“You are not forgotten.”

One of Maria’s strengths is her patience. Every day she genuinely seeks to connect with each individual student in Kids Club. She finds that some students connect easily with their leaders – while other students remain reserved, requiring patience and creativity to build deeper relationships. These are the students she seeks out most on a daily basis.


“I want every student to know they are seen and that they are special to me, as well as the rest of the class,” says Maria, who is in her second year as a Kids Club assistant in Casa’s Local Leader program.

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Beach Trip: Fun & Encouragement

In the early moments of dawn our carpool of sixty-five Casa families, friends, and staff arrived at Sandy Point Park. As adults helped each other unload the food, umbrellas, beach chairs and games, young Isla stood shivering as she took the scene in. This August morning was cold for her! A staff member introduced himself and gave her a towel to warm up. “Thank you!” she exclaimed. Being a first grader coming to meet new Kids Club classmates for the first time, she watched the water reflecting the sunrise on the Chesapeake Bay and courageously began making new friends.


During the annual family beach trip, new students and parents alike enjoyed the opportunity to begin relationships with the community around them. For many parents new to the Chirilagua neighborhood, this was a welcomed day outside of work and parenting where they could relax and meet others. “Casa is a place where I can hang out and meet new friends,” remarks Blanca. She sits talking with her neighbors and the staff she’s befriended over the past year as they enjoy pan y cafe, a traditional Central-American breakfast.


Back at the beach, laughter and splashing fill the air as kids are swimming and playing games. Young Isla is bravely experiencing the water for the first time as she clutches on to her inner tube. At first she is scared, despite her new friends playing around her.


“No, I can’t do it! I’m afraid. I’m afraid.” she anxiously cries with a look of concern quickly changing to terror.


A staff member approaches her and holds onto her inner tube, “It’s okay. I am holding on to you. You are going to be fine. Take a deep breath. I am here with you. There is nothing to be scared of.”


Isla looks at the staff member silently wondering if she can trust. Her attention is no longer on the water but contemplating if this new person can relieve her fear.


The staff member follows up, “Do you trust me?”


She pauses, contemplates, then remarks, “Yes, I trust you.”


Isla lets out a sigh and begins to slowly float out deeper, where her feet can no longer touch, alongside the supervising staff member.


The staff member then lets go of the inner tube and says, “Look! You are doing it on your own!” as she waived both of her hands at Isla and smiled.


Isla looks around herself, seeing she has floated to a deeper area. With a big smile she happily remarks, “I am! I’m floating all by myself!”


As Isla, Blanca and other young students and parents begin this new chapter of their lives, a word of encouragement is sometimes all they need. Sharing a towel, bonding over a meal or walking into deeper waters together are the simple things we can all do to encourage each other and help overcome fears. Over the course of the coming school year we dream with anticipation of how much deeper and stronger these relationships will become. Who will Isla guide into deeper waters during this school year or next year’s beach trip? Only time will tell!


See more photos of our day at Sandy Point on Facebook

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Summer Highlights

Our community center has been busy with students of all ages from morning until night this summer. Here are reports from each of the classes. Also be sure to follow the photos on our Facebook page!


Summer Kids Club

Our elementary school friends have been working hard this summer! As they reviewed fractions, practiced math facts, and went over place value and rounding – volunteers and staff worked hard to set students up for success in the coming school year. Math and reading can be subject areas that are the most frustrating for our kids. However, thanks to your one on one support 76% of students feel more confident to learn math while 83% of students feel more confident around reading in the upcoming school year. Thank you to all volunteers who came out to support our children in Summer Club!


Teens Casa Club

As Ana* sat at teens’ Casa Club Camp she weaved yarn in and out of a cross-shaped design which she had created. I asked her, “What have you appreciated about Casa Club this past year?” She thought for a while and then she answered, “I got the help I needed and I met new people.” I followed up asking what kind of help she had received, expecting it to be around her school work. She replied, “Well, they helped me learn how to talk to people. Talking to new people is hard for me, and I don’t always control my emotions well. But they helped me process my emotions, and they were patient and kind with me. Now I feel like talking to new people isn’t so hard anymore.


It’s been encouraging to see volunteers at Casa Club building a community where students feel safe to learn how to express themselves. Across all of our programs, volunteers build deeper relationships, instilling confidence and nurturing stronger communities. Thank you to each of you for everything you’ve done to build a flourishing community in Chirilagua.


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Family Strengthening Classes

In August of 2017 leaders from the Chirilagua community met to plan the strategic direction of Casa Chirilagua for the next three years. One goal that emerged from that process was the desire to strengthen families in our community. As Mario remarked, “Sometimes our families aren’t strong, then the community is not strong. We want to have unity within our families.”


With this as one of five new directional focuses of the organization, Casa began seeking opportunities to strengthen families in our community. When we met Pastor Arispe through a friend of Casa, we were elated by the passion and experience he brought to the table. Equipped with an extensive training and education in psychology and pastoral counseling, his professional and life experience (including being a native Spanish speaker) was just what our community was requesting. However it was his passion to, “See families restored and to better equip the next generation,” and his warm, pastoral and fatherly nature made him a great fit for our Casa families.

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