Redd Sevilla and Chandra Savage, New Life
We met Chandra at a Financial Gym event, one of her firsts as a new trainer. We talked about her enthusiasm for wine, the frustrations of marginalization and the incredible feeling of being part of a strong community. She piggybacked off of the ladder, explaining an amazing mission she was apart of, called NEW LIFE . I knew right then and there, we HAD to feature her amazing journey of strength and vulnerabilty . Without giving too much away, we looped in the Director of the church, Redd, and together we produced an impactful feature about "relief, restoration, and reinvestment." We hope you leave this piece feeling impacted and inspired to get involved!
Redd, can you describe the mission of New Life?
New Life CDC has a mission to provide relief, cultivate restoration and model reinvestment among the marginalized in Elmhurst, Corona, Queens and beyond. We do it as a recognition of the love of God that we have received and simply want to pay it forward.
Relief is the meeting of immediate needs. Restoration is the restoration of supportive community and economic opportunity. Reinvestment is about creating a greater local neighborhood versus moving out to find one.
How did each of you come to be involved in such an amazing community?
I grew up in a family that was undocumented. It was a terrifying season when I was a teenager. We were taken in by US Marshals and went through deportation proceedings. If it wasn’t for mission-minded folks, I would not be in the U.S. Ironically, the neighborhood that I was supposed to be deported from is the neighborhood that I now serve.
I wanted to be part of this community because I recognize I have one life to live and I’d like to be able to be part of making this neighborhood a little bit better than how I found it.
Chandra, you are apart of the success groups. Although the model of this group is based on the “Family Independence Initiative,” how did the group personalize this to make each member feel comfortable and inspired?
C: It took some time but transparency was a key element. A willingness to lift the veil of shame with our financial situations. It was very important that we knew that we all are in this together. If you share yourself, others will respond in kind.
Some people in poverty stricken areas tend to hold back on sharing their situation. Do either of you have a piece of advice to those in need of help, but too afraid to come forward?
C: Redd put together a short infomercial to share with everyone to show the many faces of diversity within the group. People are less likely to be apprehensive when they see someone they had misconceptions off, being part of the project.
R: Taking that step of vulnerability and sharing your story is difficult. Shame, fear, anxiety can play a part in the resistance to be vulnerable. But there is a power that is made perfect in weakness. We see this all the time. Most recently with the MeToo movement. I know that I am inspired by the fight currently being fought by many of these women taking that risk to share their story. The ones who inspire me the most are the ones who have been through the most painful circumstances.
This area of harassment might not be a “poverty stricken area” as indicated in the question but the risk taken in being open is similar.
What about those who are uneducated on the subject? What is your best advice to get involved and help promote change in their community?
C: Knowledge is power. You have to be willing to learn and know that there is supporting to help you better your situation and the resources are there for you to change your circumstances. You just have to put one foot in front of the other. Someone will grab your hand and walk with you the test of the way.
R: Asking for help is so significant. Only those who recognize they are “sick” will bring themselves to a doctor. I know when I admit that I am in need and search for help is when I experience the healing and restoration of God and the supportive community around me.
And, when I am truthful about my need for help or my need for others is when I realize I cannot judge anyone else needing support. I, too, have been there.
Chandra + Redd, what is next for you both personally and professionally?
C: How much time do you have, lol. As you know, I recently became a Financial Trainer at The Financial Gym. I am planning on sponsoring one of the participants of the Success Group for 3 months at The Financial Gym. You have to pay it forward.
I know with all of my heart that, my introduction to this project was the stepping stone for my new position.
R: Personally, I’m trying to figure out how to involve my kids in the work I do. My work is demanding. I can easily leave my kids at home while I work. I’m making good strides in working together with my wife. The next step is doing the hard work of involving my children.
Interviewed by Emily