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  • Writer's pictureIvette Guillermo-McGahee

The power of connection

How in rural South Jersey, Con-Vivir Wellness Hub and its partners are fostering mental health and wellbeing by building thriving communities

There is a new place in Hammonton, NJ, where Hispanics, Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals, and all community members, can find a safe space to be vulnerable, be their true selves, make new friends, and use their gifts and talents to support their community.

Sept. 15, 2021.

HAMMONTON, NJ. — Sarah* dreams her family members and community at large would learn Sign Language to have a larger network of support and feel less isolated. Maria*, an immigrant mom, wishes to meet other moms to vent, laugh, and brag about her new baby, but it has been difficult for her to do so because she feels like she doesn’t belong. Sarah and Maria have the same dream: to feel connected to their community.

The traditional definition of community refers to people who get together around shared interests and commonalities. Allies in Caring challenges this concept by encouraging community members to build relationships with people they believe they have nothing in common with. At their new facility in Hammonton, NJ, the Con-Vivir Wellness Hub, they host events where everyone is invited to be vulnerable, bring their whole authentic selves to the table, share their gifts, and make new friends who might not look like them or speak the same language.

"Interacting with new people and having conversations that go deeper than surface-level doesn't have to be painful. When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we open the space to others to be vulnerable as well. This is the only way we can truly connect. So, if you feel lonely, detached, or disconnected, I invite you to come to one of our events. We have created a safe space for you to be yourself. We will help you find your gifts and talents and show you how you can share them with your community," said Ivette Guillermo-McGahee, Founder and Executive Director of Allies In Caring.

To celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, Allies in Caring, in collaboration with MainStreet Hammonton and the Hammonton Health Coalition, is hosting a Hispanic Fiesta (Party) on September 16. Sponsors of this event include New Jersey Health Initiatives, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Ocean First Foundation, and the Center for Hispanic Policy, Research, and Development. Participants will enjoy an Ada Trillo Photography Exhibition, Live Latin music and dances, a resource fair, art projects, games and crafts for kids, and free Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines to ages 12+.

To celebrate Deaf Awareness Month, Allies in Caring is hosting a movie night on September 17 and a Deaf Awareness Celebration on September 30. These events are happening thanks to an Inclusive Healthy Communities Grant Allies in Caring received this year from the New Jersey Department of Human Services, Division of Disability Services to create the DHHCSJ and through the support of the Center for Hispanic Policy, Research, and Development. Participants of these events will have the opportunity to forge connections with different cultural partners of South Jersey and talk about issues of access and knowledge development surrounding the Deaf community.

All community members are invited to attend these free events at Con-Vivir Wellness Hub, 100 S Second St, Hammonton, NJ. To RSVP and learn more about them, please visit

"If you are part of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community, or if you are an ally, you should join the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Coalition of South Jersey (DHHCSJ) on September 17 and 30th as we celebrate the unique Deaf culture and spread awareness on the nuances of Deaf identity," said Dave T. Mooring, ​Interim Deaf & Hard of Hearing Program Liaison and Behavior Technician at Allies in Caring.

*Names have been changed to maintain confidentiality

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