During its recent annual celebration in Hampton Bays, the organization, Neighbors in Support of Immigrants (NISI) awarded Leah Oppenheimer, CMEE’s Director of Community Outreach with its “Good Neighbor” Award in recognition of her outstanding service to the immigrant community of the East End.
In her remarks to the more than 300 attendees, Leah began with a quote from the philosopher, Martin Buber, “All journeys have a secret destination that the traveler herself does not know.” She then went on to explain that “when I started our first program at the Children’s Museum (a family literacy program called “Cantemos”) with Barbara Blaisdell, my goal was to help immigrants with their lack of knowledge of schools and books. But what I did not know then was how many treasures the family cultures of Ecuador, Mexico and Colombia and so many other Latin American countries contained. Little by little, I learned. I began to understand the dreams of Latina mothers and children. I witnessed injustice for Latin American people on Long Island. My teachers were the mothers, including Sandra, Erika , Monica, Betty, Yadira, and others. I learned to listen and to hear what their children need.
These days at CMEE, we have a different goal — We work together so families can enjoy books, art, music and science. So that they have time to learn together. We hope that our students will be able to share what they know in voices strong and proud, “loud and proud” as we say in class.
But for all of us at CMEE , the most important thing is that we have become citizens together – you and your children, us, everybody – all of us citizens of our home, the East End of Long Island. Our secret destiny is here, living together!
She also presented her remarks in Spanish – “Yo empecé los programas de CMEE con la meta de “ayudar las familias”. En esa epoca no sabia mucho de los tesoros de la cultura familiar de México, Ecuador y Colombia.Poco a poco , yo estaba aprendiendo. Yo comencé a entender los sueños de las madres y sus ninos. Yo vi de la injusticia de la situación del pueblo Latino en Long Island. Yo aprendí de mis maestras Sandra, Erika, Araceli, Monica, Yadira, Esperanza y Lina como escuchar lo que el gente y sus niños necesitaban.
Ahora a CMEE, tenemos una meta diferente. Trabajamos para que los niños y las familias puedan disfrutar los libros, las computadores y la música y aprender juntos. Queremos que nuestras estudiantes y amigas puedan compartir su conocimiento con orgullo con las voces fuertes. .“Loud and Proud,” decimos en clase.
Pero lo más importante es que en aviso de CMEE, somos todos- ustedes, sus niños, y nosotros- los ciudadanos de la comunidad de East End. Somos en nuestro lugar. Nuestro destino está aquí, vivir como amigos y vecinos.”