Sunday, June 19, 2011

El Nido

El Nido
With the generous help of the congregation, the Board of Christian Education of the United Church of Christ of La Mesa (UCCLM) organizes an annual Easter basket project for the children at El Nido, a transitional living program for victims of domestic violence. This year, baskets were assembled for thirty-one children ranging in age from 2-17, with the contents customized according to age - toys and stuffed animals for the younger children, games for the preteens and movie passes for the older teenagers. And, of course, each received a chocolate bunny, jelly beans and various other goodies. Each mom received a special treat, as well – a draw-string bag with an Albertson’s gift card, body lotion and chocolates.

A subgroup of the Interfaith Shelter Network, El Nido, which means “the nest” in Spanish, gives the women and their children the opportunity to live in a secure and confidential location while they develop the skills they need to become self-sufficient. The families may stay in the program for 12 to 18 months.

The women are obligated to fulfill certain requirements while in the program. They must either work or go to school for at least 35 hours per week, pay 30% of their income for rent, put 25% of their income into savings and follow a structured plan that moves them toward independence. There are also events planned throughout the year for recreation and team building. The ultimate goal, of course, is to “teach them to fish” so they can become strong, confident and self-sufficient members of the community.

The apartment complex has eleven units, with individual apartments being sponsored by a local congregation. Each congregation is responsible for providing furnishings, small appliances, kitchen ware, bedding, etc. for its apartment. When they leave, the family is allowed to take some of the items with them. At that time, the sponsoring congregation will replenish any missing items and get the apartment ready for a new family.

In addition to ensuring a safe living environment for the families, El Nido also provides a variety of services to the families in the program. The mothers are given counseling opportunities, employment guidance, child-care assistance and transportation services. The women can also provide emotional support to each other during this difficult time in their lives. There are monthly “House” meetings and Domestic Violence support group meetings.

There are also programs designed for the children, such as computer tutoring, art classes and a children’s enrichment program. UCCLM’s Easter basket project, a special “extra,” helps provide a sense of normalcy for the children during this stressful transition period.

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