Mary's Center serves over 40,000 from 100 countries each year. Read some of their personal stories.
Looking at her little Dunia, Iane Campos, feels blissful and relieved because the stormy days are in the past. The news of Iane's pregnancy left her surprised and confused. "I didn't think I could be a good mother," Iane said. When Iane came to Mary's Center, she was five months pregnant and presented clear signs of depression. Part of the reason was her difficulties as a child with her own mother and a weak and unsupportive relationship with the father of the baby she was expecting.
Mary's Center therapists worked with Iane using a strengths-based model, helping her to remember her internal strengths and allies and her past successes, resources she could use to deal with her situation and fight despair. Step by step, the results of this work were reflected in an increasingly positive attachment toward her unborn child.
Today Iane's life is quite different. Iane married Dunia's father, and their relationship continues to improve. Life is smiling at her and her family and she knows that regardless of what the future brings, she will always have the support she needs to take on the challenges of everyday life.
When Koudjouka Bislao, also known as Jackie, from Togo joined Mary's Center's educational program, she discussed her personal goal with her teacher. "I want to join the US Navy," she said. Jackie had always been attracted to the Armed Forces, their discipline, and their commitment to serving others, but she had never imagined that she would be serving outside of her own country.
Jackie, her husband, and their four month old daughter came to the United States through the Diversity Visa Lottery program and were granted US Permanent Residency right away. Once in the United States, they took full advantage of the new opportunities they had. Jackie learned about Mary's Center's family literacy program through one of her friends and enrolled in the classes. She worked hard on her English and computer skills, and with the support of her Mary's Center teachers, she completed the Navy application process.
A few months into the program, Jackie's dream became a reality. She was been admitted into the US Navy as an Electrician Mate aboard the Navy ship USS Benfold. After completing her training, Jackie was deployed overseas for six months and she is now based in San Diego with her family. She is always on missions that can range in length from two days to eight months and she is fully enjoying her new career.
"As a 17 year old girl, it is very uncomfortable when your peers ask you why you don't have a boyfriend and why you are not into sexual relationships yet. For many of them to be sexually active is not a big deal and the last thing they think of are the consequences because they know if they become pregnant, someone in their family will take care of their baby.
But I can tell that life doesn't get easier for them afterwards. I see them rushing to the daycare, shopping for diapers, dropping out from school and feeling frustrated when they want to hang out with their friends on a Saturday night yet they can' t because no one can stay with the baby.
I joined the Teen Program when I was 12 and I can say that I learned practically everything the staff there: from the dangers of drugs and alcohol abuse to the consequences of teen pregnancy and college application and job skills. As a matter of fact, the Teen Program helped me throughout the college process and helped me to get in George Mason University, where I hope to prepare for a career in psychology.
I know there's still a long road ahead, but the barriers and challenges I've faced during my teen years have made me stronger and have prepared me to achieve my goals, which are definitely not to be a teen mom."
In 2001, Thawan Phongsuwan, a native of Thailand and now a US citizen, suffered a heart attack. In 2005, he had a second heart attack and open-heart surgery. Unfortunately, his medical condition forced him to stop working as a hotel chef.
When he lost his job, he also lost his health insurance and for the next two years Thawan could not continue his appointments with the cardiologist. He also couldn't afford his medication.
"It was the worst time in my life because I needed my insurance more than ever before," said Thawan.
A few months after Mary's Center opened its doors in Montgomery County, Maryland, in June 2008, Zenir, Thawan's wife, heard about the Center from a friend.
"Our lives changed," said Zenir. "Mary's Center gave us all the help we needed. My husband now sees a cardiologist periodically and we both get our annual exams and regular check-ups at Mary's Center."
Just like Zenir and Thawan, more than 3,500 Maryland residents also come to Mary's Center for the services that they have lacked for years.