"I fled to this country about a year ago with my three children to start a new life away from the fear we had been living under. During my first three months here, I felt alone. It was very different from what I had expected, and we struggled to figure out where to begin.
That all changed when I got connected to the Columbia County Sanctuary Movement.
We started with the basics. They set me up with food deliveries and groceries every week. Tons of delicious food meant I could feed my family without worrying. I received Mano a Mano Mutual Aid Funds to help me through some challenging finances. They helped me with my housing issue by connecting me to other agencies and accompanying me so I could understand what was going on. Then, they supported me in getting my driver’s license so I could be more independent.
I had felt so alone when I moved here. I don’t speak any English. I felt discriminated against because of the language I speak and the color of my skin.
I lived in fear. But I don’t anymore.
They introduced me to the Mujeres Victoriosas, a group of women just like me, going through the same struggles and fears and overcoming them together. We share meals, laugh together, and talk, but most importantly, we support each other and push each other forward.
Now my sister is planning to come to be closer to us, and I’ve told her not to worry- there’s an organization that will hold your hand through it all.
We have a right to be in this country. We may not have much money, but we are honest and hard workers. We deserve to live in safety and without fear. I understand that now. When I encounter a problem or fear, I think to myself, “What would Diana tell me?” and I know I can fight for myself and my family.
Columbia County Sanctuary Movement has made me feel like I belong. I feel loved and held, and I know I can do anything."
- Maricela, CCSM member
All of CCSM’s programming is integrated; any one person can participate and take leadership in a number of activities, programs, and services that CCSM offers. So when someone new arrives in our area, we don’t just welcome them; we welcome them home.
Our first contact with a new arrival is often triage: signing them up for our Comida para la Gente food program, enrolling children in school, providing mutual aid funds, ensuring they have proper clothing, and finding other resources needed. While some immigrants arrive in our area with networks in place, many recent arrivals lack connections to community and support systems- we try to serve this function when it is needed to get recent arrivals off to a strong start in our region.
Once community members are a little more settled, we ensure that they have vital documents and translations of those documents, can apply for a driver’s license, and support them in seeking a lawyer. In the near future, we will be able to provide legal support ourselves as well. We accompany them to court appointments, provide interpretation at legal appointments, and manage their cases to ensure they receive all benefits they are entitled to and have support navigating bureaucracy.
On average, we serve about 45 unique community members each month, and that number is only growing.
We also support community members in getting involved with the organization in other ways- many new arrivals have been key to bringing their culture and gifts to the community by leading our Dia de los Muertos celebrations, our Latinx Festival planning, Mujeres Victoriosas, and more.
Our goal is to see the whole person, not just their immediate needs. Through our unique service and organizing model and our commitment to empowerment, we ensure that new arrivals find a home here.
If you are a new arrival, contact us at (518) 303-3848 to schedule an appointment with us.