Ask any of the two dozen Latino women assembled at the Mamaroneck CAP Center on June 22. They’ll tell you how Proyecto Madres, the CAP Center support group whose second anniversary they have come to celebrate, has changed their lives.
Take Fidelia Alondra, a 38 year-old mother of three. She was still reeling from a seemingly endless series of tragedies that had claimed the lives of her mother, brother and two cousins when she emigrated to Mamaroneck from Mexico three years ago seeking a fresh start.
“I came because I thought that things would be better here,” she reflected softly in Spanish. But all too soon she discovered that, in ways she never anticipated, things got worse. “I couldn’t speak English and I didn’t know anyone,” she lamented of those days. “I’ didn’t go out. I didn’t do anything. I was extremely shy.”
With no friends or social life to speak of, with her husband at work and daughters off to pre-school each day, she found herself alone in her apartment for hours on end with nothing but grief to keep her company.
“I was so depressed,” she recalls. “I felt all alone.”
Then her daughter came home from school with a Proyecto Madres flyer in her backpack. Written in Spanish as well as English, the flyer invited Ms. Alondra to join her sister Latinas in sharing their cares and concerns at the 3 Jalapenos Restaurant on the third Wednesday of each month. There, she could enjoy breakfast and free baby-sitting while being treated to guest lectures, Q and A sessions, and instruction in Spanish regarding services, information, issues and opportunities relevant to her and her family.
Intrigued, Ms. Alondra decided to give it a try. It was, she recalled, like coming home.
That was over a year ago. She has been a member ever since.
Proyecto Madres Comes to Mamaroneck
Conceived as a source of solidarity, support, and empowerment for Hispanic women, the first Proyecto Madres chapter was established three years ago in Port Chester by the Junior League of Westchester on the Sound. Encouraged by its success there, the organizers cast about for another venue where they could establish a chapter.
It wasn’t long before they found an eager partner.
“I’d been looking for a program that would empower women,” says Luis Quiros, Board Chairman of WestCOP (the CAP Center’s parent organization) and longtime Mamaroneck resident. “In fact, when I want to start any grass root program, I always appeal to the women first. If it’s a viable idea, women will run with it. They’re nurturers. So when the Junior League of Westchester on the Sound proposed the idea to me I jumped on it.”
Founded in 2007, the Mamaroneck chapter has since thrived thanks to the support of the Junior League and additional funding from the Larchmont/Mamaroneck Summit and longtime WESTCOP supporters Ridgewood Savings Bank and the Sunshine Lady Foundation.
Now Celebrating Its Second Year
For Ms. Alondra and the others at the CAP Center celebration, Proyecto Madres has proved to be a bridge between the lives they left behind in their native land and the new lives they strive to establish for themselves here in Mamaroneck.
Symbolic of the changes they have all been making, each woman at the anniversary party got a certificate of appreciation, a takeaway gift provided by FujiFilm of Valhalla, and a framed, color, photo portrait of themselves taken during a “Day of Beauty” excursion to Giselle’s Salon in Larchmont, where they each received a complete makeover free of charge.
As Lucia Chamorro, Proyecto Madres’ coordinator, calls each member to the center of the room to receive her gifts, there are are oohs and ahs over each portrait.
A raffle follows. The prize? A FujiFilm digital camera. But the biggest excitement of the fiesta turns out to be Ms. Chamorro’s husband, Marcelo, who is ever on hand to do anything he can to help her make Proyecto Madres a continued success. Today, armed with a CD player and quad speakers, he leads the ladies, step by step, through a complex macarena.
Squeals of delight peal out each time he works his hips. Laughter erupts over each fumble and misstep as the women attempt to emulate his moves. At the front of the pack, Fidelia Alondra sways rhythmically to the irrepressible beat, head tilted skyward, eyes half shut. The worry lines etched in her forehead by years of struggle recede behind the radiance of her smile.
“Now,” she says, “I know I’m not so alone.”