Share the Journey: Empowerment

Maria Vazquez is driven to empower other people to live life to the fullest. “I think about what I would want if it was me, if I was displaced,” she says. “I try to give the care I would hope for.”

Maria is the Program Coordinator of our Healthy Start program, a program for which we are a subcontractor with the Onondaga County Health Department’s Healthy Families Division. Most of the clients she works with are recent refugees and New Americans who live in Syracuse’s Northside. All of her clients are pregnant women or families with children under two years of age. She works with families to make sure children have the best start possible. This includes parent education and regular home visits.    

Some of these clients are in danger of falling through the cracks; programs like Healthy Start exist to help prevent that. Maria recalls several women who fled their home countries pregnant and alone. Some arrive in Syracuse after years or even decades in refugee camps. Overwhelmed by culture shock and unfamiliar with American medical customs and services, they need significant support to obtain prenatal care.

“It’s important to me that we give our clients tools and connect them to other services in the community,” says Maria. “We want to be sensitive to where they’re coming from while also giving them an introduction to life here.”

Maria has been a Catholic Charities employee for 19 years. Past roles include parent aide and case manager. She even worked as a receptionist at Vincent House for a brief stint as a teenager. When asked if there are particular clients that stand out in her memory, Maria smiles and shakes her head.

“They’re all special,” Maria says. “They come with their own story and their own determination to make it. They’re all special to me.”  

This story is part of our series in support of Pope Francis’ “Share the Journey” Campaign. To learn more about the campaign, see our introductory post here.

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Posted by Bridget Dunn, Communications Coordinator

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