COVID-19: Quarantined with a family of 8--Maya's Story

Maya shopping with Carmen for groceries back in mid-March

Maya had a problem with anger. She felt everyone was her enemy. Although she graduated from high school and worked retail jobs, her temper combined with financial hardship and street life in the Bronx landed her with a felony charge. 

On her court date, Maya was nervously trying to find her lawyer before she entered the courtroom. Instead, she bumped into Avenues for Justice (AFJ)’s Court Advocate, Carmen. Carmen quickly saw how overwhelmed Maya was. After explaining complicated legal language to her, Carmen took Maya upstairs to AFJ’s courthouse offices to meet Executive Director, Angel, and to learn more about our program. Noticing that Maya had been in the courthouse all morning, Carmen bought her lunch. That gesture made a big impact. “Carmen was the first adult I’ve really trusted,” said Maya. “On day one she understood my needs and did something about it.”  

The next day, Maya showed up at Avenues for Justice’s Harlem Community Center.

She spent the next six months attending every training session, workshop and field trip at AFJ: including financial literacy, creating podcasts, workplace soft skills, resume help, mock interviews, cooking classes, yoga and museum visits. But the biggest game changer for her was one-on-one counseling with Carmen and group sessions for anger management. 

This spring, AFJ’s individualized approach with Maya paid off. Her felony charge was reduced to a misdemeanor and she was mandated to AFJ for two years instead of going to prison. She landed a paid internship and Carmen was helping her apply to college.

Then, New York City went into the COVID-19 lockdown.

Suddenly Maya’s household of 8 - her mother, sisters, aunt, cousins, and step dad - were all quarantined in a two-bedroom apartment and unemployed by the crisis. Maya didn’t even have a working phone to join AFJ’s daily check-ins and group calls. And the household was running out of food.

AFJ’s crisis response: Just before the quarantine, Carmen took Maya shopping for groceries. “I was  proud to go home with food for my family,” Maya said. Last week, Carmen showed up with even more urgently needed groceries - plus a prepaid phone for Maya.

“Avenues for Justice is like a 24/7 hotline, I can call anytime I need and tell my problems to Carmen instead of becoming frustrated,” Maya said.  

Last December, to help Maya with her computer studies and college search, AFJ provided Maya with a laptop. “It was the only Christmas gift I got,”  said Maya.  Carmen is now coaching her through AFJ’s on-line workshops and group sessions.  

When the quarantine is over, Maya will spend evenings at Avenues for Justice’s Harlem Community Center to get employment and housing assistance to find her own apartment. 

“I have a family, but right now, my real family is at AFJ. I’m still growing and we’re all growing together.”

Twitter icon
Facebook icon
Google icon
e-mail icon