Angie Angie needed a safe home to call her own after leaving her native country in search of opportunity. She was working as a nurse until the devastating earthquake hit Haiti in 2010. After the disaster it was difficult to find work, and stay safe. She came to the United States with a boyfriend, who promised her a fresh start and a chance to reach for her dreams. It wasn’t long before the relationship turned abusive, and Angie was left with no one to turn to in this foreign country. “When you live with this kind of treatment you have no respect for yourself,” she explained. Angie was fortunate to find YWCA, and soon found a temporary home in one of its confidential shelters. The shelter staff helped her get back on her feet and make a plan. “I soon found that I was not the only one who suffered from domestic violence,” she said. “That is when I felt like I could breathe again.” With the help of the staff, Angie attended meetings and support groups, received counseling, and began to form new goals for herself. “YWCA helped me build a new life,” she explained. Angie became a resident of the Transitional Housing Program and quickly went to work on her goals. While at YWCA, she worked in the child care center, attended Quinsigamond Community College, and became an active community volunteer. “Now I can say I am not a victim anymore,” she said. “But my journey hasn’t stopped here, it’s just starting.” Angie successfully exited the Transitional Housing Program into independent housing.
Etel Haxhiaj Etel Haxhiaj immigrated to the U.S. during her early teen years. During her childhood in her native Albania, she saw the effects of inequality and violence against women first hand. “I never had the opportunity to be a part of a women's advocacy organization in my home country,” she explained. “So it was only a matter of time before I would find a way to become involved in this community, which I now call home.” As a member of the Board of Directors of YWCA Central Massachusetts, and Community Organizer of Mothers Out Front, Etel works to eliminate issues that affect women and children’s lives and futures including poverty, domestic violence, intolerance, sexism, racism, and lack of access to education and leadership opportunities. “I was fortunate to be around women who were very involved in YWCA, and who were very passionate about its mission and programs,” she said. “The passion of women activists ignited the passion in me for making a difference.” Etel was a graduate of the initial 30 Under 30 leadership class, where she learned to take control of her own destiny. “It has helped me nurture my leadership skills, build a whole new network of incredible women, and become more in tune with my inner power as a female leader,” she explained.” “It is so easy to be passionate about YWCA because of the quality of services our programs provide to women and young girls in the community, as well as the quality of staff who work tirelessly to support YWCA's mission,” she said. As hard as it is to balance work, volunteering, and family, Etel hopes that all that she does is making a positive impact on our community. “YWCA has also given me the chance to show my two sons that their mama is a fierce advocate for women’s rights,” she said, “something that I hope they become passionate about as they grown into young men.”