La Ermita - a community space that matters
In July of 2001, I quit my job as a hospital based speech-pathologist to open up my own community wellness center, borrowing $6000 from my parents to launch this venture. I developed and published my own unique "radical inclusion" centered therapy approach and immediately put it into practice, initially focusing on kids with autism spectrum disorders, adults with stroke and other traumatic brain injuries and teen agers who were struggling with depression and anxiety.
In 2015, with the market saturated in Seattle and the cost of living more than I could sustain running the non-profit, I took the leap to move to the small rural community in Mexico where I had already been planting roots for almost ten years.
When I arrived in the town in early 2006, I began to ask folks what support they needed for things like depression and anxiety. At that time, as I was still an outsider, I was met with lots of "we don't get depressed here," or "that's an American thing to worry about." But as I continued to cultivate my ties to the community, learning to speak fluent Spanish, beginning to teach English and offer small groups for mindfulness and movement, the community response began to shift. Pretty soon I had lots of people, and particularly women, asking me if I could help them with various physical ailments. But every single time, when they entered into the tiny backyard studio I had built, they immediately began to cry and talk about things like domestic violence, feeling trapped and isolated, alcoholism, the stressors of poverty, and yes, depression and anxiety,
I kept my reach small for many years, wanting to ensure that I had the right reputation with the community, that I understood - as well as an outsider could - their particular concerns and struggles, and that if I built something bigger it would be embraced and utilized and not seen as simply a "gringo" thing. I continued offering free one on one sessions, and expanded to offering twice weekly free mindfulness groups. I started offering free Bedside Yoga sessions in people's homes to help alleviate suffering and isolation associated with chronic pain - most people here not even able to afford over the counter pain medications.
After my sister died in October of 2019, I earned a small but significant sum of money for being the executor of her estate. Erin was always so encouraging and proud of everything I did, and in particular admired my capacity and passion for reaching the most vulnerable among us. It only made sense to me then, to invest all of the money I earned from her estate into this place that would also honor her.
Last year, finally having a bit of start up funding, a secure ground and, more than anything, watching the rapid growth and gentrification of the town, with the most marginalized of the community being further pushed to the margins, I knew I had to do something, especially before someone else did - putting in a "yoga studio" or some other space that would feel inaccessible to my local friends.
The initial purchase of the land was approximately $22K and I have spent an additional $30K + of my own money to get us where we are. But the money has run out.
- In order for me to complete the main ground level space, that will include a simple garden, an office/library/welcoming area and a bathroom, I need an additional $25,000. With this part of the project completed, I will be able to open this healing space to the local community at no charge. I will be able to offer workshops, classes and retreats to visitors at a fair price that will help to sustain the work we will do here together.
Once the ground floor is fully established, I hope to be able to build a second floor that will include a small two bedroom apartment and a therapy room which will then create a 100% self-sustaining model so that I will be able to grow my reach and programs to support the community.
- I have created several unique perks that I hope you will benefit from. I would love to have you come here and visit, to see and experience this place that you have helped to create, and to know that you have made a real difference in the lives of people who would otherwise never have access to the healing opportunities of La Ermita or a place like it!
- If I do not reach my entire goal, I will continue to build little by little, investing all of my income over the next several years to see the project through to completion. In the meanwhile, I will use the main hall to offer individual therapy, group classes, arts opportunities, mindfulness and meditation groups, and weekly faith services to my local community. I will also use it to offer once monthly "free" thrift shops - asking tourists and "snowbirds" to donate unused or unwanted items to a centralized location for folks who are struggling financially to be able to get simple household items such as towels, sheets, dishes, clothing, books, tools and toys.
- I have worked in community organizing and outreach and the healing arts, including clinical therapy for all of my professional life. I have a proven track record of making things happen. As I settle into my second half of life, I am becoming increasingly interested in small, personal impact over large programs.
La Ermita is just that. We will offer free therapy and classes, as well as volunteer programs for people who are home-bound with critical or terminal illnesses and end of life care. We will provide a safe space for women of the community to gather and share and to know their own worth. We will offer a transformative, curative space which will allow people who otherwise don't have the means to even leave the pueblo to be able to experience a feeling of being transported beyond the limitations of poverty and lack of access. We will offer a space where kids can come and learn tools for self-regulation and valuing of self. We will replicate the experience of The Samarya Center, where all people feel invited, welcomed and celebrated.
The best part is that you, as a donor, can come here and see it and experience it for yourself, and know that you helped to create this and see with your own eyes the changes you have made in the lives of people who desperately need these opportunities.
- I have done this before and I can do it again. Please look at my press, the videos about what we accomplished at Samarya, and the short documentaries about the community we built together in Seattle. I have the experience, I have the passion, I have the capacity and I have a solid start. Now I just need the funds.
Please help to make La Ermita a reality.