Spotlight: 2019 Behavioral Health Interns

IMAN’s expanding Behavioral Health work offers culturally competent services including individual, couples and group counseling. Faduma Sheikh-Abdi, Sandra Galicia, and Laura Caballero make up the dynamic team of graduate-level interns who have played a key role in helping increase community access to therapy. We sat down with them to learn more about their stories, experiences working with visitors to IMAN’s Community Health Center, and plans for future careers in the behavioral health field.

Tell us more about yourself.

Faduma: I was born in a refugee camp in Kenya after my family was forced to migrate from their indigenous home in Somalia due to civil war and famine. I was raised in Minneapolis, and moved to Chicago when I was 13. I grew a profound passion for intergenerational trauma after recognizing how I have internalized my family’s pain, which led me to enroll in the Clinical Mental Health program at Northeastern Illinois University.

Laura: I’m from San Antonio, TX and have been living in Chicago for 3 years now. I’m currently in my second year at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration. I’ll be graduating with a Master’s in Social Work this June.

Sandra: I am proudly from Gage Park, and am currently in my second and final year of graduate study at UIC’s Jane Addams College of Social Work. Other interests of mine include urban agriculture and food accessibility.

What are your career goals/aspirations? What inspired you to pursue a future in Mental Health/Social Service?

L: After graduation, I hope to continue my work in community mental health. As a future therapist, I feel my services should be easily accessible so individuals and families feel confident in finding appropriate resources. I would like to eventually work at the intersection of law and mental health, supporting refugees and asylum seekers with trauma-informed services.

S: I plan to help bring more accessible mental health services to Gage Park, and the larger South Side. I was inspired to do this work after my partner was killed in a drive-by shooting when I was 16 years old. Reflecting on the connection between tragedies like that, systemic inequalities and institutional violence, I have strived to live a very intentional life. I am committed to helping disrupt the violence that unjustly impacts my community.

F: Not having a relationship with my sweet grandma [Ayayo]—who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease—created within me a burning desire to foster healing for anyone who is in need of help. I value sincere connections with elders, and am pursuing a career in mental health to help community members feel heard and validated.

Share an experience you’ve had thus far at IMAN that embodies “Health, Wellness & Healing”.

S: I don’t think I’ll ever forget the circle [gathering] we had after the Jason Van Dyke verdict. Staff, leaders and residents came together to share our thoughts and feelings after that emotionally charged day. While the cause for the circle was devastating, I feel that the circle itself embodied “Health, Wellness, & Healing.” I am lucky to have shared that space with folks.

F: Phenom, a talented IMAN artist and inspirational speaker, blew my mind during an Arts & Culture workshop. I felt everyone in that space tap into one powerful force of love and unity. There was no hierarchy, no judgment, just flowing energy and laughter.

L: The circle session after the Van Dyke trial. It was powerful to see IMAN come together to heal during a moment of great pain. The Behavioral Health team facilitated reflection to help everyone process their feelings and emotions. It was a beautiful moment of support I’ve never seen in a workplace.

Off the List, On the Love

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Too many of our beloved sisters and brothers find themselves on all the wrong lists: on waiting lists to access desperately needed housing, mental health services and employment opportunities; on poverty and hunger index lists; and on criminal lists and registries that perpetually punish individuals, families and entire neighborhoods. These lists contribute to our lack of racial and social equity, and are ultimately rooted in a lack of love.

The blessed month of Ramadan is upon us, and in it, we are called to deepen our consciousness of The Divine and strengthen our bonds of mutual love. A Prophetic tradition challenges us to attain true faith by loving for our community that which we love for ourselves.

This month, we will be attempting to raise $1,500,000 during our ‘Off the List, On the Love’: 2018 Ramadan Fundraising Drive. These funds are absolutely vital to our ability to get our sisters and brothers off of lists that strip them of dignity and agency, and onto a path defined by love, opportunity and a shared vision of what our world could look like.

As always, you have a crucial role to play in this. We ask that you continue to keep IMAN’s efforts in your thoughts and prayers and that you donate generously to help us meet and exceed our goal. All contributions are zakat-eligible and tax-deductible, and can be made via check, stock, cash, or online at our website.

We pray that your support this month lists you among those who have earned the ultimate pleasure and mercy of The Most High.

Local Seniors Learn Self-Defense

This month’s Senior Wellness Luncheon hosted by the Health Center, focused on providing senior citizens with ways to protect themselves in dangerous situations. Ramy Daoud, owner and head coach of Phoenix Sports Empire in Naperville, introduced the seniors to basic self-defense techniques during the hour-long session. Seniors learned various blocking methods and proper movements to handle and escape a potential attacker. Those in attendance were excited to try something new and felt that learning self-defense skills is extremely useful in today’s environment.

“I have been attacked from behind,” said Jean Davis a 70-year-old attendee who travels to IMAN from suburban Lansing to attend the monthly luncheons, “Nowadays they are attacking everybody, they don’t care.”

The self-defense lesson also included methods for seniors with limited mobility like Rosemary Meriweather, a 66-year-old grandmother using a rollator walker who feared the hands-on session would not be useful to someone like her, “He showed me what I can do”.

Meriweather has been attending IMAN’s luncheons for over a year and says she enjoys coming each month and always leaves with something informative—from recipes to life tips, like how to protect herself and her family. “I am raising two granddaughters and I’m going to teach them some of these moves.”

Self-defense is extremely important, specifically for older adults as they are seen as a vulnerable population. Participants were asked topics of interest and self-defense rated amongst the highest. Instructor Daoud, who has been doing martial arts for 25 years and currently works as a professional fighter, says it is a skill everyone should have and he looks forward to returning to IMAN to lead more sessions.

The senior luncheon highlights a sense of purpose, feelings of belongings, increased self-esteem, confidence and improved physical and mental health. The luncheon allows participants to nurture their soul by socializing, keeping active and building connections with others in the community.

MLK ‘Day of Action’ Honors Legacy, Engages Residents

This MLK Day, dozens of leaders took to Marquette Park’s streets to strengthen their relationships with local residents and build new bonds with neighbors not yet connected to IMAN’s work. As a gesture of appreciation and a continuation of Dr. King’s call for a “beloved community”, organizers led the assembly and distribution of 200 MLK Legacy Bags filled with bus passes, warm blankets and informational materials to families within a half-mile of IMAN’s Chicago office. Also included in each Legacy Bag was a graphic representation of the political and social demands that Dr. King famously nailed to the door of Chicago’s City Hall in 1966; residents were encouraged to reflect on the progress made on those demands since that historic day.

Steady snow fell throughout the morning as the teams of leaders made their rounds. They were joined by the entire cohort of Green ReEntry brothers, who provided complimentary snow shoveling service to each block. Following the day’s outreach efforts, both the cohort and leaders enjoyed the opportunity to share one another’s stories over lunch. The discussion was guided by IMAN organizers Shamar Hemphill and Sara Hamdan, and centered on the relevance of King’s Chicago campaigns to their present-day lived experiences.

As IMAN honors the enduring legacy of Dr. King, we also lift up the life and impact of a beloved educator and mentor to young students across Chicago’s Southwest Side: Mr. Victor Harbison. A long time civics and history teacher at nearby Gage Park High School where many of IMAN’s youth leaders were his students, Harbison recently passed away. His passion for justice and pride in developing young leaders rooted in the community was felt by all who were fortunate to have known him. Harbison played a key role in the establishment of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Living Memorial. Alongside his students, he spearheaded an archival project highlighting Dr. King’s seminal 1966 housing march through Marquette Park. Their research and diligence laid the foundation for the memorial which today stands as a testament to the grassroots organizing tradition. Please click here to learn more about Mr. Harbison’s preservation of this history, and keep his family in your thoughts and prayers.