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Catholic Charities Corporation Administrative Offices:

7911 Detroit Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44102

(216) 334-2900

Migration & Refugee Services - Single Mothers/BRIDGE Program

Posted May 06, 2022

According to the 1951 Refugee Convention, a refugee is “someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.”

Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) respects all individuals and provides a supportive environment to help those they serve.

Among the many refugees in the Cleveland area, single mothers with grade-school children are welcomed to join Mary’s House: Refugee Single Mothers Program.

“The mothers gather with our wonderful art therapist… She does wellness and trauma-informed session each month, and the moms really get to know each other, gain new skills, and they get to pause and relax….” Program Administrator for MRS MaryKatherine Blankenship said.

This program started as a call to action for women to be able to disconnect, take care of themselves, and interact with others who are going through the same experiences.

“They [women] come in brand new, don’t know the culture, they’re learning English, and they’ve had all these experiences, and they’re trying to start new here,” Blankenship said, “So try doing that as a single parent with many children. It can be really difficult so coming together once a month in-person to really connect and see who’s also experiencing those same things.”

The women who participate come from different cultures and countries. One woman was able to leave Honduras but could only bring one of her children.

“When I came here, I was in very bad shape. I came with only one of my children from the eight that I have,” Single Mothers Program participant, Doris Burgos said.

After connecting with Catholic Charities, two more of her children, ages 9 and 16, started making their journey to the U.S.

“Sometimes they were calling me, and they told me, ‘Mom, we are almost there,’ and I asked, ‘did you eat already?’ They would always be telling me, ‘Mom, we haven’t eaten, but it doesn’t matter we’re happy because we’re almost close to see you again,’” Burgos said.

Burgos now has five out of eight of her children with her and has faith in God that she will be united with the rest soon.

“Although there are only three more [children] that are not with me right now, I have faith in God they are going to be here… Then my life will be even more fulfilled,” Burgos said.

Alongside the single mothers program, there is BRIDGE. The BRIDGE program happens simultaneously and is for the children of the mothers.

This program partners up with Magnificat High School’s Campus Ministry and engages the children in movement, mindfulness, and “brain games”, all while learning the English language.

“Volunteering with this program has enforced the fact that I have so, so much to be grateful for. Seeing little kids struggle with language barriers and despite that, still having huge smiles puts my own problems into perspective.” Magnificat Sophomore, Abby Brocklehurst said.

The main goal of these two programs is for connections to be made and to let participants have time to enjoy themselves during the navigation process of their new lives.

“I hope that the mothers gain new skills in what they think of as ‘wellness’ and how they can incorporate some of the mindfulness exercises into their daily lives. I also hope that they leave feeling a sense of calm and enjoyed their time” Blankenship said, “For the BRIDGE participants, I hope that they have fun with the Magnificat students and feel a sense of empowerment in that they get to teach them about their home countries, languages, food, and customs.”

For more information on MRS and the programs, click the button below.

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Catholic Diocese of Cleveland Part of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland

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