A Message from our Co-Executive Director, Camila Guiza-Chavez

A Message from our Co-Executive Director, Camila Guiza-Chavez

It is with overwhelming gratitude, love, and bittersweetness in my heart that I announce that at the end of June, I will be transitioning from my role as Co-Director of Havenly. I have made this decision in order to pursue my long-held dream of going back to school and furthering my education, and I am lucky to be doing so with the blessing and support of my colleagues and sisters on the Havenly team. This is far from a goodbye, as I will continue to serve and participate in the continuous journey of co-creating Havenly from a position on the Board of Directors. 

When I first joined the Havenly team 5 years ago, the organization was 1 year old and still sculpting its identity and character. I felt thrilled and privileged to have the opportunity to join Nieda, Caterina, and our beloved co-worker at the time, Malak, in the process of laying the foundations of a new organization – one that still had a chance to be constructed in ways that oppose patriarchal, white cultural expectations of how a nonprofit should engage with its community. As Havenly has grown, we have had to fight at many points along the way to stay in alignment with the principles we hold as sacred – such as our commitment to centering lived experience leadership at every level of decision-making, or our commitment to being guided by the expressed needs and visions of our community members instead of by the demands of external forces. I have learned that it requires constant vigilance, intentionality and teamwork to stay in alignment with these principles as a non-profit. I have also learned that with the right co-conspirators, anything is possible. 

I am endlessly in awe of the women who I’ve gotten to meet as part of this journey. Every woman who has participated in one of our programs and become part of our alumni community has breathed life into Havenly in her own unique way, and has taught us many new things. I hold closely in my heart every dream that our participants have shared with us for their futures; dreams of opening businesses, where they can express their unique creativity, increase their economic autonomy, and in the future provide dignified work opportunities for other women in the community. Dreams of starting organizations which can become vessels to redistribute resources from the U.S. back to their home communities. Dreams of reuniting with family members, of relief from housing insecurity, of feeling the embrace of community here, of being at peace. These dreams are precious, courageous, and they become guiding lights for our work. And many of them, we’ve had the beautiful chance to see blooming into reality.

Our community continues to face many forms of violence on a daily basis, including the violence of poverty by design, and of a government that spends more money on policing and genocide than on ensuring that residents have access to basic needs like housing or healthcare. And in the face of all this, the women of Havenly show us every day examples of what community power looks like. I have watched women come together in moments of crisis – including women who don’t speak the same language, who come from different cultures and corners of the globe –  to help each other stay safe, maintain hope, or share lessons that they’ve learned with each other about how to navigate the distinct challenges of surviving in a U.S. city. I have witnessed women from different immigrant communities develop deep relationships of mutual care and love, despite all the ways that society tries to keep people in silos based on their legal status and color. I’ve been part of meetings where women have shared their proposals for different ways that we can build solutions to our community’s needs, like starting an affordable housing cooperative or a childcare center. It is a gift to be in conversation with these women, who always expand my imagination to even more beautiful and radical propositions than what I thought was possible, and that I know we can achieve over time with diligent efforts.

While I am very sad to leave, I take comfort in the idea that Havenly is an ever-expanding web of relationships among women across space and time who demonstrate a commitment to each other’s material and spiritual wellbeing. Our center of gravity is in New Haven, where we conduct our programming and where the majority of our members reside. But our network extends to every part of the world where our community members call home, where we have loved ones, where we return to (physically or emotionally) for strength and inspiration. We are dynamic. We are many hands, giving and receiving and creating. I am so excited to see how our journey towards some kind of liberation as a community continues to unfold. 



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