After 10 months of learning about hunger in our region, training in advocacy skills, and working to harness the power of their lived experience, the third class of our Client Leadership Council (CLC) is graduating.
We believe strongly that our clients must have a voice in the policy conversations that impact their lives. This cohort is emerging from the program well-equipped to advocate for their families and communities.
Get to know several members of the current class and what they’re hoping to do next:
City: Silver Spring, MD
Background: Carmen grew up in Colombia and migrated to the U.S. with her son 13 years ago. She lives in Silver Spring and is active with her local church and as a volunteer for their food pantry. Carmen has been working as a housekeeper since moving to the U.S. and was promoted to manager several years ago. Although her son is a self-sufficient adult now, Carmen uses her paycheck to help support her sick mother in Colombia. She is passionate about immigrants’ rights, and she enjoys giving back to her community.
“One of my main takeaways from the CLC program is that we aren’t alone in this world, and we especially aren’t alone in our struggles. Those of us that have experienced poverty and food insecurity are connected through our shared humanity and shared pain. I am grateful to be part of the CLC family and want to use my learnings to become an advocate for my community. In particular, I want to advocate for immigrants’ rights and support.”
City: Hyattsville, MD
Background: Marilyn was born in Trinidad and Tobago and has been in the U.S. for more than 50 years. She is a single mother of three children, and a retired nurse who worked for more than 30 years at Washington Hospital Center. Marilyn is a born caregiver and is passionate about helping others in her community. She is involved with her local food pantry, where she also receives food regularly.
“The CLC has introduced me to a community of people that care about making their community better. I am grateful for this opportunity and look forward to continuing my advocacy for senior citizen and food–insecure families.”
City: Washington, DC
Background:Cynthia is a 63-year-old mom and grandmomwho lives in DC with her kids and grandkids. She receives disability payments, has experienced homelessness, drug addiction, and is a survivor of sexual assault. Cynthia used to be ashamed to tell her story, but now finds power in sharing her voice and taking away the stigma.
“I am truly grateful, humble and appreciative to be a part of the Client Leadership Council! I have met so many influential, positive staff members and community advocates. I will use the skills learned in this program to advocate for the people sleeping on the streets in my neighborhood, reaching them one plate at a time! I want to be an advocate to help end homelessness in DC”
City: Washington, DC
Background: Doretha is a mom, grandmom, and a lifelong resident of Washington, DC. She is helping to support her grandson, who is in college, and she values her family above all.
“I am grateful for this program. It has taught me how to advocate better for myself and my community. I hope to use my time to be an advocate for seniors helping to raise grandchildren and experiencing food insecurity.”
City: College Park, MD
Background: Ja’Tae was born and raised in Nebraska and moved to Maryland for high school to live with her father. While with her father, she became involved with her local church, where she learned about the importance of giving back to her community. Ja’Tae graduated from Howard University in May and will begin graduate school this fall to become a teacher.
During her junior year of college, Ja’Tae’s family experienced hard times financially. Since then, they have had to rely on SNAP to keep food on the table. Ja’Tae, who was on the track and field team at Howard, relied on her father’s SNAP benefits to help her afford both food and the the rising cost of tuition.
“I want to use my advocacy skills to find solutions to college food insecurity. Many college students are struggling to feed themselves enough healthy food on top of costs for their studies, and this issue largely goes unnoticed.”
City: Washington, DC
Background: After being kicked out of her home at 12 years old, Nyeelah lived on the streets until she applied to a job training program at 16 to pursue her dreams of being a chef. After graduating from this program, she enrolled in college but soon had to drop out to support her family.
Several years later, she had a baby after just 26 weeks of pregnancy. Her son wasn’t supposed to survive, but he is now a thriving 6-year-old. Nyeelah started her own catering business several years ago, and she also pursues social work to advocate for the unspoken and silenced.
“Upon graduation from the CLC, I want to continue working as an advocate and social worker to stand up for the unspoken and silenced like myself.”