Thursday, December 30, 2010
Friday, December 24, 2010
Friday, December 17, 2010
The paramedics said it should have been worse. It was the first time in her life Georgie could not take care of herself, and she realized how much we all depend on each other.
As she lay in the hospital, Georgie prayed to God.
“I said, 'Lord, if you will continue helping me to heal and regain my strength and mobility--so that I can continue to do for myself and others--as a means of giving back to you, I promise to dedicate these hands to making a hundred hats for the homeless,'" Georgie recalled. As a child, she had learned the art of crocheting and knitting from her mother.
As it turns out, knitting was very therapeutic for her recovery. The repetitive motion helped her circulation as well as with muscle memory and repairing damaged nerves. Georgie went all out to live up to her promise to God and heal herself.
And so, in the mysterious way that the Holy Spirit moves us and brings lives from two different worlds together, Georgie was knitting hats and scarves for children who were growing up alone – children she had never met or even knew of. She was making gifts that parents who were homeless could give to their children, to help them have a warm and love-filled Christmas, despite every challenge facing them.
She knit while watching television with her husband. She knit on the long drives to and from Baltimore for physical therapy. She knit on trips to Waldorf to visit friends. Sometimes she was up until the wee hours of the morning finishing an item.
On average, it took her nearly three hours per hat or scarf, and a little less for booties for children. Trips started to be measured in hats and scarves.
By the time she finished, it was early December and she had made 102 sets of hats and scarves for a wide range of sizes – and plenty for infants and babies that included adorable booties for their tiny feet (go ahead and take a moment to look at the picture: awwww!).
I visited Georgiana and Lawrence’s home last week to pick-up the hats and scarves. The front door is covered in bright green wrapping paper – and it only gets better inside. They have two trees, both tastefully decorated for the season. The walls are decorated with wreathes and ornaments. Gift wrapping HQ is set up in the living room.
This Christmas, our parents who are overcoming so many challenges in hopes of living an independent life, have a gift to share and some warm clothing to put on. Our work at Catholic Charities is made better by hundreds of people just like Georgie and Lawrence, who reach out and give what they can, and turn a bad situation into one filled with hope.
During the Christmas season, we are especially grateful for their good health, for their charity and for such nimble fingers!
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
David credits his familiarity with notario fraud to a 2008 report he heard on the local NPR station WAMU 88.5 that highlighted this ballooning problem in the United States. However, he credits one of his own relative's experience leaving home and coming to America for giving him the sustained passion to fight for immigrants' rights.
"Anyone with the right resources can become successful," David said. "After all, we were all immigrants once." Syrian by birth, and without even a shred of knowledge about American culture or the English language, David's grandfather boarded a boat at the age of 16 to join his uncle in Nevada. But the boat he boarded was bound for Cuba—4,000 miles from his uncle’s home in Nevada. As if the mistake weren’t already bad enough, he endured yet another trial when he was stricken with malaria during the voyage. Sick and completely disoriented, he arrived in Havana. He was eventually able to reach his uncle, who made the trip from Nevada to Cuba to rescue David’s grandfather.
The experience of David's grandfather serves as a perfect allegory in this instance, mirroring what so many immigrants experience themselves upon arriving in the United States. They often arrive alone, with little knowledge of language or legal processes, and they seek only a helping hand.
Unfortunately, the help that notarios offer immigrants is not at all what they expect to receive. That's because the title “notario” is understood by native Spanish speakers as indicating that a person has the same, or more, legal education than a lawyer in the United States. In fact, most notarios don't have any legal education or expertise whatsoever.
Many notarios charge their clients outrageous fees. Some simply take this money without doing any work. Others select and file forms and petitions on behalf of their clients, but due to their lack of training and expertise, fail to provide their clients with accurate advice concerning what should or should not be filed. Often, notarios file forms incorrectly or with inaccurate information, and the repercussions can be dire.
"Notarios can single-handedly end the American dream for some families. They think they're paying for a legitimate service, but then they have to endure possible legal ramifications and extreme embarrassment," David said. These are also two of the reasons why immigrant families often don't come forward when they think they've been defrauded. It's because they're embarrassed, and they're scared to report any sort of crime to the proper authorities for fear of being removed from the country.
Unfortunately, cases against notarios seldom make it to court, precisely because so few defrauded immigrants come forward. David is currently awaiting a response from a petition lodged with the Federal Trade Commission regarding fraudulent notario operations. He hopes that the government agency will issue guidance for how to deal with notarios, as well as advice for Spanish-speaking immigrants to help prevent fraud and deception. He also hopes the agency will bring law enforcement cases against notarios who victimize immigrants in the future.
For the moment, the network of local Catholic Charities organizations across the country makes up the largest team of players working to provide help and hope to immigrants who may be dealing with tough legal issues. We all, however, rely on pro bono assistance from passionate attorneys like David to help protect these immigrants, and we'd like to tip our hat to him. It is a striking testimony of the American Dream that the grandson of a Syrian immigrant who barely survived his journey to America could grow up to be a powerful advocate for other immigrants.
You can help, too. To learn more about what Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington is doing to help prevent notario fraud in the DC, Maryland, Virginia region, call: 202-772-4351.
If you are aware of notario fraud, please report it to the Federal Trade Commission, 1-877-382-4357, or to the ABA’s Fightnotariofraud.org project.
Read more about notario fraud and David Zetoony's work: The Hometown Annapolis; Southern Maryland Online; City Biz List Baltimore
Additional resources: ABA, Fight Notario Fraud.org, Bryan Cave, Immigration Legal Services
Above: Catholic Charities staff attorneys Debi Sanders (left) and Jeanne Atkinson join David Zetoony at the Bryan Cave Law Firm in Washington, DC.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Yesterday brought us the sad news that Sister Mary Ann Luby had transitioned from this life after succumbing to a short battle with cancer – only two weeks after diagnosis.
All of us at Catholic Charities mourn the loss of such a vocal defender of the poor. She was beloved by many of our residents, who saw her as a source of help and hope in ending injustice, and by many of our shelter and housing staff, who knew her to be a compassionate friend. In October, we were honored that Mary Ann was present to help us celebrate the ribbon cutting for the Summit at St. Martin’s Affordable Housing project.
Since 1995, she served on the staff of the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless as an outreach worker. She could almost always be found walking the streets and talking with any of our homeless neighbors. Her presence was constant at City Council hearings whenever the services for the homeless were being discussed.
Prior, she had been a Board Member with the Legal Clinic in its early years. She worked as director of Rachael’s Women’s Center and was key in founding the Fair Budget Coalition. Sr. Mary Ann was an Adrian Dominican sister.
Our thoughts and prayers are with her family, as well as her extended family in the homeless community and at the Washington Legal Clinic. In her memory, we must continue on our work as a community to provide not only shelter and a safety net to our most vulnerable neighbors, but our efforts to create a community of equality and inclusion.
Read more about Mary Ann in the Washington Post and leave your favorite memory of Mary Ann: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/postmortem/2010/11/sister-mary-ann-luby-dies-home.html