Helping Hands from Abroad

In the fall of 2013, Denise suddenly received an email from two social workers from Denmark, asking about volunteer opportunities with the girls of Frances Residency. Louise and Nadja were two friends who had met volunteering together in Africa. They wanted to visit the U.S. together but to do so in a meaningful way.

Louise and Nadja’s email was an unexpected gift that enriched everyone. The Frances residency was critically understaffed at that time and CHiPS couldn’t afford to hire help. That these volunteers were trained and schooled in social work was a huge relief to Denise. While here, Louise and Nadja made an enormous difference in the lives of the girls upstairs. They provided the moms with emotional support and fostered a loving and caring home environment at the Frances Residency. They also began capturing the stories of these women’s lives, something that had never been done before.

Our social workers from Denmark (left) and Sweden (right)

Our social workers from Denmark (left) and Sweden (right)

When Denise was with Homes for the Homeless, she realized the value of having detailed profiles of clients. These profiles capture the lives of the moms who live on the upper floors of CHiPS and span the entirety of their lives.  These narratives begin with “where were you born”  and continue through childhood and to the present-day. They delve into family backgrounds, education, life and career aspirations, and their relationship histories and, as Denise said, “really take us on a journey with the mom.”

These profiles also tell the story of the Frances Residence.  They document patterns in the way the needs of the moms have changed over the years.  More importantly, they shed light on the resources and services our current residents will need. They lay the foundation for future applications, for grants for literacy programs, job-training, ESL resources, family counseling, etc.. “These resources provide the women with a bridge to independent living,” said Denise.

Louise and Nadja worked at CHiPS till December.  They returned home for the holidays but returned for another three months, absolutely passionate and committed to working with the women. Sadly, they had to return to their native Denmark at the end of those three months.

Nevertheless, CHiPS was yet again blessed with further good fortune when Denise met two social workers visiting from Sweden, Clara and Cecilia. When these women heard about the work Nadja and Louise had been doing and that they were leaving, they jumped at the opportunity and took up the job of their predecessors.

Clara and Cecilia’s adjustment to the Frances Residence has been seamless. The women have embraced their presence and, with their help,  the Residence is continuing to evolve beyond being just shelter and housing to a place that stimulates personal growth, enrichment, and empowerment.