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Chysandra Nair, Saffron Strand program manager, accepted the California Workforce Association’s Charlie Brown Workforce Professional of the Year Award at the CWA Spring Conference, April 23, 2014, in San Diego. In thanking CWA, Chysandra offered the following remarks…

Thank you very much for this year’s Charlie Brown Award. I feel very honored to receive it and am proud to accept it on behalf of the homeless members of Saffron Strand. I am part of their intentional community. This little community is dedicated to getting all its members back to work. The jobs our members achieve are steps that rebuild their lives. These jobs become stages in their careers.

I was very excited when I received the email from Mr. Lanter saying I had won the Award. But the best thing was the look on the faces of our members when I told them that we had won.

“Ms. Chi,” one said, “we are really getting recognized for our work! They know we are doing good stuff here!”

I was so happy they took personal ownership of our program and the recognition we had received.

At my other job, I work for the Richmond Police Department as an emergency dispatcher.  I see people at their worst moments, after everything has gone wrong.  I see people after they have done terrible things to one another. 

During a twelve-hour shift of handling vehicle accidents due to DUI, along with assaults, weapon charges, and burglaries, one can get a jaded perspective of the world.  One starts seeing bad guys everywhere. 

Saffron Strand gives me a completely different perspective. I really enjoy seeing a person’s unique, individual strengths. We strive – and our community strives — to recognize and refine those strengths with dignity, respect, and trust. We focus on getting the skills – both technical skills and “soft” skills – to get back to work. Together we achieve successful transitions from individual homelessness to personal self-sufficiency.

Each one of our work-empowering transitions is unique. And each takes place in a dynamic, evolving, local job market.

Let me say thanks again and close by recounting one of our community’s little steps forward.

While the majority of Saffron Strand members are African American, we serve a rich diversity of races and cultures. More Hispanics are joining.

One of our newest Hispanic members lost her cleaning job when she became pregnant with her third child. She happened to walk by our door during lunchtime one day. She noticed that we all sat down as a family and ate the meal together. She returned with her sister-in-law who translated. Together they told me her challenges – her barriers to employment, which were pretty daunting. But she joined Saffron Strand and came every day, bringing her youngest child.

Strictly speaking, daycare is not part of our mission. But our members agreed to help and they took turns playing with the two-year-old. 

Now the members are learning Spanish while our new member is learning English. Also, she has a new job working in community outreach with Richmond’s Spanish-speaking residents. Her daughter – only two years old! — already knows both her ABCs and numbers up to 10 in English and Spanish.

From all Saffron Strand members: Thank you!

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