Spotlighting women’s stories of hope

On June 21, four women read stories they’d written about their lives to a crowd at the Writer’s Spotlight Reception at Rosie’s Place, a Roxbury-based nonprofit with a mission to provide women with shelter and opportunities.

One woman, Francesca, spoke about rebuilding her life in America after having left her home country of Honduras. “My life today is new, because Rosie’s Place gives me everything,” Francesca said. With the help of Rosie’s Place, she got an apartment, citizenship, a passport and now a book. “I’m a new woman because of Rosie’s Place,” she said.

Her story was titled, “The Treasure That is Rosie’s Place.” As she read her story, her voice quivered and her eyes watered. “This story is from my heart and put in my head to write,” she said, also mentioning that she also got to visit her grandson in Germany.

Francisa is one of 118 women who wrote stories complied in a book called “My Dreams.” The other three women were Maria, who described what her life was like in Colombia; Qi, who spoke about her life in China and her dreams in America; and Lucy, who spoke about love and her country of Cameroon.

For them, writing and speaking in English has been a challenge. But Rosie’s Place helped many of these women write their stories as part of its five-week long Writing Café program.

The program features local writers who run workshops for the women at Rosie’s Place. Workshops can look like a vocabulary lesson on one particular day or hours of writing on another. The Writing Café started with writing prompts that help the women to explore details of their lives, asking questions such as “who am I?” and “What’s it like to be a woman?” and “what’s my story of coming to America?”

That’s when Sara Jorgensen, the Women’s Education Center director at Rosie’s Place, and Laura Wind, a teacher volunteer at Rosie’s Place, talked about publishing the women’s voices in a book. “My Dreams,” was published in Spring 2016 and compiles all the stories written by women from the Rosie’s Place Women’s Education Center.

“The book has really helped us to make the case for writing,” Jorgensen said to the crowd. “The project takes on a life of it’s own.”

Wind, who works at Macmillan Learning when she’s not volunteering at Rosie’s Place, said it’s important their stories spread. “Their stories are powerful, and it’s in now in print,” Wind said. “It immortalizes their stories.” Bridgeport National Bindery, Inc., published the book.

The Women’s Education Center focuses on strengthening English conversational skills through conversational classes and runs courses on reading and writing. Coming out of weeks of classes, the four women, through their broken English, spoke of their knowledge of the world seen through their eyes. The intimate crowd of more than a dozen was quiet, following each story line by line, since everyone had a complimentary book.

Lucy spoke about love and how she got it from Rosie’s Place. Metaphorically speaking, she described her life as if it was scattered on the floor, but Rosie’s Place held her hand and helped her stand up and prosper. “When I saw my story, it was a great day in my life. Rosie’s place brings me hope in many areas. There are so many doors in Rosie’s Place,” she said.

Jorgensen said she hopes to do more writing programs like this in the coming years. If given another chance to have more of their stories published, these women would be happy to keep sharing.

For Lucy, it was the first time in her life she has written something and she wants to continue. “Yes, I would like to write again, and again, and again,” she said. “I will never leave my pen.”

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