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  • Cambridge HEART

1st Annual Backpack Giveaway August 15!

On August 15, 2023, Cambridge HEART will be hosting their 1st Annual Backpack giveaway at the Democracy Center. We will have light snacks and refreshments for the children. For parents we are doing a gift card giveaway. Please feel free to share the flier with family and friends. Everyone is welcome. We are looking for volunteers so if you know anyone who would like to dedicate their time in supporting the community they can scan the QR on the flier or reach out to

Outreach Event July 28th

On July 28, 2023, Cambridge HEART hosted an outreach event in Central Square Cambridge, MA. The Responders handed out toiletries, first aid kits, sandwiches, and water. We also asked the community members to help us with a survey and we rewarded 4 community members with gift cards.

Spotlight: Joseph

1. What's the story of how you got involved with HEART and what is important to you about HEART?

I got involved with HEART during a time of change in my life. I had gone through some events that changed my perspectives on myself, my situations, and my life. I was looking for things to do, ways to get out of my own head and take control of my own life. So I signed up for the Mayor’s Program. It was by pure coincidence that I was placed at HEART but I’m glad it happened. I was unsure of what HEART was or what we’d be doing at first, but as I learned more about HEART, carceral systems, and restorative justice, it was like a part of myself clicked into place. It was like I found a piece of me. Something I could truly say I wanted to be a part of my future. To me, it's the idea of helping others and myself. Helping people learn and grow, helping my community, and helping give more options and brighter futures to those who might not have that otherwise.

2. What are you working on this summer as part of the HEART team?

This summer me and my coworker Ady are working on research. We are asking important questions to young people in our communities about restorative justice and Cambridge HEART. This will hopefully help HEART interact with young people who are the future of our communities. As well as help the young people in our communities realize what HEART is and how its message and mission can help them in life.

3. Can you share an impactful memory you have from working on the HEART team?

We were in a meeting and were sharing moments from working at HEART that made us proud. I didn’t have a project or any assignment, project, or work moment that made me proud at the time so I told my story of how I was proud of my time overall. Just being there. Me and my family had gone through a lot, I had done things I wasn’t proud of due to that and the mental state I was in for a long time. During a time when I was the most lost and hurt and was trying to find my way, I came across HEART. Since then just working there, hearing about restorative justice, and being with the people at HEART have helped me move on. I feel proud of myself more than I ever have. I feel l’ve gotten a new start and a new chance to do better. Of course I didn’t word it as well as I did here but when I shared my story, I felt listened to and cared for. Kevin even took me outside to breathe because of how heavy and hard of a topic that was for me.

Queenie’s Zine

Launched in March 2022, Queenie’s Crew has been an experiment to engage children in learning about building communities of care without prisons or policing. The Crew has engaged more than 300 caregivers, educators, and organizers with their monthly newsletter, and kids have taken more than 100 actions to hone their abolitionist imaginations. Recently, Queenie’s Crew worked with many artists and organizers to create a zine. See the zine here and learn more here.

Learning Corner: Transformative Justice

Definition from Mia Mingus (longer version here)

Transformative Justice (TJ) is a political framework and approach for responding to violence, harm and abuse. At its most basic, it seeks to respond to violence without creating more violence and/or engaging in harm reduction to lessen the violence. TJ can be thought of as a way of “making things right,” getting in “right relation,” or creating justice together. Transformative justice responses and interventions 1) do not rely on the state (e.g. police, prisons, the criminal legal system, I.C.E., foster care system (though some TJ responses do rely on or incorporate social services like counseling); 2) do not reinforce or perpetuate violence such as oppressive norms or vigilantism; and most importantly, 3) actively cultivate the things we know prevent violence such as healing, accountability, resilience, and safety for all involved…

TJ interventions can take different forms, but more often than not, they include (1) supporting survivors around their healing and/or safety and working with the person who has harmed to take accountability for the harm they’ve caused, (2) building community members’ capacities so that they can support the intervention, as well as heal and/or take accountability for any harm they were complicit in, and (3) building skills to prevent violence from occurring, and supporting community members’ skills to interrupt violence while it is happening…

We are trying to build alternatives to our current systems and break generational cycles of violence within our communities and families. We do not believe that prisons or cops make us safer. We believe that we can create the things we need.

  • Cambridge HEART

Visionary Award Celebration Thursday June 29th!

Cambridge HEART is honored to have been selected as a winner of the TNLR Visionary Award for 2023! La Red writes " The Visionary Award is presented each year to a group of people or organization who hold a profound view for the future, and work tirelessly to achieve their vision. Visionaries are creatively innovative, deeply committed to social justice and very dedicated to their communities."

The Network/La Red, is a survivor-led support network for LGBTQ+, kinky, and polyamorous survivors across MA and beyond.

Join us at their annual anniversary party, Paint the Town (la) Red! The event will be an outdoor party behind Kendall Square on the evening of June 29th.

HEART Retreat

On June 2, 2023 the HEART team arrived at the Packard Manse in Stoughton, MA for our June retreat. It was a meaningful time for us as it had been exactly six months earlier, we’d come out to Stoughton in December, to plan what the next 6 months of HEART would look like.

As a volunteer for HEART the retreat space has been one of the most valuable I get to inhabit because it brings together all the different groups that make up HEART. There aren’t many other places where you can sit with responders, board members, working group members, and admin members and hear all the voices at the same time.

As much as this retreat was about looking back and reflecting on all that HEART has achieved in the past 6 months, and also looking forward to what might be next, it was also a space to practice the values of a shared community. Not only did we have strategic planning sessions, and valuable times to share out our achievements and challenges, we were able to share meals together, play games, and have dance parties. Using that time to connect, not just as who we are to HEART, but who we are as people, grounded us in the work, and fired us up for what’s coming next.

–Nora Mally

ARPA Update

​​On June 1, Cambridge HEART and the City of Cambridge signed a $300,000 contract for federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. This funding will allow us to hire a Director of Wellness, a critical role to support the health and well being of our responders. The contract will also support part of our staff salaries for one year. We are deeply grateful to the volunteers, staff and community members who worked to get this resource allocated.

Staff Spotlight: Corinne

1. What's a fun fact about you / something you like to do for fun?

I love to spend time in my spot at the community garden. Currently, I am in challenging negotiations with a bunny that wants to eat ALL of our sunflowers. I am hoping we can agree that the bunny leave us one or two sunflowers in exchange for all the radish leaves.

2. What's the story of how you got involved with HEART?

I learned about The Black Response's efforts to advocate for alternatives in 2020. It was heartening to be a small part of The Black Response's advocacy. I think at one point hundreds of us community members were signed up to give public comment at a City Council meeting. I was so pleased to see the community's vision of HEART become real. When the opportunity to apply to work at HEART came up, I was interested. I feel very lucky to be part of the community of volunteers, partners and staff that are building HEART.

3. Can you share an impactful memory you have from working on the HEART team?

One impactful memory I have from working on the HEART team comes from our youth program last summer. The youth were learning from formerly incarcerated people. They designed, filmed and edited their own short films to support their learning. It was a lot of hard work. One day, half the teenagers climbed the big tree in front of the main library while the other half cheered them on. It was a joyous moment to see kids be free.

4. What is something HEART is currently working on or is planning for the future that you're excited about?

HEART has been doing non-emergency response since the fall. In the coming months, we are preparing to launch a warm line and then, mobile crisis response. I am excited that we will be able to serve the community in this way.

I am excited to plan for growth - we are working on how we can grow our support so that we can afford to pay our current responders more. Personally, in the future I would like to build an organization with equal salaries - I don't think I should earn more than responders do. I am excited about planning how we can increase resources so we can hire our next cohort of responders. We have to triple responder staff size in order to serve the community 24/7, which is our vision. We also have a vision of a respite center (a safe, beautiful, comfortable and free space where anyone can relax whether they are housed, unhoused, etc.) and that excites me. People in our community deserve to exist comfortably and access basic things like a bathroom, internet and a comfortable place to sit and relax.

HEART is hiring!

We seek to hire a full time (40 hour / week) experienced Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) to join our team. This position will work with HEART responders one on one and collectively to address the vicarious trauma they may experience in their work, as well as develop systems to support wellness within the organization as a whole. This position is required to be in-person a great majority of the time, no less than 3 days per week, with some flexibility for remote work, 2 days per week. The salary is up to $75,000. Visit here for the complete job description and application instructions. Applications due July 7!

Community Engagement and Internal Operations Coordinator

We seek to hire a full time operations coordinator to strengthen outreach and advocacy work, while also supporting the internal coordination and administration of Cambridge HEART. This position will include general communications including social media coordinator, communications support for HEART campaigns, and community events planning. It is 40 hours per week, in person with some remote flexibility. The salary is $65,000. Visit here for the complete job description and application instructions. Applications due July 21!

Statewide Convening

On June 15 and 22 Cambridge HEART helped coordinate and participated in virtual convenings to connect other community care organizations across the state. The gatherings were facilitated by Andrea Richie, a national abolitionist scholar and organizer. The goal of these convenings is to build statewide network to coordinate policy demands and resources that support building local community based care ecosystems.

Other organizations that participated included the Mass Bail Fund, Growing a New Heart, Wildflower Alliance, Families for Justice as Healing, and Material Aid and Advocacy Project. Some reflections from the HEART team included:

"It was strengthening to see people across the state working on taking care of our communities the way they deserve"

“It is empowering to see such a magnificent pot of alternative response soup brewing”

“Good to know there are so many hands out there supporting the community”

  • Cambridge HEART

Cambridge HEART is now responding to non-emergency requests

HEART has begun taking non-emergency requests for help from the people of Cambridge. To request support from a HEART responder:

  • Email and/or

  • Complete our intake form:

Responses to non-emergency requests may take up to a week. If you are in need of immediate support, you can find a list of support hotlines on our website. These organizations share similar values to HEART and may be of assistance. We will let you know as soon as Cambridge HEART responders start taking emergency calls.

Fundraiser Update

The 2nd annual Cambridge HEART fundraiser was held on Tuesday April 25, 2023 from 7-8:30pm over zoom.

At last year’s fundraiser, Cambridge HEART (Holistic Emergency Alternative Response Team) committed to raise $100,000 to hire and train a cohort of community responders... we did just that and more!

Just a year later, we have:

- Two Co-Directors

- One Office Manager

- Seven HEART Responders

- Seven HEART Board Members

- Hundreds of supporting community members.

The HEART responders have received hundreds of hours of training (circle process, domestic violence, de-escalation and more) and are now Certified Peer Specialists. We did it! After two and half years of community members meeting weekly, we have developed the HEART model, and had the city council pass a policy order to implement and fund it.

The next steps are to officially launch our emergency services with our current team, and continue building the team and move toward 24/7 community care. Thus far, we have raised $118,525 raised by 421 donors to support this mission!

Volunteer Spotlight: Virginia

What's the story of how you got involved with HEART and why you think Cambridge needs HEART?

I started attending HEART coalition meetings in 2021. I realized that it’s very close to my heart because as immigrants, we’re always scared of being in trouble in a different country that is not ours. I came to Cambridge from the Dominican Republic 8 years ago, and started volunteering basically full time at a food pantry at a school as a way to give back to the community. One of the reasons was that there is an immense population of immigrants who are scared of asking for things like going to the food pantry or signing up for clothes, and I’ve been good at reassuring people that they will not be targeted for getting help.

It’s the same with HEART– I always felt like the work that HEART was doing in terms of calling people who are not mandated reporters is super helpful because it takes away that fear. And there are many people, not just immigrants, who do not trust the police or the city (government) with their problems. They have been through systems of harm and mistreated by so many already, that they choose to just not ask for help.

Because I am known in the community, I started doing educational events and went to a lot of trainings, learning about how to hold these values like accountability and transformative justice. The more I learned, the more I understood that our community needs this. We need to talk to each other and when there’s a problem, we need to sit down and be able to solve those problems together.

What is something you've accomplished during your time with HEART that you're particularly proud of?

I set up the HEART offices at the Democracy Center! I’m also really proud of the partnerships I’ve helped develop, like with The SPOT, which does mutual aid for clothing and shoes. HEART responders can help make connections through helping The SPOT get clothing to people. This allows me to work on both of the things that I really love.

What are you excited about for the future?

Now that HEART has so much support— executive directors, full time responders— it’s time for me to focus on other things. At the end of June, I’m going to be stepping back from HEART. I really want to give more time to The SPOT Cambridge, and I also want to learn more about the national level of alternative infrastructures like alternatives to policing. I’m also working on creating my own business!

My last HEART retreat will be on June 2nd, and it’s amazing to be a part of the community— eating together, cooking together. It's going to be a special moment.

Community Partnerships Update

Transformative Justice Workshop facilitated by Dr. Xhercis Mendez On May 3 Dr. Xhercis Mendez, an acclaimed women and gender studies scholar and experienced Transformative Justice practitioner, facilitated a Transformative Justice workshop with HEART and YWCA staff along with members of the broader community. YWCA coordinated many of the logistics and HEART hosted the workshop at the Democracy Center. Dr. Mendez gave participants the opportunity to collectively address a scenario of community harm by thinking collaboratively about all the various needs of those who had been impacted.

Asian American Resource Workshop (AARW ) Intergenerational Cultural Share

On May 6, AARW’s Camberville South Asian* Leadership Training (C-SALT) cohort hosted an intercultural art piece for the local South Asian community at the Democracy Center as a way to facilitate a greater understanding of intergenerational histories of the South Asian community and support Cambridge HEART! The event featured a letter writing activity and map in which participants could speak to their ancestors, descendants, older or younger relatives and incorporate that into a collectively constructed art piece. Cambridge HEART responder Betzy and Gwen also attended the event to build relationships with those who came. Folks who attended donated to HEART as well! Special thanks to Kavya Crasta from AARW for partnering with HEART on this beautiful intercultural event!

Pictured: Kavya featured with an art piece and letters from event

Bangla New Year Celebration

On May 13 the New England Bangladeshi American Foundation (NEBAF) celebrated Bangla New Year with cultural performances, speakers, and vendors. Cambridge HEART was asked to present about our work so that the Bengali community knows that there is a resource for support that does not involve mandated reporting. HEART responder, Bárbara, shared about how HEART was created, what we believe, and the different services we offer. Several people came up after to learn more. We are grateful for NEBAF’s Executive Director Farhana Khorsed’s generous invitation and our looking forward to further partnering with NEBAF in supporting the Bengali community in Cambridge.

Pictured: Bárbara and Farhana at Bangla New Year event

“Gather in the Clearing”: Community care event in honor of Arif Sayed Faisal

In partnership with AARW, the Muslim Justice League, Black History in Action, the Black Cotton Club, and Bangladesh Association of New England (BANE), Cambridge HEART supported an interactive, healing centered event on May 14 called “Gather in the Clearing.” The event was hosted at St. Augustine’s African Orthodox Church and consisted of multiple artistic interventions that encouraged rest, process, and imagining community safety and care. Later in the day there was a jam session oriented around joy and connection facilitated and performed by The Black Cotton Club. This gathering invited impacted community members to care for themselves and each other in the aftermath of the tragic murder of Arif Sayed Faisal. HEART looks forward to continuing to build these partnerships as we work to build an ecosystem of care and connection that prevents crises in the future.

**One creative offering was a voicemail project that invited anyone to call in and share their responses to the following questions:

  1. If we have been "socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition", ask yourself: "What's the worst that could happen to me if I tell this truth?"* [So, answer this today. And every day ]

  2. What kind of practices of community care do we want to see in our neighborhoods?

  3. What can we create to prevent crises in our communities?

If you are interested in participating, please call this number: (617) 858-1034

Pictured: Interior of event at St. Augustine’s African Orthodox Church

Volunteer with The SPOT Cambridge!

The SPOT Cambridge is a mutual aid community organization that redistributes clothing and shoes. HEART is proud to work with them, and if you would like to get involved, please fill out this form. For more information or to request clothing, visit their website.

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