Through psycho-educational group sessions, food, and laughter ... health, healing, and hope continue to fill the lives of thousands of families across the District of Columbia.
Just four days following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, “Mi Familia” was named as a project of La Clinica’s Mental Health and Behavioral Health department. It started in response to a large number of patients and families arriving at La Clínica’s doors, seeking refuge from the events that triggered traumatic experiences that many had lived in their countries of origin. “I remember that we had 37 patients, there were very few mental health therapists who worked with us at that time, but still we decided to create psycho-educational support groups to be able to serve all who sought help," recalls Alma Hamar, La Clinica’s Lead Mental Health Therapist and co-founder of Mi Familia.
Many of the patients at La Clinica, have come from countries that have suffered the consequences of civil wars, violence, natural disasters, and economic and social issues. Each day following 9/11, families would arrive and share that La Clinica felt safe. The overwhelming initial response of participants led to a strategy for dividing groups into manageable sizes. Some patients arrived with entire families and for that reason, they were divided into age groups. The initial model was called "Psycho-educational groups on Saturday” and consisted of 20 sessions. With seed funding from SAMSHA, the project was able to grow into a full-fledging program that has touched and healed the lives of thousands of Latinx families and continues to play a vital role in the health and well-being of our broader communities.
Through discussion, yoga, meditation, and art, family members learn to give names to emotions. Children learn to identify where they can seek help if they are victims of abuse, and parents are empowered to apply learned tools to address problems with their children that is not violent or intrusive.
Since its initial days, Mi Familia, has relied on the incredible contributions of volunteers, public and foundation funding, and individual supporters. The generous skills, knowledge, and resources have built Mi Familia from an emergency response project to a vital program that provides several cycles annually. During the pandemic Mi Familia adjusted to providing virtual cycles, ensuring that families could continue receiving essential support in helping children and parents navigate the additional hardships, anxiety, and fears that came with the stressors of COVID-19. Perhaps, the greatest success is seeing children that participated in those first groups, now young adults, who are healthy and happy, thriving in different roles across the District - teachers, administrators, health workers, even an engineer at NASA! We celebrate those that joined in the beginning and along the way to build Mi Familia to be the beautiful program that it is today. And, we invite you to join our family as we continue to grow!
*SAMSHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Agency) *MAXIMUS
*MOLA (Mayor's Office on Latino Affairs) *Stewart Trust
*Washington DC Rotary Club
At the end of each cycle, Mi Familia hosts graduation for its participants. For many, it is the first diploma received, and it is an important milestone in their healing journey.
Mi Familia Gains National Recognition
In 2010, NCLR (National Committee of La Raza), now known as UnidosUS, awarded La Clinica's Mi Familia program the prestigious Family Strengthening Award, recognizing its strong model and positive outcomes within DC’s Latino immigrant community. Mi Familia's model has been adopted to serve within different spaces across the district, such as DC public schools, and has been replicated by other organizations in other states of the country.
Mi Familia's co-founder Alma Hamar, pictured with UnidosUS's (formerly NCLR) President, Janet Murgia, and Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), celebrating the achievements and emotional stability Mi Familia has provided to Latinx families.
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