Our History

A New Awakening was founded in 2013. Below is a timeline of important events that have shaped our organization.

  • April 2013: Maria Ruiz left Rainbow House, where she worked as a domestic violence advocate. Before Rainbow House, she worked at Mujeres Latinas en Acción as well as the Center for Impact Research, where she helped pilot a domestic violence initiative. She was passionate about starting a new organization focused on domestic violence.
  • October 2013: Universidad Popular allowed Maria to use a space in their building at 28th and Hamlin in Little Village. There, she started building a caseload and holding support groups. Staff at local organizations started referring people to her, and one of these staff people connected Maria with Pastor Victor Rodriguez at La Villita Community Church on 23rd and Millard.
  • June 2014: Pastor Vic offered Maria a much larger space at the church than she had at Universidad Popular, and so she moved her operations there. We owe a huge thank you to the late Pastor Vic, who supported our vision and saw a great need for our services. Throughout 2014, more and more people recognized the importance of what we were doing, we started to develop strong partnerships in the community, and we expanded and improved our offices at the church to accommodate an increase in participants, volunteers and donations. Two of our most dedicated volunteers were Maria Garcia and Norma.
  • March 2015: The organization’s name and logo was established. The phrase “A New Awakening,” or “Un Nuevo Despertar,” came from Dolores Claiborne, a 1995 film about domestic violence. The logo is a representation of Maria lifting her hands around a rising sun, a symbol of the possibilities that a new day can bring. The butterfly represents transformation. It also represents Maria’s connection to Mexico, where butterflies have played an important role in history and culture. Maria says that she dreamt of the four words – liberty, dignity, respect, power, or libertad, dignidad, respeto, poder – and they came back to her while she was washing dishes. Jose Padilla helped turn Maria’s vision for a logo into reality.
  • June 2015: A New Awakening, or Un Nuevo Despertar, was formally incorporated with the State of Illinois. We started to hold workshops focused on making food, baked goods, and a variety of arts and crafts. This created opportunities for survivors to build skills and make money at the same time.
  • 2017: We received our first official grant from the Archdiocese. Before that, we raised money through small fundraisers; for example, we sold food in the backyard of Maria’s house and held dances at La Villita Community Church.
  • May 2017: We started to get involved with a network of gardeners in Little Village, and this allowed us to expand the types of skill building opportunities that we could offer survivors and other participants. When network members started to talk about creating a community market, we got excited and joined a steering committee focused on this goal.
  • August 2017: We helped La Villita Community Church build a small food garden next to their building.
  • April 2019: We donated a tree for Pastor Victor and planted it in front of the church.
  • March 2020: After the stay-at-home order, we recognized the huge need for essential resources, such as food, PPE, hygiene products and baby products. We signed up to receive large donations of food and other items, and began to distribute these things to the community. We either used our personal vehicles or we rented trucks to transport the donations.
  • July 2020: In collaboration with other steering committee members and local organizations, we helped to establish the Mercado de Colores, a community market in Little Village. We played the role of lead organization from its launch until the end of 2022. This market increases access to healthy food in Little Village and creates space for local farmers and vendors to sell their products and build their network. 
  • April 2021: We received an award for outstanding service to the community during the pandemic from Telpochcalli Community Education Project, one of our close partners.
  • June 2021: We opened our first office in Cicero at 1821 S. 51st Avenue. We had always had a lot of participants who came from the western suburbs, so this was a natural growth for us. This office had large private spaces that could better accommodate group sessions.
  • October 2021: After receiving a grant, we were able to purchase our first organizational vehicle. This van plays a crucial role in our operations. It allows us to more easily pick up mid-size donations and transport participants, who are often accompanied by their children and sometimes carrying all of their belongings.
  • September 2022: We moved to a new office in Cicero, at 6130 W. 21st St. This office is spacious and full of light, and it has made a huge positive impact on our capacity.
  • December 2022: All of our staff completed the 40-hour Domestic Violence Training, which is an essential training for people who work with individuals affected by domestic violence. It covers all topics required by Illinois Certified Domestic Violence Professionals and uses a trauma-informed lens. 

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Un Nuevo Despertar - A New Awakening is registered as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

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