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Save Us Now Inc. supports helping the residents of Lumberton NC after massive flooding.
Grassroots Giver: Save Us Now Is Improving the Lives
of Under-served DC Residents
Wards 7 and 8 in Washington, D.C. are home to predominantly black and female-headed households, where nearly 50 percent of the children in that area live in poverty. In addition, according to the DC Hunger Organization, both wards have the highest poverty rates in the District. Sadly, many budget cuts passed by Congress, which continue to harm many businesses and people throughout the nation, are severely impairing the resources and services available to the people of Wards 7 and 8.
The frustration of the budget cuts disenfranchising residents is what pushed Executive Director Gwendolyn Baker-Lassiter and other colleagues to start Save Us Now, Inc., in 2010. The organization’s mission is to encourage, inspire, motivate, and empower people. We work to help those who are under-served, disenfranchised, and marginalized that don't always get the resources they need from local human service agencies that traditionally provide those services.
“Many days I felt like I was on an episode of the show E.R., because of the high level of drama and emergencies that my days often began and ended with,” Ms. Baker-Lassiter said. “But I was blessed with an opportunity to see up close and in person what homelessness looks like, what mental illness looks like, what drug addiction with a mental illness looks like and it’s very ugly. But at the same time these people really need help, and they needed our help.”
Ms. Baker-Lassiter once worked for a D.C. mental health community service agency. Her job included making sure the 3,500 clients enrolled within the programs received aid from city organizations and agencies. Unfortunately, due to budget cuts, the agencies had run out money for resources or no longer had sufficient resources to support the clients. She explains that the experience left her “exhausted, frustrated, and angry.”
“Save Us Now Inc. was started to help people who aren’t as mentally ill as the ones I worked with but definitely individuals who are in a place where they can’t help themselves,” Ms. Baker-Lassiter said. “People who have no voice in our society, people who have a hard time getting the services they need, the resources they need, the help they need."
Partnership with the IRC helps family in difficult transition
In July, the International Rescue Cornrn1ttee was given a furniture gift certificate from Save Us Now. a local non-profit that assists vulnerable populations in Washington DC. Save Us Now asked IRC staff to give the certificate to a particular family that has had difficulty adjusting to life in the U.S. Our resettlement team thought of a number of candidates that would benefit, but eventually decided on the Muawi family.
The Muaw1 family (a father, mother, and 3 young children) from Gabon celebrated their one-year anniversary in the United States this July. Mr. Muawi was a successful development official in his home country and had planned to raise his family there. Unfortunately, he became the target of political persecution and it was suddenly no longer safe tor him or his loved ones to remain in their home. "It was extremely difficult," Mr. Muawi reflects. "You cannot imagine that one day you will have to vacate out of your country. It is hard to see yourself as a threat, you think it is just me." Mr. Muawi was rattled by the suddenness of the need to depart and the swift identity change to being a displaced person.
Once in the United States and classified as asylum seekers. the family was connected with the International Rescue Committee in Silver Spring. The IRC has provided case management, employment services, health and volunteer support, but challenges remain. Because Mr. Muawi has exceptional qualifications and a professional presence, employers are often taken aback and see him as over-qualified for the work he is applying for. For this reason, securing an entry-level job has proven difficult. Mr. Muawi 1s honest about his frustrations and sadness over this transitional time. "My wife is looking at me and she knows I am not able to provide her with what she used to have. It is so painful. It 1s something I don't have the right words to describe but I can feel 1t even when she doesn't say anything... the silence is even worse than when somebody says something."
When speaking with Mr. Muawi, one cannot help but be moved by his ability to verbalize the asylee experience with precision. He is able to discuss his anxiety and sadness in detail, but is equally capable of sharing his hope and gratitude for resettlement professionals and community supporters. "So much the IRC has done - you just don't realize how important it is. Not in the sense that you are just providing resources but in the sense that you are giving a hand and you are giving hope. It 1s a new light that 1s suddenly shining in the darkest place and I want to emphasize the word darkest. I mean you feel like the whole wor1d falls in your life you have nowhere to go• you have the feeling that you are nobody, nowhere. Coming here gives you a new breath, new fresh air. It is a feeling that is just wonderful; that you have somebody to listen to you and try to understand what are your basic needs. To see that they are nak1ng an effort to fill up those needs, you think oh my goodness, this God is doing something in my life."
The Muawi family is one of the hundreds that the IRC in Silver Spring works to assist each day. Both Mr. Muawi and IRC staff are excited about what this new partnership with Save Us Now could mean for other clients in similar situations.
The dec1s1on to give to someone you don't know you just want lo help is very special." Mr. Muawi, concludes. "It is not the furniture itself: is the act10n of giving away something without waiting for something in return its just wonderful. I really thank them from deep in my heart. For sure one day I'll do the same for others."