Letter from the Editor
Dear members and friends,
This year is already proving to be very exciting, not only for COSIAnet, but also for COSIA as a whole.
First, as you can see, COSIAnet is going through an innovative overhaul with new formatting, and we have expanded our team so that we can bring you greater quality and creativity.
We at COSIAnet encourage you, our readers, to contribute articles and to give feedback on what you have read or on what you would like to continue to see. Please review the schedule below for topics and deadlines.
We hope that you will enjoy this special edition, which focuses on life after the storm, including poetry, articles, and an interesting interview. We also have reports on the COSIA events that took place in Seattle and New York in earlier this year.
Get ready for another rewarding year, with great information, events, and excitement coming out of COSIA, as we continue to go to work cultivating our sisterhood internationally!
The wind blew fiercely and pierced our sails
The sea arose to stupendous heights
Amidst the roar of the Almighty's strength
At last the sun came out and revealed in its rays
They say it is hard to bring a good man down
Upcoming COSIAnet Submission Deadlines:
|COSIA Seattle Is Here!
By Christa Peterson
For over five years, COSIA has prided itself on building supportive networks for its members and friends. These networks have never been limited by ethnicity, age, or background, to name just a few potential barriers. We can now add state lines to the list of barriers we have overcome, because COSIA’s new Washington state chapter has arranged to have monthly meetings in Seattle in 2013!
A kickoff meeting took place on December 8th, 2012, in the Seattle neighborhood of Ballard, to engage with current COSIA Seattle members. Prior to this meeting, Christa Peterson and COSIA founder Lois Reddick had discussed the importance of integrating the COSIA mission statement into each meeting, event, or fundraiser in Seattle. We believe that consistency is key. In light of this goal, Peterson and membership committee member Jennifer Chandler read the mission statement to the attendees. They also delved into COSIA’s threefold vision by incorporating quotes about love and relationships to draw attention to how this mission can relate to our lives at home, in the workplace, and in our respective communities.
Attendees were asked what they would like to experience in the months ahead. Feedback on meeting topics, discussions, and workshop ideas was shared. Chandler and Peterson took copious notes and hope to implement a majority of the suggestions received from participants. Potential topics for future meetings include: financial success, psychological care, the five love languages, dream building, communication styles, personal and workplace negotiation, and leadership strategies.
Barbara Tantrum, who also attended this first meeting, volunteered to lead our first workshop in January of this year, which focused on how to set real and attainable goals. Attendees discussed goal-setting successes and failures and identified areas in which they sought change for their own lives.
We also had Seattle events in February and March at the Ballard Neighborhood Service Center. For information about future events, or with any questions, please e-mail our events coordinator at WAevents@cosia.net.
You may also learn more about what's on the COSIA calendar by visiting http://www.cosia.eventbrite.com.
By Sonia LeRoia Russell
Storms come in many forms, and can be physical, mental, or spiritual. Some storms we can control, others we cannot. Happily, there are storms that we overcome, and, sadly, storms that overcome us. At the end of it all we hope that life after the storm will be brighter, more enlightening, and in a sense purer and cleaner, as if the past debris in our lives could be washed away. The reality, however, is that sometimes this happens, and sometimes it does not.
I look back at the many storms in my life, which came in various forms, and I think about how much I have grown from coming through them, and how much I have learned about what is really important in life, such as spirituality over materialism. Things wash away, memories become faint, yet life is precious. I remember hurricane Irene in 2011 taking away my opportunity to perform a spoken word piece for the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial dedication ceremony. The storm hit on the very day I was to travel. As the wind and rain battered against my house, rendering me sleepless, I thought to myself: better a lost opportunity than the loss of a future in which I can perform, and speak, and share so much more.
Then super storm Sandy came and reminded me once again how small we are and how enormous the elements. We take for granted each minute we have because we are used to waking up and going on with our days, that is, until the storms come. When a storm is over, those who survive must go on with life. How do we get through it? By being there for each other, by being good neighbors, showing love for our fellow humans, and by helping those who need it in whatever way we can.
After Sandy I drove around my neighborhood and saw trees and power lines down, roofs smashed in by branches and poles, and entire avenues and roads blocked. I was shocked by the desolate appearance of my hometown. There was no power for days, and all seemed so dark. Then I found out about the rest of the region, and I felt blessed because there was no loss of life or total loss of homes in my area. I was sad when I received reports from coworkers, classmates, and others whom I ran into.
I once again felt hope stirring inside of me when I heard the sound of faith and belief that physical, mental, and spiritual rebuilding was eminent. Not one person I spoke to uttered the phrase “giving up.” Neighbors, friends, and strangers alike supported those who mourned. Those who had lost homes and possessions were taken in and given shelter by those who had the means to help.
Gas lines now are back to normal, but there are still many whose lives will never again be “normal” in the same way they were before. That may not be a bad thing, however, when we think about what is really normal in today’s world. All over the world, people face various types of storms, and it has been proven that we can be resilient, survive, and have life after the storm.
|Eight Years Later: Recovering from the Tsunami in Southern Thailand
By Nongnut Boonyoung
It has already been eight years since the tsunami hit southern Thailand on December 26, 2004. Most settled areas, where there were houses, communities, and stores, have been rebuilt along the seashore. The psychological effects of the storm, however, including depression, feelings of loss, and uncertainty, need more time to heal. Those who live in high risk areas, particularly in towns or at the seashore, must deal with the threat of another possible tsunami.
Besides tsunamis, Thai people are concerned with and aware of tremendous risks from other kinds of storms and natural disasters, including earthquakes, unseasonable floods, monsoons, and droughts. The seasons in Thailand have changed their patterns and duration. Previously, Thailand had three seasons: a rainy season, summer, and a winter without snow. Each season lasted for four months, but over the last eight years, each season has become shorter and has lost its traditional characteristics. Farmers have lower production, and fishermen have diminished catches of sea life. Most natural coral reefs are taking longer to spread their new buds. Thai people are now paying more attention to their environment and are more vigilant about keeping up with the news about global warming and with weather broadcasts, especially before they go to enjoy the beach or snorkeling.
Most Thai people are Buddhist, and therefore practice meditation in order to be calm and ready to handle the next tsunami. Every year since the 2004 tsunami, many Thai people, even police and tourists, observe three religious ceremonies on December 26 to commemorate the anniversary of the event. They visit the international cemetery and send sky lanterns to the victims’ spirits.
An additional change since 2004 is that healthcare personnel have established and rehearsed proactive systems for effective disaster management and for helping victims. These include the Disaster Medical Emergency Response Team and the Disaster Medical Assistance Team. The Thai government has also launched initiatives to prevent another catastrophic disaster. The government supports high standard equipment for weather broadcasts, and it also encourages Thai people to contribute to keeping a green environment and saving energy. Individuals have carefully adapted their lives to the current environmental uncertainty.
People all around the globe need to prepare for unpredictable natural disasters. We have to help each other on personal, community, and international levels in order to slow global warming as much as possible.
|Life after the Storm: Surviving Hurricane Sandy
An Interview with Maureen Plovnick
By Sonia LeRoia Russell
I live in Howard Beach, Queens, NY. Howard Beach is bordered by the Belt Parkway on the north, by Jamaica Bay on the south, and is about a three-minute drive to JFK Airport.
I had a feeling we were going to be hit pretty hard because Howard Beach had been heavily impacted by Irene. Irene flooded homes and businesses in our neighborhood rather severely. Many of my friends and neighbors were finally putting their homes and lives back together from Irene when Sandy hit.
I have to say, yes.
Absolutely! I knew for the media to be giving this storm such attention, it had to be tremendous. We watched TV around the clock in the days prior to the storm, and we followed the instructions we were given.
We were at home, watching channel 5 broadcasting live from Crossbay Boulevard, our main shopping thoroughfare. We watched until our lights went out, which was about 7:30 p.m.
No, I do not know anyone who was rescued. Howard Beach is a zone “B” area; although I think that may change in the coming months after a proper evaluation of the mapping system takes place. So much water poured into our neighborhood so quickly that an 80-year-old woman drowned alone in her basement apartment.
We did not have to evacuate so we remained in our home the entire time. The following day, we drove around the neighborhood to examine some of the damage and could not believe what we saw. Cars and boats had floated onto people’s lawns, some cars and homes had been burned from fire, trees were down all over, including some that had impaled homes and cars, front windows of businesses were blown out, wires were down everywhere, the entire neighborhood was “blacked-out,” and people were walking about crying and shaking their heads.
I felt very, very sad about what had happened. I was shocked at what I was seeing and amazed that we suffered such damage. Personally, we had about six inches of water in our basement and had no power, but this paled in comparison to others in Howard Beach. People I know personally lost their homes, cars, and businesses. Some of the businesses had yet to open even a few months later! Some of the closed businesses on Crossbay Boulevard in Howard Beach were the Crossbay Diner, Vincent’s Clam Bar, Staples, Petco, Honda Motorsports, Duane Reade, CVS, and TD Bank. Some of them are gutted and will not reopen, while others have yet to be touched.
In the days right after the storm, many residents helped one another by sharing generators and removing damaged property from each other’s homes. We heard of people going door-to-door with food and bottled water offering it to anyone in need. When we received power back after six days, we opened our home to family and friends so they could get a shower, hot meal, or whatever they needed. We almost felt guilty that we had power while so many were still without.
Prior to the storm, we received a lot of coverage, I imagine because of how Howard Beach suffered with Irene. Actually, the news reporter broadcasted from the same spot for this storm as he did when he covered Irene. Afterwards, the coverage seemed to shift to Broad Channel, whose fire department lost two engine trucks at a value of over $500,000 for each truck. Another local area that received massive coverage was Breezy Point, Rockaway, Queens, where over 100 homes burned to the ground. The military used Howard Beach as a central hub or command center because of our close proximity to Breezy Point. We saw trucks from Maryland and Pennsylvania and many military trucks and personnel stationed in our neighborhood.
I would say Howard Beach is about a seven, because although many suffered so much, still others suffered more.
Our community has always been close-knit, but Sandy has brought us that much closer together. We are worried about each other and still see so many that are in need. Garbage is still being carried to the curb, people are still talking about the storm, and the businesses that managed to open have posted signs that read: “Welcome Back, Howard Beach: we are open for business,” or “Sandy can’t keep us down. Come on in!”
|A Return to Normalcy: Strategies for Coping in the midst of Life’s Greatest Storms
By Antonia Donato
I sat across a coffee table with a friend of mine one week after Sandy, feeling guilty that I was safe and sound in uptown Manhattan, while she, unbeknownst to me, had been living without power for days. She was usually fun-loving, carefree, and Zen-like, so I was saddened to see how much her demeanor had changed as a result of having had to deal with so many difficulties at once. As long as I’d known her she’d never been ill, yet here she was sniffling and wheezing, as a result of her immune system being compromised. Always humble and generous, she focused our conversation on her family and the residents of her lower Manhattan neighborhood, and how the storm had affected them in so many ways. Just seeing the exhaustion in her eyes, however, made me realize that this storm did much more to us than create a tale of two cities. It instilled fear, guilt, worry, and depression in many people, effects that will last for months after the storm and well into 2013.
Although it’s no secret that Sandy was one of the costliest storms we have ever faced, with billions of dollars in damages, there is no way to calculate the emotional cost of a tragedy that destroyed homes, families, and lives. In the areas that were most affected by Sandy, depression also increased. Realizing this, I began to reflect on the mental challenges of storms and the long term effects of natural disasters. How does one cope after experiencing something so painful yet so abrupt and unexpected? Who is most vulnerable to experiencing anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and other emotional issues following a storm? What can we learn from Sandy that will better prepare us for emotions in the wake of future catastrophes?
As I continued to listen to my friend, I thought about other conversations I had heard that week about dealing with a crisis, a disruption in routine, and the resilience of the human spirit. Everywhere I went, people, including myself, were anxious to get back to their normal schedules and back on track with their lives. What was even more beautiful to observe, however, was the ever-flowing exchange between strangers.
A man I met in a restaurant during the powerful nor’easter that swept New York just a week after Sandy told me that he’d made friends with dozens of strangers on his block as a result of being displaced from work and at home without electricity. Looking back on the experience, he actually felt grateful! I also remember hearing about a family that was devastated at first, but later found comfort in the fact that they were suddenly blessed with time to spend with one another just talking, something they hadn’t done much lately as a result of the crazy, busy, and sometimes lonely lives they led. From these stories and more, we learn that the greatest gifts in life’s challenges and stormy weather are kindness, generosity, hope, and faith. These alone are powerful enough to trump almost any post-storm depression!
I have found a quote by renowned author Albert Camus that reads: “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” In the midst of life’s storms, whether physical or emotional, one of life’s greatest reminders is that everything, whether good or bad, is temporary. Winter turns to spring, darkness turns to light. As the months go on, we have continued to see progress in the relief efforts, and hope will be brought back to those families dealing with emotional trauma. In the words of the famous campaign brought to life following the storm: “We Can. We Will. Rebuild.”
|What about Fido? Lessons from Observing Families with Animals in the Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy
By Antonia Donato
Months later, post-holidays and post-New Year’s celebrations, I can still remember every reaction I had to the news about the devastation caused by the terrible storm Sandy. I remember waking up, grateful that the storm had passed and everything in my neighborhood seemed to be okay. A quick flick of the remote left me in horror, however, as I realized this was not the case for tens of thousands of people, from the lower neighborhoods of Manhattan to the beautiful shores of Jersey.
In the midst of the aftermath, watching the East Coast struggle to get back on its feet, it didn’t immediately occur to me that animals were victims of this horrific storm as well, at least not until I started to read articles on-line about families who, despite losing everything, were incredibly thankful to have been reunited with their lost pets. As an animal lover and dog owner myself, I can attest to the awful feeling one has upon learning that a furry friend is in danger. I thought about the hundreds of animals that were suddenly in shelters, or, even worse, still in the damaged areas waiting to be rescued. Even more so, I tried to imagine what it must be like to have to make a painful decision in the middle of a disaster. Many families were forced to flee to safety, leaving their pets behind.
As in any tragedy, there was goodness to be found and a silver lining in what was for many weeks heartbreaking devastation. As I looked around for shelters at which to volunteer or for other ways to help, I learned that animal rights had come a long way since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, after which thousands of animals were left dead, stranded, or homeless. This paved the way for the passing of the PETS (Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards) Act, which requires local and state governments to include plans for pets in emergency events. The act also made it possible for funds from FEMA to be put toward the safety of animals in devastated areas. A new wave of animal support has also arisen through social media, enabling pet owners both to locate lost pets and to pressure local shelters to help animals in distress.
Once again, I was reminded of the kindness and connection we all have toward one another in the midst of disaster, and I took away the lesson that although it’s easy to turn to the obvious areas that need help in the aftermath of Sandy, we mustn’t forget the ones who don’t have a voice: the hundreds of pets that are still without a home to this day.
If you are interested in learning about opportunities to help or would just like more information, please feel free to contact the author at Antonia.email@example.com.
|COSIA Women's Discussion and Networking Mixer - New York
(January 12, 2013)
By Sonia LeRoia Russell
The book discussion group/professional development networking mixer was so excellent that everyone is looking forward to the next one.
The facilitators for the book discussion, Crystal Scott and Chotsani Sackey, engaged all who were present, whether they had read the book or not, in such a way that one was not able to sit back and not participate. The book, And Then Life Happens, by Auma Obama, half-sister of President Barack Obama, was presented for discussion after an exercise that opened our minds and hearts to the author’s experiences, giving insight to certain perceptions and prejudices that people have about their own culture and others. The session was eye opening, informative, and gave one the desire to read the book. Those who had read it already were inspired to re-read it from a different point of view.
The second half of the event focused on professional development and was facilitated by Roselyn Barranda and Lukeisha Carr. Though the exercises they had us do seemed to be fun ice breakers, they actually were designed to help us find out more about ourselves, about how we respond to others, and about how similar we all are in certain ways. These exercises were helpful when considered in light of career focus, our attitudes, and our own purposes regarding our career paths.
In a short time we learned how to get to the point and sell ourselves in just one minute to prospective mentors, employers, or upper management. We spoke about our dreams and desires and received input from the group as to what could be done to assist us in our endeavors. We were even given advice about pursuing careers in line with our passions rather than following what others want us to do.
I took home a great deal of information, made new friends, and spent my Saturday in the most positive and constructive way I could have imagined. We laughed, we shared, we cried, and we cared. Isn't that what COSIA is all about?
I encourage all who are reading this to attend the next networking event, which occurs on April 20, 2013 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the New York Botanical Gardens (information below). I know you will not leave the same way you came.
I also encourage you to attend the reading discussion group, which will meet on the same day and at the same place, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.. Details provided below.
Upcoming COSIA Events
Learn more about what's on the COSIA calendar by visiting the link below:
What Has COSIA Done for Me
By Avril Roberts
By Lucinda Cross
What COSIA Means
Upcoming COSIA Events: