Often when we think about celebrating international holidays, we think on a global scale. Today is International Women’s Day, intentionally located in Women’s History month. Women who’ve made a global impact like Maya Angelou or Malala quickly come to mind as women to celebrate on this day. And these women should be celebrated! But what about the women who often go unrecognized? The women who are making a difference day after day in their community, home, and place of work? We at Treetops Collective also take today to celebrate the incredible women we come in contact with through our programs.
At Treetops, our mission is to be a “cross-cultural movement that connects with and invests in New American women leaders, together transforming our communities into places of belonging.” (emphasis added). We work with women in part because women play such a key role in cultivating the social fabric of their communities. We work with women because we believe when we connect women together, they can be a catalyst for change in their community.
And we also work with women because we continue to hear of the need for this kind of partnership and investment. When we began our work with questions about belonging, we consistently heard stories of women who were experiencing isolation as a result of language, transportation, and cultural barriers. While husbands, brothers, and children got jobs and attended school, so many women were home with little ones and managing the housework, or only left home for jobs that under-realized their skills. We felt their isolation, but we also realized the ways this was depriving this community of these incredible, beautiful members.
The primary expression of this belief in the potential of women’s leadership at Treetops Collective is the Concentric program. In this program, twelve women from the community lead groups of women or teen girls from specific language groups. These Concentric leaders are best positioned to have the greatest impact because they are already trusted voices in their communities. They know language and customs, and have experience navigating U.S. systems and cultures without sacrificing their own values and traditions. Through the program, Concentric leaders receive additional training about specific resources available to the women in their groups and tools for managing the challenges of community leadership. They meet monthly to encourage one another, problem solve together, and cultivate cross-cultural community. By investing in these leaders, more women, teen girls, and families are understanding their strength and ability. They can start to see that they belong while building communities within the cohorts they lead where other women find and create belonging too.
One Concentric leader shared, “This year I've seen many women impacted by Treetops Collective. The women in my group lean on each other as a community. The women have gained resources that have helped them increase their independence and benefit their family.”
Another shared the transformation she is seeing in the women in her cohort, saying they are “positive and independent, becoming more vocal and expressing what they need, and learning how to navigate several community resources.”
So today we celebrate. We celebrate the New American women, our neighbors, who are finding the resources they need to care for their loved ones. We celebrate the New American women who are navigating complex systems. We celebrate the New American women who are seeking the connections and relationships to make West Michigan home. We celebrate women everywhere who see the needs and gifts of their neighbors and respond with kindness and generosity.
Passport Tip: Working on the #SpreadWelcome passport? Be sure to celebrate a woman who has made an impact in your life. Then mark the square complete!