Together We Rise: Building Resiliency in Uvalde

April 5, 2023

A CMBM team, led by CEO James S. Gordon, MD, presented a daylong workshop, sponsored by Community Health Development, Inc. (CHDI), and funded by The Cigna Foundation, to 121 CHDI employees and 30 community leaders, all of whom are dealing with the ongoing trauma of the May 24, 2022 murder of 19 Uvalde elementary school children and 2 teachers. CMBM designed “Together We Rise: Building Resiliency in Uvalde” to provide its own staff and other community leaders who are serving those who are traumatized with practical tools to bring their bodies and minds back into balance, and to use their imagination to address ongoing issues and concerns.

In addition to presentations to the large group of 150, there were small breakout groups of 30 participants, led by 5 CMBM faculty, which gave the women and men of Uvalde a chance to share, in confidence, the sadness, pain, and frustration they’ve been experiencing. For many, this was the first time they were able to share their experience and feelings with others who’d been similarly affected. It was a time of tears, and also of laughter, an experience of what many described as “relief.”

“It was a time of tears, and also of laughter, an experience of what many described as ‘relief.’”

“It was a time of tears, and also of laughter, an experience of what many described as ‘relief.’”

CHDI, our partner in Uvalde, is led by CEO Mayela Castañon, a practical visionary who understands the need for community-wide healing, and knows that it begins with thoughtful attention to the needs, challenges, and possibilities of her staff who are making that healing possible. Mayela, who has been consulting over the last ten months with CMBM Houston-based faculty member, Aproteem Choudhury, welcomed our CMBM team and all the participants, and is working with us to bring CMBM’s comprehensive training and mentorship program to all the people of Uvalde. Also greeting us and speaking to the participants was Dolores Quiroz, CHDI’s Chief Development Officer, and Amber Arthur, Chief Operations Officer. Dolores worked with CMBM Development Director, Jennifer Pelton, to secure the Cigna grant, and they are working together to secure long-term funding for our CHDI-CMBM partnership.

In addition to Dr. Gordon and Mr. Choudhury, CMBM faculty included Clinical Director, Lynda Richtsmeier Cyr, PhD, and Texas-based faculty Debra Lewis Kaplan, LCSW, and Shahine Tavakoli, LPC, LMFT. CMBM Project Manager, Emily Burd-Thomas organized the full-day workshop, as well as the day before, when the CMBM team met with leaders of other Uvalde mental health and social service agencies with whom Apro had connected us. Debbie Kaplan’s husband, Aaron, whose day job is composer and songwriter, helped all of us in many ways.

Over the next two months, members of CMBM’s team will be returning to Uvalde to hold a followup workshop for CHDI participants, as well as introductory workshops for other community agencies.