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who we are

 

Looking ahead with bright eyes and a smile, first grade student Ricardo patiently sat at the kitchen table waiting for his newest friend to come through the front door. This was no ordinary friend – this was Robert, Ricardo’s new mentor. As his new mentor entered, Ricardo’s smile froze in place as he stared at Robert in awe.

 

Only weeks before, Ricardo eagerly asked Casa’s mentoring director, Mr. Jose, several questions about this exciting new mentor he’d soon meet:

 

“Mr. Jose, what’s his name? What does he look like? Is he tall or short? Does he like to play? What does he like to do?” asked Ricardo, barely scratching the surface of the relationship that would ensue.

 

However, on Match Day, Ricardo was overcome with shyness which hindered him from flooding Robert with questions. Match Day is a special day when long-awaiting students finally meet their mentor. Although every mentorship develops uniquely, one thing remains the same: everyone is excited for Match Day.

 

Ricardo is one of four students matched during National Mentoring Month this past January. Four new relationships are being built among mentors, their mentees and their family members!

 

As one matched student stated, “It’s important for me that my mentor gets to know my family.”

 

Clearly, there is an emphasis on connection from all sides in the mentorship. This grows naturally through time together each week.

 

For Ricardo and Robert, and all our new matches, this is the beginning of a wonderful friendship. Match Day sparks the connection bringing different worlds together. Bridges are built and strengthened as relationships grow – hopefully for many years to come.

 

 

Collage of new mentor/mentee matches with their families

 


 

Learn more about mentoring with Casa Chirilagua here.

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Daniel faced the overwhelming task of choosing a career after high school graduation. He was one of many students in the United States representing the first in their family to graduate high school. While working a job and passing his tests, this decision stayed prominently on his mind. However, he was not alone in this process.

 

At his side have been his supportive family and his two Casa mentors Sarah and Emmanuel. Arriving to this point was one of many milestones in their journey together.

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On a cold, grey December afternoon, Katherine stood bundled-up and waiting at the bus stop for her remaining Kid’s Club friends to arrive. Puzzled, she turned to Mr. Jose – Casa Chirilagua’s mentoring director – and she asked, “So, the event on Saturday is going to be only for us mentees, right?”

 

Mr. Jose looked at her and said, “Yes that’s right, and actually our mentors will be there too. Are you excited?”

 

Katherine’s face lit up and stammered, “Yeah! Can my mom and little brother come?”

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This is not Andres’* typical Saturday morning. The alarm goes off very early. Waking up his first thought is that it must be a school day—it’s usually what happens when the alarm goes off this early. But his mom reminds him this is no school day. This is the day he will be speaking at City Hall! He and his mentor Michael* will be standing in front of Alexandria’s City Council to speak about Casa Chirilagua. This is a big day!

 

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“I’m really surprised at the impact that Jose* and his family have had on me,” reflects Todd, a Casa Chirilagua mentor. It was a year ago that Todd attended an Alexandria Mentoring Partnership information session and considered whether or not to become a mentor with Casa Chirilagua. His initial thoughts were simply that, “Volunteering would be a few hours commitment per week.” What he found was something much deeper: (more…)

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As Mentoring Director I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and knowing Lee Ferron through his mentorship with Mario*. Their mentorship predates my role as mentoring director. Lee has been dedicated to his mentee, faithfully showing up week in and week out since Mario was in the 5th grade and in September, Mario will be a junior in high school! During my time as Mentoring Director, I have seen the level of dedication Lee exhibits in his mentorship. Lee spends an average of 19 hours per month with Mario (the minimum requirement for our program is 4 hours). He maintained this schedule and dedication while working full time in ministry and pursuing his Master’s Degree in Theological Studies at Wesley Theological Seminary.

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As a young woman living across the country from most of my family, I feel very fortunate to have found Casa Chirilagua and a new home away from home with my mentee and her family. My mentorship experience has not only been fun and allowed me to make meaningful relationships with people I would have never otherwise met, but my mentee and her family also have supported me and my own family through difficult times with love and prayer. I am so thankful to the hard-working Casa Chirilagua staff for my transformative experiences with my mentee!

This story was submitted by mentor Meredith Dost.

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I became a mentor because I wanted to assist families in my community.  I became a mentor because I grew up looking up to some wonderful adult role models.  I became a mentor because I wanted to volunteer in a way that made an impact in the long run.


I did not become a member because I thought a 9-year old from a different culture would have anything to teach me.  And yet, that is exactly what happened.

 

 

Through the program and interaction with my mentee, I have learned more about myself, my beliefs, and my values, than I ever could have imagined.  I have been faced with “teaching moments” – how to explain humility to a 9-year old, without using the word “humility.”  I have learned patience – my mentee did not warm up right away, and yet now greets me with hugs.  I learned that there are things you can’t explain (politics), assurances you cannot make (the North Pole may or may not melt due to climate change), and situations you cannot change (death in the family).


I have learned that this is my purpose. 


There is a smaller someone who depends on me to be there.  While it’s always more fun to be learning through activities (trips to the zoo, museums, etc.), we do have low-key moments when we’re watching a movie and we giggle at the same funny scene.  In that moment, I am reassured that I am doing all those things I set out to do as a mentor. And that is what mentoring gave ME.


This story was submitted by mentor Kathryn Grandstaff-Radford.

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Casa Chirilagua is a proud participant in National Mentoring Month.  Since 2009, Casa has partnered with more than 50 mentors who have served over 60 youth ages 7 to 15 from the Chirilagua community. We strive to place every Kids Club student in a mentoring relationship. Currently we have 9 children who are waiting for this life-transforming relationship. Our goal is to pair each of them with a mentor this month!

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Mentors and mentees are invited to kick off the holiday season at our second annual Mentor/Mentee Thanksgiving Potluck Lunch on Sat. Nov. 15th from 12:00-2:00 PM. We are so thankful to Fairlington Presbyterian Church for providing the space to have our lunch. They are located at 3846 King St. in Alexandria, VA 22302.  Last year we had a wonderful time and ate like kings! If you are a mentor, don’t forget to invite your mentee and his/her family to this event.

 

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Every time I read the monthly reports from our mentors I’m amazed at the many ways God works through our mentor-mentee relationships. Just this past month I read how one mentor is teaching her mentee Korean, another mentor has helped her mentee conquer her fear of dogs, and one of our middle school mentees even made the baseball team despite having no prior experience- all with the help of his very dedicated mentoring couple.  As the Christmas season approaches and we all turn our thoughts towards gift-giving, I realize that being a mentor  is a gift to a child that truly makes a life-long impact. Our mentors invest a portion of their time each week to their mentees, and are rewarded with the opportunity to see two lives transformed by one relationship. So many of our mentors have shared with me both the joy of seeing their mentee learn and grow, and the personal fulfillment they experience being a mentor. This Christmas,

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One of my favorite parts of serving as Mentoring Director is the initial meeting between a mentee, the mentee’s family and the mentor. An ‘initial meeting’ is the meeting during which the family and mentor meet for the first time to officially kick off the mentorship.

Two weeks ago I matched one of our 2nd grade girls, Alice, with her mentor. As the mentor and I knocked on her door to have our initial meeting, Alice opened the door, gasped surprisingly, and with the most awed-struck look yelled, “Ms. Amy is my mentor?!”

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This month we would like to recognize the amazing Margaret Wohler as our volunteer of the month! As a professional Park Naturalist for Fairfax County, she has been a Godsend  for our Kids Club excursions to Huntley Meadows Natural Park. As leader of these nature outings, she teaches our kids about the beauty of the environment and how to explore natural habitats through sketching and painting. During these lessons, she provides every student with a personal art kit to document their observations, which they can keep for future excursions. Recently she led our mentee-mentor outing to Dora Kelley Nature Park. Everyone had fun sketching the gorgeous environment. Additionally, Margaret brought fish nets for the kids to catch some critters in the river. Everyone had a blast! Margaret is a natural with kids, bringing energy, wonder and fun to all the trips she’s led for Casa Chirilagua. We are so thankful for volunteers like Margaret who provide our kids with new and exciting experiences. Thank you, Margaret!

View photos of the trip to Dora Kelley Nature Park.

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Did you know that Alexandria has beautiful nature parks within 15 minutes of Chirilagua? On Saturday, June 28 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. our elementary school students and their mentors will take a trip to one of these scenic green spaces — the Dora Kelley Nature Park.  This fun outing, exclusively for elementary school mentorships, will include educational trail walks, where we’ll observe the wildlife and streams.

 

We’ll also receive a private art lesson from Park Naturalist, Margaret Wohler, who previously led our trips to Huntley Meadows Park. Margaret will provide fancy art kits for all of us! She’ll teach us how to absorb the details of our surroundings and create nature sketches. A visit to Dora Kelley Park will likely be a new experience for most of our students. Mentees and mentors will learn from Margaret and have a chance to  explore the beautiful park. Afterwards, we’ll gather for a picnic and play some fun group games.

 

If you are an elementary student mentor, please email me, adriana@casachirilagua.org to RSVP as soon as possible to plan for art kit numbers. Remember to ask your mentee’s parents for permission and please let me know if you need any assistance with communication.

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This month marked our first on-going training session series for Casa Chirlagua mentors. Held on a Thursday night at our office, the session brought a great turnout. Speaking on boundaries in mentoring, Mariela Aguilar, a veteran mentor with 14 years of experience, shared her wisdom on how to set boundaries within a mentoring relationship. Mariela’s personal stories illustrated how boundaries paid off in the long run and helped both her and her mentee throughout their relationship.

 

Her mentee now volunteers at the library where Mariela works, gaining experience to help her in her future career. We’re looking forward to more training sessions that will help our mentors establish and maintain healthy and effective mentorships – just like Mariela’s. Below are a few of the highlights from the training, eoncompassing the top 3 things you need to know about boundaries in mentoring: (more…)

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Every month we gather as a staff to select our Volunteer of the Month. With so many superstar volunteers it is always a tough choice, yet, each month one person or group stands out above the rest. This month we are pleased to announce Amelia Brown is our May Volunteer of the Month!

 

Amelia started volunteering with Casa Chirilagua in 2012. As a Casa volunteer, she helps our community in a variety of ways: serving on the Development Committee, a board committee which aids Casa Chirilagua in raising funds via events and other initiatives; mentoring one of our second grade girls; giving of her time in the Kids Club “Homework Room” assisting students with school assignments. (more…)

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Join us in congratulating Tim Kuhn, one of our long-time star mentors, who received the Virginia Mentoring Partnership award for 2013 Mentor of the Year for his work with his Casa Chirilagua mentee. The Virginia Mentoring Partnership gives away two of these awards each year, based on applications which include reference letters from the mentoring program and a personal reference.

 

We are extremely proud of Tim and his mentee for working so hard to achieve their academic goals together. It is an honor for one of our mentors to receive state-wide recognition, as a participant in our young program.

 

Our Mentoring Director, received a personal recommendation from Tim’s mentee’s mother. Below is her letter.

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“Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.” Mark 4:27

Each week at staff meeting, we take time to share two “God-Sightings” apiece. On a sticky note, we recount one moment of seeing God move in our personal lives and one story from the neighborhood or our daily work.

One week, Dawnielle came into staff meeting marveling at the wisdom and maturity she had seen in a second grader. At the end of December, Dawnielle was driving a bus full of Kids Club students on the way home from their ice skating field trip. The kids chattered away for awhile, but in a lull she overhead one student say, “My mom doesn’t love me because she won’t buy me gifts for Christmas.”

Jen, the second grader, sitting next to her, responded, “Don’t say that! Your mom loves you very much. Just because she won’t buy you things for Christmas doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you. She loves you and cares for you. That’s the most important thing. And we love you very much and care about you, too.”

Dawnielle beamed. “She was like a little counselor!” she told the staff, concluding the story. (more…)

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Casa Chirilagua Kids Club homework room

 

“Ms. Adriana! I want to tell you about my mentor! You know what we did? We wrote a story together! All by ourselves. It is our OWN story!”, Elisa, one of our 2nd graders, exclaimed to me on my last visit to Kids Club.

 

I recently touched based with a mentor who was cleaning out her car and found a small pair of eye glasses. They had been there a while and she realized, “These belong to my mentee! How long has she gone without wearing her glasses?”. When she met with her mentee, Andrea, the following week she asked her, “Do you wear glasses?” To which Andrea responded, “Um, sometimes… But I don’t really have to.” “Well I found these glasses in my car and I think they belong to you.” “Yes” she said disappointingly. (more…)
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Casa Chirilagua in the Alexandria Gazette February 2014Casa Chirilagua in the Alexandria Gazette February 2014

Did you catch our mentoring story in the Alexandria Gazette? Our superstar mentor, Jennifer, sent a story about her and her mentee to the paper. We’re thrilled to see stories from the community in print! Thanks Jen!

Read the full story Jen wrote below or the Gazette version in PDF format here.

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Casa News