A look at Catholic Charities Haitian Multi-Service Center

May marks Haitian Heritage Month in the U.S., a celebration first held in 1998 right here in the city of Boston. Nearly a quarter of a century later, it is now a cherished tradition celebrated in cities across the country, giving rise to Haitian food festivals, vibrant art exhibits, and spirited flag-waving parades.

Catholic Charities Boston has long recognized the importance of honoring both Haiti's rich culture and history and offering support to our Haitian brothers and sisters most in need. In 1978, the Haitian Multi-Service Center was founded to meet the needs of a rapidly increasing number of Haitian refugees. The center is housed within Catholic Charities' Yawkey Center in Dorchester and serves Haitian families within the Dorchester, Mattapan, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, and Roxbury communities. People of all ages, faiths, and backgrounds come to the center for a wide range of services -- from food pantry and basic needs assistance to educational opportunities and childcare services.

Recognizing the complex challenges that refugees and immigrants often face, the Haitian Multi-Service Center offers wraparound support services and case management unique to the needs of clients. Services range from assisting newcomers with filling out SNAP assistance forms to providing emergency rental, fuel, and counseling services. Many individuals come to the center for one specific need and then discover other programs, all designed to move clients from crisis to self-sufficiency.

One such program is the Adult Basic Education (GED/HiSET) and English as a Second Language (ESOL) classes offered at the center free of charge for individuals ages 18 and older. Approximately 325 students are enrolled each year and participate in Human Services, ESOL, math, reading, writing, science, and social studies classes.

"We are dedicated to addressing the needs of each student and creating an environment where all students thrive," said Phillip Howard, the director of Adult Education at the Haitian Multi-Service Center. "So, our successes come every time a student is able to get a new job or promotion because their English has improved or when a student passes their GED. We feel that we have succeeded when they leave the program more ready to tackle life's challenges."

Entering a new country can be especially challenging for those with young children. The Konbit Kreyol Child Care Center at Yawkey offers a year-round multicultural childcare program. In addition to a comprehensive curriculum designed to stimulate young students' creativity, self-reliance, and imaginations, the Yawkey childcare instructors also reserve time for the children to enjoy nutritious meals and recreational play.

Above all, the Haitian Multi-Service Center is committed to upholding the dignity of their clients by ensuring every person they work with has their basic needs met. Regardless of what that looks like -- groceries from the food pantry, financial support, or a shelter referral -- it is, in one form or another, a message of hope.

The Haitian proverb "Lespwa fe viv" translates to "Hope makes one live," while the Haitian expression "Ansanm nou fo" translates to "Together we are strong."?This month, and every month, Catholic Charities Boston strives to be a light of hope for those in need, working together with our clients to help them live life as fully as possible.

To learn more about how you can help make a difference in the lives of our neighbors in need, please visit www.ccab.org.