Supporting Maryvale's Children
You see them in your child's classroom. They play on soccer teams too. What you probably don't know, is that some of these boys and girls are victims of the unthinkable - sex trafficking.
Human trafficking, and child sex trafficking, in particular, has saturated society to such a degree that January has been designated Human Trafficking Awareness Month. This is a time to offer recognition and support for the countless victims, many of whom live, hidden in plain sight, in our neighborhoods. This modern-day tragedy has become too common, and Maryvale is helping more and more of these young victims recover from the pain and betrayal they have endured.
We will keep working to help our children no matter how extreme the traumas they have experienced before joining Maryvale's family -- including the young victims who have fallen prey to sex trafficking.
To learn more about the sex trafficking of children and how you can help these young victims, see below.
Against all the odds, Angel has flourished. Angel decided to step away from the agony of her rape, the trauma she suffered as a victim of child sex trafficking, prior alcohol abuse, and other unspeakable horrors. She chose not to allow her past to define her future. Triumph in the face of such adversity would seem impossible for the emotionally-scarred 17-year-old, who first arrived at Maryvale with a defiant attitude, openly throwing tantrums, immersed in kicking and screaming matches, refusing to attend school, leaving the premises without permission and initiating conflicts with her peers.
Maryvale’s staff never gave up on Angel. The team was relentless in its pursuit of providing Trauma Informed Care treatment for Angel, offering empathy and guidance, giving her much needed hope to infuse her with enough strength so she could finally break free from her pain. “We let her know that we were here for her, even when she so forcefully pushed us away,” said Group Supervisor Isau Graves. Diligent work in intensive therapy paid off. Angel persevered, eventually volunteering and counseling young children herself. A year later, Angel is independent, graduating early from high school and presently enrolled in college. She received a letter of recommendation from the Yvonne “Sunset” Agee Scholarship Award. “Before, Angel was lost, angry, misunderstood,” said Graves. “Now she is happy and determined and showed she is capable of great things because she is focused on succeeding.”
To read more about Maryvale's children, click here.
In his life, everything happens for a reason.
After working four decades as a project manager in the aerospace industry, recent retiree Nabil Said decided it was time to give back to his community. Then Nabil learned about Maryvale’s Emergency Placement Center (EPC) and its mission to help children, 6 to 12-year-old boys and girls suffering from abuse, neglect and abandonment by their families. He was certain that he had to do something – something more than his monthly financial contribution.
“Maryvale triggered something inside of me because I have children and grandchildren who are very lucky,” he said.
Nabil decided to spend one to two afternoons a week with boys living in the EPC. For children whose lives have been turned upside down, with only uncertainty, sadness and fear to greet them each day, the loving presence and care of a returning volunteer like Nabil brings them hope on an emotional level. “You can tell the kids are starving for attention,” he said. “I worked with one 10-year-old, Danny, who was silent and was struggling. I remember the first time I met Danny, he was closed up.” After repeated visits, Danny welcomed Nabil and spoke animatedly.
Though volunteering has been a rewarding experience for Nabil, he quickly acknowledges the harsh realities of foster children’s lives. “People at Maryvale are so compassionate with the kids,” he said. “It’s a special place. However, the children will eventually have to move on because it’s short-term, so you do what you can (when they are with you). I talk to my older grandsons about the children at Maryvale. These foster kids don’t have one percent of what they have, so they should be thankful.”
Anna Catalano greets each new morning as she has for the past 30 years, with renewed hope that the day will bring with it special blessings for Maryvale’s children and its staff.
Through the years, Anna has become the unofficial keeper of Maryvale’s memory book, and with encyclopedic precision she can recite the members of the Daughters of Charity who have been at Maryvale, including Sr. Mary Vincent, Sr. Elizabeth, Sr. Joanne, Sr. Carol, Sr. Monica, Sr. Mary Genevieve, Sr. Diane, Sr. Barbara and Sr. Martha.
Anna praises Maryvale’s unwavering commitment to the children. “The children here are courageous,” she noted.
Though Anna doesn’t work directly with the girls, she greets them warmly every morning. Some of them ask her for a hug, and she responds compassionately, “I love hugs.”
Anna has enjoyed working in housekeeping around campus, but no assignment surpassed her role as the dog walker during the years the sisters lived in the residential halls and had pets at Maryvale.
On her daily walks with Kollee, a bulldog mix, there was one 6-year-old girl whose gaze was constantly fixed on the dog. “The girl fell in love with Kollee,” she said. One day the girl ran toward her then stopped abruptly, looking directly at Anna.
“I asked her what can I do for you?” said Anna. The girl pointed directly at Kollee. A supervisor shared that the girl wanted to walk Kollee with Anna. That marked the beginning of a special relationship between Kollee, Anna and the girl.
“We held the dog together and walked all around the campus,” she said.
Every day at 10 minutes to 12 she was right there waiting for me.” This ritual continued for the next nine years, until at the age of 15 the girl was adopted by a foster parent. A few years later, the girl and Anna shared a visit. “I’m really proud of her,” she said.
Maryvale is the children’s sanctuary, a place of retreat from a confusing and sometimes hostile world, and in some ways it is Anna’s sanctuary, too. “I enjoy being at Maryvale,” she said. “It’s a wonderful place, and the people are really nice. They have become my second family.”
Mother Teresa will be canonized on September 4th by Pope Francis at the Vatican, culminating a lifetime of selfless devotion to the “poorest of the poor” on a journey that began in Calcutta, India, and grew to a worldwide mission.
The beloved Catholic nun, recipient of many honors including the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize, founded the Missionaries of Charity, a Catholic congregation, with more than 4,500 sisters in 133 countries, running hospices and homes for people with life threatening illnesses, in addition to soup kitchens, dispensaries and mobile clinics; counseling programs, orphanages and schools. At the time of her passing she was responsible for establishing 610 missions across the globe.
In 1973, Maryvale was blessed with a historic visit by Mother Teresa, who at the time was receiving the St. Louise de Marillac Award by the Ladies of Charity in Los Angeles. Sr. Estela Morales remembers Mother Teresa well, as a warm and caring person, but most of all impressed by her genuine kindness and deep humility.
Mother Teresa stayed overnight in Maryvale’s Sister’s House. The next day Mother Teresa toured Maryvale’s programs, spending significant time at the Early Education Center, thoroughly enjoying her talks with the children. While the other members of her tour left to attend another location, Mother Teresa chose to remain at Maryvale to “be with the children.”
“The children were enthralled with her,” Sr. Estela said. “And they later made gifts to send to children in one of the Mission of Charities works in India.”
Mother Teresa's acts of kindness and social justice spanned the course of her 87 years. Whether she was sharing her leftover food from her airplane travel with the poor and hungry, or, requesting that the $192,000 needed to hold a traditional Nobel honor banquet in her honor instead be given to help the poor of India. Her conviction and work changed the world forever.
On Sunday, Maryvale will celebrate along with the world as she joins a sainthood community.
About Maryvale: Maryvale cares for severely traumatized children, ages 6 to 18, who require specialized treatment in an intensive therapeutic 24-hour environment. We have been caring for children in the greater Los Angeles area since 1856.
Recently a single parent, Tammy, and her 3-year-old daughter, Sue, left their Washington home abruptly, under crisis without financial or family support. In Los Angeles, Tammy’s only resources were Cash Aid and Cal Fresh, but she was able to obtain a spot at the Family Promise Shelter after spending many nights at area churches.
Lindsey Reynolds, Program Support Specialist at Maryvale, met Sue and Tammy through a homeless shelter. Reynolds worked with Tammy and was able to enroll Sue into Maryvale’s subsidized preschool program. Sue’s natural sense of curiosity flourished and she excelled in the joyful learning program.
“Our Early Education Center provided a consistent and safe place for Sue,” said Reynolds.
While Sue enjoyed the benefits of preschool, Tammy was able to secure a full-time job nearby. Tammy no longer needs Cash Aid and Cal Fresh benefits due to her steady income. She is in the process of saving money for an apartment.
Keeping hope alive has provided a fresh outlook for Tammy and Sue.
“I love what we do,” Reynolds said. “We are making a difference.”
How a child succeeds in life can often be traced to the preschool years.
Now every eligible 3- and 4-year-old child can attend preschool, thanks to a government subsidized program. Most California preschools including Maryvale’s Early Education Centers in Rosemead and Duarte accept government subsidies for qualifying families.
The benefits of a preschool education are substantial – academic development, enriched socialization and emotional growth, with long-term advantages such as higher earnings and better jobs. Early Ed families can also be referred to Maryvale’s Family Resource Center for supportive programs to help children and families with emerging needs.
Learn more about Maryvale's subsidized preschool program in Duarte and Rosemead.
Learn more about subsidized preschool in California.
In the purest spirit of St. Vincent de Paul’s “First the heart, then the work,” Sr. Martha Garcia will be leaving Maryvale to minister to children and families at a school in San Francisco.
The Provincial Council requested Sr. Martha’s assistance with the De Marillac Academy in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco, due to her extensive experience as an educator and principal.
Her foundation in education began during her first Daughter of Charity assignment in Denver as a 23-year-old teacher opening the first-grade class of 62 students.
With that success came much more, as Sr. Martha soon was responsible for teaching in other schools 1st through 8th grade as well as serving as a principal. Sr. Martha also obtained her degrees and credentials in the educational field.
Though her educational experience will greatly assist her new endeavor, Maryvale will miss its beloved matriarch of seven years, Sr. Martha, whose devotion to God and its children is unmatched.
Sr. Martha’s fondest memories focus on the children and the time she spent with them. “I loved connecting with the children on a one-to-one basis,” she said. “There were those who wanted to pray, receive a hug or just to cry. I will never forget these moments.”
Sr. Martha’s door was always open, to not only the children but to everyone who needed a discerning ear. As the leader of Maryvale’s Mission Integration Team, Sr. Martha’s counsel was inspiring and comforting, and will be sorely missed. “I will treasure the memories I’ve made with the Maryvale staff I’ve grown to love and admire,” she said.
“I was in awe of the Maryvale team members’ dedication and love for our children, despite the daily challenges they faced as they helped the children heal from their trauma,” she said.
For those searching for a way to live life without Sr. Martha’s daily wisdom, she offers her most valuable advice and the words that guide her interactions: “Look for the positive in anything that happens. Look for the beauty in every person. Even if there is negativity in a situation, there is beauty to be found in every person.
“Be a part of the mission, live the core values and pray.”
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