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Stories of Us: The Real Y

Journey to the Y

Americans are fortunate to live in the United States with first amendment rights to freedom of religion, freedom of speech and the press, the right to peaceably assemble, and the right to petition government.  Unfortunately, political uproar and crisis is a reality for many other areas in the world.

Noah is a single mother of two children who lived in Venezuela. After completing her master’s degree program in Criminal Justice, she was employed with the police department in Caracas, Venezuela’s capital.

With the constitutional crisis and impeding safety concerns during elections in Venezuela, Noah made a choice to leave her life behind to ensure a positive future for her and her family.  Noah (mom), her mother Noah (grandma), and the two children Carlos (son) and Noah (daughter) found asylum in the United States and have been here for the past year and a half.

Leaving everything behind, the Lopez Family made their way to Redding since Noah’s sister was able to immigrate earlier and had started a family here.  Both children are now enrolled at Boulder Creek Elementary School and attend the Y’s afterschool program at this site.

A teacher at Boulder Creek reached out to Marianne Sweetwood, Child Care Program Director at the Y, and told her of this family who was in need of help. After meeting to discuss the family’s needs, Marianne took the reins to assess the needs and take action to address them and provide needed support.

Carlos really wanted to immerse himself in his new school, but struggled to relay information between his mom and the school due to the language barrier.  Permission slips and parent-teacher conferences were considerably challenging. Boulder Creek Y staff stepped in to bridge the gap where possible. Since then, Carlos has played his first season of basketball, is in the choir, and helps with student leadership. In Carlos’ own words, “I really like the YMCA because the people in the YMCA are really, really nice.”

Noah (daughter) enjoys being in the third grade and has developed some wonderful relationships. Noah shared some of the reasons she likes the YMCA with us, “It is a big family, the staff is really nice, they help kids with the homework, and they let us play games and bake.” She is growing by leaps and bounds learning the English language.

Noah (grandma) has now had to travel back to Venezuela to care for her elderly mother who was unable to travel, but hopes to someday return to Redding.  The YMCA was honored to have the Lopez family join the Y as members and our YMCA childcare family has grown an immeasurable amount from having this special opportunity to be part of this family’s journey!

Thank you for sharing this story, Lopez Family.

- story gathered by Marianne Sweetwood, ChildCare Program Director

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