Healing Hearts Widows Support Foundation of Nigeria Visits CIS of Atlanta

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Last Friday, CIS of Atlanta’s CEO Frank Brown had the privilege of meeting with Ms. Gozie Udemezue, an alumni of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). The IVLP, run by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, brings nearly 5,000 exchange participants to the U.S. every year with the goal of strengthening ties between the U.S. and other countries and generating relationships between foreign leaders and their American equivalents. Ms. Udemezue was selected as one of six IVLP alumni to participate in the International Visitor Leadership Program’s Gold Stars’ Tour: Alumni Connecting the World.

Ms. Udemezue, lawyer, human rights activist, and soup cook, is an inspiration to say the least. As the founder of Healing Hearts Widows Support Foundation (HHWSF), she helps widows who are neglected, shunned by society, and stripped of basic human rights after their husbands pass away. She also cooks and sells Igbo soups. “The widows help to cook and the children serve,” Ms. Udemezue says. Since she was a mere eight years old, Ms. Udemezue has been caring for widows and has never understood the harsh way they are treated in their culture. She established her foundation in 2008, but it wasn’t until 2013 when she lost her own husband that she experienced the true pain and suffering of widowhood. Ms. Udemezue now dedicates her life to HHWSF, which provides free medical aid, free legal aid and spiritual counseling to widows. However, she still faces many challenges. “The biggest challenge we have is [lack of] resources,” she says. “We need a shelter.” Widows and their children often are forced to vacate their homes. In addition, Ms. Udemezue wishes to purchase project vehicles to transport them to and from outreach centers, train widows who have gone through the program to be paralegals who are capable of helping other widows, and find an effective way to help the children, who often have to drop out of school to provide for their widowed mothers.

Throughout their discussion, Frank Brown and Ms. Udemezue were able to brainstorm an abundance of ideas and inspire each other through their steadfast dedication and passion for their work. “Impact, revenue, and strategic partnerships” are the key to creating a self-sustaining organization, says Frank Brown. He asked Ms. Udemezue to consider what she wants her organization to look like in five or even 25 years, when she’s unable to run it “because all of her work means nothing if it’s not around in the next five years.” The two discussed how they were capable in their individual roles because they identified with the people they are fighting for. Just as Ms. Udemezue has struggled with widowhood, Brown suffered with his own battles growing up, allowing him relate to the children he spends his life helping. He reassured Ms. Udemezue that because she had experienced the tragedy of losing one’s spouse, her determination and connection to the widows who go through her program is beautifully strong and resilient.

“I think in America we take things for granted,” Frank said in awe of Ms. Udemezue’s commitment to her work. “For you to come in and tell me you made something out of nothing, I can look at my team and say there is no excuse.”

At the end of the meeting Ms. Udemezue said, “This was my last appointment on this trip, and it was like saving the best for last. I am proud to say it was the most impactful. It didn’t just address the work I do, it provided an opening for me to share some personal challenges and Frank’s words of encouragement provided the spring board I needed to take off, again.”

CIS of Atlanta is truly moved by and eager to witness the impact Ms. Udemezue has in her own community, and we’re more than thrilled to help make an impact on a global scale.

Help us Win a $25,000 Grant and Assist Atlanta!

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As one of the 200 finalists in the State Farm Neighborhood Assist program, Communities In Schools of Atlanta (CIS of Atlanta) has the incredible opportunity to win a $25,000 grant to fund our dropout prevention program and help underprivileged youth grow into a successful, well-educated future of Atlanta. However, we cannot win without your help. By clicking here and voting for CIS, you are helping our community get the support it needs.

CIS of Atlanta’s project is to strengthen Westside Schools, specifically those in the Washington cluster. We will host literacy events in an effort to create a mentor and volunteer program that will impact thousands of children and families.

While our organization has made a huge, self-sustaining impact on the city of Atlanta, there are still so many ways we can improve and build our community, which is why we are asking for your help! The voting phase is open from August 16 – 25, and anyone with a valid email address is eligible to vote up to 10 times per day. The top 40 winners that receive the most votes will be announced on September 28.

State Farm Neighborhood Assist is a crowd-sourced philanthropic initiative that lets communities determine where grant funding is awarded. The initiative utilizes the State Farm Review Committee to vet submissions for causes and empowers the community to vote for the final 40 grant winners. The program has been inspired by the incredible number of neighborhoods that are coming together to solve a problem or improve their community.

Please share this with your colleagues, friends, neighbors, and family!


Student Success Story: A Future in the Sky

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Determined to leave his mistakes in the past, Emanuel is now a high school graduate with hopes of attending the Aviation Institute of Maintenance at Gwinnett Technical College.

Graduating high school may seem like a rite of passage for most, but for Emanuel Giliam it was just out of reach as mistakes from his past caused him to fall behind in school, “I was facing probation for two years for burglary, theft of a motor vehicle, unruly child, and shoplifting. Also, I was responsible for three Credit Recovery classes.”

With peers pushing for him to turn his life around, Emanuel found himself asking for help from Mr. Avery, the CIS site coordinator at his school. Having previously crossed paths, Mr. Avery already knew very well that Emanuel would have to make a change if he wanted to improve his academics and graduate. Providing necessary school supplies and access to computers was a vital part of the help Emanuel needed to keep up with his school work, Mr. Avery made sure he had just that.

“After possibly facing years of prison for some things he had done in his past, Emanuel changed everything around. He realized he did not want to be a statistic and something had to change.”

Today Emanuel has graduated and is motivated by his newfound ambition, hoping to show those around him how he found his way and continue his success by pursuing his interests in mechanics. He recently toured Delta Airline Tech Ops, and now has his next goal in place: Attending the Aviation Institute of Maintenance at Gwinnett Technical College, where upon completion he hopes to have the chance to step into a cockpit himself.

“Mr. Avery helped me stay focused, also helped me see the bigger picture and strive to become something in life. Made me realize there are people that actually want to see you amount to something.”

Student Success Story: Kemari... ATL to ACC

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Students across Metro Atlanta face barriers that go beyond what you can see on the outside. Kemari was living a dream after signing his National Letter of Intent to play college football at the University of Louisville.

The dream, however, started to quickly turn into a nightmare due to unanticipated circumstance.

That is where Communities In Schools of Atlanta stepped in to help.

Committed to eliminating all barriers for students, Communities In Schools of Atlanta began working with Kemari to identify what was keeping him from being successful. A bright and smart student, he needed wrap-around support and most importantly, a stable living situation. Kemari needed the basics - housing and food to ensure he stayed in school and to achieve his dream. We are so proud that Kemari didn't give up and not only did he graduate this year from High School, but is continuing to achieve in life beyond graduation.

It doesn't end there...
Inspired to give back, Kemari participated in speaking engagements and forums targeting student-athletes at three local schools in APS and Fulton County. He used this time to talk to students about the importance of staying focused on school and not letting their external circumstances affect their internal dreams and goals.

Communities In Schools support didn't end with his graduation. We provided Kemari with items for his dorm room, which included everything from toiletries to a laptop for school work. Last week, Calleb (one of our staff) drove him to Louisville where he is ready to start a new chapter in his life.

This story is just one of the more than 30,000 successes we empower each year by surrounding students with a community of support.

We need YOUR help to do more.

Donate to Communities In Schools

With your gift, we can ensure a student's nightmare does not keep them from fulfilling their dreams.

In addition to donating, consider sharing this with your friends, coworkers and on your social channels. Spreading our message is so important to increase our reach in the community and to serve more students. Thank you in advance.

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