Resident Spotlight: Girly Martens

Building a New Life

When Girly Martens came to Mason Apartments last October, it was clear to Resident Services Coordinator, Chadi El-Khoury, that she and her two year old son, Joshua, were in desperate need of help.

Life had not been easy for the two. Girly and Joshua had been in the United States for two years, living on the streets and in the homeless shelters of Omaha and Council Bluffs before finding Mercy Housing’s Mason Apartments. El-Khoury knew that if he was going to help this family build a new life, he would first have to gain Girly’s trust. He left bread and juice boxes at her front door, as well as donated clothes for Joshua.

Girly slowly began to open up to him and shared that in order to continue her journey of becoming a U.S. Citizen, she needed to travel to the Chicago Filipino Consulate to have her Filipino passport renewed.

To fund her trip, El-Khoury contacted the family who sponsored Girly for Mason’s “Adopt-a-Family” program last Christmas. Upon hearing of Girly’s situation, the family once again opened their hearts and paid for Girly’s travel expenses and processing fees. Next, El-Khoury made contact with a Filipino Capuchin Monk, named Brother Zoe, who spoke Girly’s native language and volunteered to guide Girly around Chicago when she arrived. Together, El-Khoury and Brother Zoe planned every detail of Girly’s trip. When the time came, El-Khoury took her to the train station, himself, and when she arrived in Chicago, Brother Zoe was there, waiting to take her to the embassy, with his Friary promising to provide a private room and board for her stay.

Through the combined efforts of many, Girly now has her work permit and a valid Philippines passport and is eagerly awaiting her citizenship appointment. Because of the commitment of Mercy Housing staff, volunteers, donors and friends, a young woman’s dream of American Citizenship and a better life for her son is finally beginning to come true.

Read more about our residents and the work we are doing across the country in the latest News from our Neighborhoods newsletter.