learn as we cook and eat together as a family- something we don’t get anywhere else now.

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There is also the added layer of the adverse health effects of poor nutrition. There is a rise in medical costs that can weigh down a family for life and prevent families from being able to afford higher education, stable housing, etc. – things that really pay off in the end.

What projects do you have coming down the pike to deepen our nutrition program?

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There is no magic bullet to improve nutrition, but we always make sure to use evidence-based activities and programs to make it as effective as possible.

I have started collaborating with Mesa View United Methodist Church to do some low-cost, healthy cooking videos for families in the alumni program. We’ll be focusing on recipes that can be prepared in a short time and use less equipment, such as a sheet pan meal, and calculating the cost per serving and nutritional information of those meals. I hope to host some in-person cooking classes as well.

I also think making things like new seasonings available is crucial. Some things can be an investment, but they are often what makes food taste appealing.

What are your favorite websites to learn more about this?

Ellyn Satter Institute: She did seminal work in this area focusing on feeding relationships. For example, just putting healthy foods out and making it fun to try new things. Eating to enjoy each other.

Eating Well: This website has great recipe ideas. You can just put in an ingredient and it will give you tons of ideas.

USDA SNAPed: This is just chalk-full of resources, games, and information.

By |2021-07-08T23:07:54+00:00June 17, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Hands-On Help

by Sonya Priestly, Saranam supporter and past Board Member

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Sometimes the universe aligns just right to bring very special people into our lives. Sonya Priestly is one of those we have been lucky enough to know.

She just finished up an incredibly dynamic term on our Board of Directors, and we caught up with her to ask what Saranam has meant to her and how she brings her passion for thriving families to life at Saranam.

 

I learned about Saranam over seven years ago when I was fortunate enough to meet my now dear friend, Elaine Soloman. We shared our interests and activities with each other over an idyllic fall walk and Elaine spoke so warmly about her involvement with Saranam. The more she told me, the more excited I became. The program covered every area that I thought was necessary to help a family overcome poverty and homelessness- all while receiving an education!

I have forever held the view that education is the key to fixing most of the social ills we experience. But it is a difficult journey without support. Saranam provides the help necessary to achieve an education and to learn valuable life skills that can change the lives of people determined to make a better life for themselves and their children.

BMWevent.JPGI got involved as soon as possible. My first adventure was decorating an apartment with my daughters, my son-in-law, and my granddaughters. We worked hard to make it special for the family we imagined would inhabit this apartment. It was a fun family experience and an opportunity for my young granddaughters to learn about the many ways they can be of help and service to their community.

I threw myself in from there- asking everyone I knew to donate items they no longer needed, picking up household items, clothing and furniture from people around town, and taking countless trips to and from the warehouse with my friends, and their friends, and their friends stuff!

Not too long after I began with the practical work, I was asked to join the Board. I was honored and served as a proud Board member for 6 years. It is, indeed, a WORKING Board! There are so many volunteer opportunities at Saranam, and the Board participates in every aspect of the program.

I very much like to be “hands-on” and I thoroughly enjoyed the work I did.

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It was Sue Rzendzian, Saranam’s former Director of Development, who recruited me to help her with fundraising. I was a novice, but even though it was sometimes uncomfortable, I soon realized that it isn’t so

hard to ask if you really believe in the program. And I also learned – from Sue – that the absolute worst thing that can happen is being told, “no.” I learned a lot from her!

One of the aspects that has always intrigued me about Saranam is the “vetting” process for new families. The staff recommends the families they believe, based on some tough criteria, will be successful. But the highest hurdle is set by letting the current families determine which candidates they believe are ready. The current families know there is a LOT of work involved and they are often able to spot when someone isn’t quite ready yet. They know that success depends on starting AND completing the two-year journey.

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Saranam’s program is unique, and critical to help people who, for whatever reasons, aren’t on the typical path.

The blend of academics, life skills, child well-being, and community support all work together to make it a model program for lifting people out of homelessness and breaking the chain of poverty to enable future generations to succeed.

All of us involved with Saranam love hearing the stories of the first families to graduate, how their lives have continued in a positive way, and how the lives of their children have been unmarred by poverty and homelessness. Two years is a long commitment, but I believe it is the necessary time to teach the skills necessary to change your life forever.

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By |2021-07-08T23:08:15+00:00June 17, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Putting Mental Health First

by Saranam Staff Contributors: Jennifer Mullen, Director of Family Services and Ian Vetter, Director of Education

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month and since this is a core part of our program, we thought it was important that we go through the fundamentals- the w’s- about how we put mental health first.

Who?

Everybody who walks through our doors has a story, a history, and their own struggles. Not only does the stress of experiencing homelessness take a toll, most of the people we serve have also experienced trauma or abuse, which can lead to other mental health issues that we help each other heal from as well.

We work hard to destigmatize mental health and encourage everyone- families and staff alike- to prioritize it and care for themselves.

“I used to think that being vulnerable was a weakness, but not anymore. Now I see how it opened me up – I was able to express what I feared, how I felt, and that let (staff) understand me and help teach me how to do better and be different. It helped me move in the right direction.” -Saranam alumni

What?

We uphold a commitment to non-judgment, and we work from that principle to normalize taking care of our mental health. It is so important for us to create a safe space to heal, to examine yourself without shame, and ask for help.

From day one, we actively give the message that Saranam gives you the time to “work” on yourself – we encourage and take pride in the internal healing and changes that our parents and children make.

“This kind of work is waaay harder than passing a class. And acknowledging and celebrating those (victories) is extra important because no one gets a certificate for good work in therapy!” -Saranam Director of Family Services

Our supportive community model is built to encourage this healing. Living in community with each other not only provides relief for the isolation and loneliness that often accompanies homelessness, but it also provides daily, positive interactions that develops families’ feelings of value and worth.

Where?

Mental health is a central part of every pillar of our program. Apart from the work families do privately, reflection and understanding are paired with hands-on techniques throughout all of our curriculum. Some examples include:

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In college success, we learn about the role stress plays in brain development, relationships, and the learning process. We discuss any personal barriers to learning and how we can use our past experiences to make education achievable and even enjoyable.

Our effective communication class gives both parents and children alike the tools to better communicate their needs and wants. By understanding how our communication and personality styles work together, we can better know how to interact with others and reduce frustration and anger.

In our Growth, Connection, and Community class, we encourage our students to use gardening as a relaxing, grounding technique to connect with our communities and invest in caring for the natural world.

When?

Mental health isn’t a finish line; it is something we work on for our entire lives. Learning appropriate tools at every stage of life helps us grow and adapt to challenges.

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One of the most important things we can do is ensure parents are not pouring from an empty cup. Giving adults the know-how to access services and help, prioritize self-care and mindfulness, and set attainable goals reduces stress and builds resilience so they can give energy and attention to their children.

“My mindset is different because I’m not scared to accomplish things on my own anymore. I am on a much better relationship with myself. And I put that first now …and really put my best self into my goals for them and (me).” -Saranam alumni

We also give parents the agency to promote mental health in their homes. In our parenting classes parents learn about childhood development and gain context for their child’s behavior. This allows parents to effectively guide their children through life skills classes where they can layer tools onto their knowledge and practice together in a safe space. Over time these skills strengthen bonds, ease children’s anxiety, and even heal trauma.

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“My parenting has improved – 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.”- Saranam alumni.

The effect compounds over time. Children become less stressed with consistent care and attention, which trickles down into better behavior at home and higher gains at school. And as children become more stable, their parents feel more determined and capable of making these changes permanent.

At the end of the day, families succeed as a team.

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Why?

Mental health is at the center of everything we do. We are better and more effective parents, students, employees, and community members when we feel safe, balanced, and confident.

As an organization dedicated to trauma-informed care, we know that healing from the adversity that we have experienced and learning from our setbacks enables us to start the next chapter of our story with strength and resilience.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please call SAMHSA’s national hotline or New Mexico Crisis Line.

By |2021-07-08T23:07:13+00:00June 17, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Building Foundations for Life- We Thrive!

We’ve always known how important our work is, but 2020 showed just how many families are at risk of losing everything. It would have been easy for a family to fall through the cracks. It would have been easy for them to fall behind. But they didn’t at Saranam. Here is our wonderful Director of Development, Dianne Campbell, to tell us why we need your help to bring in 10 new families to Saranam in 2021.

Imagine being a parent in 2020 who was facing homelessness in the middle of a pandemic. As a mom, I can think of few things more frightening. Last year, 10 families confronted this but were able to find refuge at Saranam. We want to do it again.

As I look back on the year, I’m so proud of how we maintained our commitment to our families with the pandemic raging around us. Whenever I was asked in 2020 how we were doing, I could honestly say we were doing the exact same things we always do, just from home- and so were our families. We shifted to all our classes online, we did contactless drop-off of supplies and we moved our community to Zoom. In short, we removed families’ immediate worries, so they just had to focus on their education and health- just like the rest of us. We, and our families, remained stable and kept moving forward.

It wasn’t easy, by any means, for any of us. But there have been so many times this year that I have told family and friends how lucky I feel to come to work every day.

I feel so fortunate to be in a place where in two years, you can see folks totally turn around their lives for themselves and their kids.

This is why I love my job- it matters so much.

The reality is that the pandemic could have been the start of another 10 cycles of generational poverty. But it wasn’t. In fact, we had an 85% success rate in 2020. And 25 families- 28 adults and 54 children- are safe because of you.

This spring, I invite you to help us do it again. I ask you to become a part of our Building Foundations for Life- We Thrive annual campaign. Each year it is this campaign that enables us to bring in 10 new families. Our goal is to raise $350,000. That’s just $35,000 for everything a family would need for a year.

Every little bit helps. We’re happy to announce that we have been given TWO challenge gifts to support entire families. That means this is your chance to help FOUR families erect the foundations of their new lives at Saranam.

So, we challenge YOU to reach out to a friend, spread the word, and plant the seed of change today. We stuck together in 2020, and if we work together as a community, we can change the lives of another 10 families in 2021. Thank you for your support and being a part of the Saranam family.

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Watch just how important your gift is to a family!

Thank you for your support! from SaranamABQ on Vimeo.

By |2021-07-08T23:07:36+00:00June 17, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments

A Decade of Service

by Saranam staff and alumni

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This month marks the 10-year anniversary of a very special person at Saranam- our Director of Family Services, Jennifer Mullen.

Like many of our staff, Jen first joined us as a volunteer, and even then, the impact she could have on families was evident. The very first family she was paired with became the first to meet all six of our measures of success and went on start a thriving career after finishing business school.

As she came on board as Saranam’s case manager, her influence only deepened, becoming a huge part of the transformations of the 103 families (including 211 children!) she has helped in her decade with us.

Jen embodies all that families experiencing homelessness crave- consistency, respect, honesty and empowerment. Throughout their two years, a family is never alone with Jen at their side. She walks beside them, hand on their backs, ushering them forward with a Yoda-esque ability to discern when they need a push or support.

Her efforts have proven successful time and time again, as dozens of families point to Jen’s guidance as a critical in their journey home.

“Her impact on my time at Saranam was a major reason I completed the 2 years and graduated from both CNM & Pima. I hadn’t had someone truly believe in me in many years.”

What’s her secret? Well, part of it is that Jen has a special talent for ensuring that the ownership of change rests firmly in the hands of the people she is helping. She offers tools and constant cheerleading but makes sure to build a family’s confidence in their capacity for change.

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This proves crucial because, as we well know, the reasons behind homelessness are unique and often complex to tackle. Likewise, there is no single solution that will be feasible for every family. It would be easy to get overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. But Jen never is. Unwaveringly nonjudgmental, she tackles each issue with a calm, learned approach that makes any problem feel manageable.

Beyond her evident skill in working with families is a commitment to learning and consistently elevating the level of practice she provides. That erudition has also been instrumental in our work to validate our model and grow our success to where it is today.

As in all her work, she shares her knowledge to help others be the best they can be. Not only does she bring trainings to continuously enhance our work, she has become a leader in community circles, providing the boots-on-the-ground input necessary to push community progress forward too.

With an easy laugh and an ear that is always bent toward you, she is a pillar of the family atmosphere that envelops you at Saranam. We’re grateful she has been part of our family for over a decade and hope you will join us in thanking her for her commitment to our mission.

To celebrate, we asked several alumni to share with us what Jen has meant to their journey and their success. As you see, her impact will endure for many decades to come..

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By |2021-07-08T23:08:34+00:00May 18, 2021|Uncategorized|0 Comments
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