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A Safe Haven for Healing

Even in COVID, New Life Home continues to help women and their children to heal from substance abuse through their program of almost 50 years.

Bethany Starin

In Manchester, N.H., New Life Home currently houses 12 women and 17 children—a place of warmth and safety for them to heal from substance abuse issues.

“New Life is a home for women and children who have come from all kinds of life-controlling issues, such as alcohol and drug abuse, and we are here to walk side by side and show them how to regain their lives one day at time,” says Jessica Aquino, program director of New Life Home.

Participants in New Life’s program receive holistic care throughout the 18-to-24-month live-in program, including healthy meals, exercise, loving and attentive care for their children, and access to a clinician on staff and recovery coaches. The program consists of a Celebrate Recovery course, a class on relationships and sexuality, parenting classes, family counseling, counseling for their children, career planning and coaching, and more.

Life transformation is found in the simplicity of learning and practicing basic habits, Aquino says, including boundaries.

“This all may sound so simple, but when I connect with these women and ask them, ‘Have you ever had a boundary?’ They have said things like, ‘I don’t even know what that is.’ I discover then and there that these women need the basics,” Aquino says.

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Forty-three years ago, New Life Home was founded by George and Grace Rosado—a nonprofit run exclusively on private donations. Since then, about 1,000 women and children have gone through their program with an 89 percent graduation rate.

The Rosados’ passion and eye for detail in creating a program with spaces that feel like home has given their program success and longevity, according to WORLD, who showcased New Life in its 2017 Hope Awards. In the last three years, Aquino says, they have seen an increase in women who have come to New Life out of a life of sex trafficking.

“More women have come in that have been trafficked and it was unbeknownst to them until they started to take our class on sexuality. Our class talks about how you safeguard yourself from abuse, and it’s self-discovery,” Aquino says.

Aquino is a graduate of New Life. Twenty-two years ago, she checked into New Life with her 6-year-old daughter after decades of drug and alcohol abuse. “My father was a heroin addict and passed away at an early age from AIDS. I started to experiment with drugs and alcohol at the age of 13, and at age 15 was a full-blown alcoholic and drug user,” she says, adding that soon after getting married and having a daughter she was considering suicide. “I felt so hopeless. One day, I was talking with my sister and she said, ‘You need a new life.’ I didn’t hear anything else she said but those two words: new life.”

Not only did her life transform at New Life, but so did her daughter’s. “My daughter was very happy here and saw the impact it made on me. I became a totally different person. When I talk about my life on the street, strung out—I feel like I am talking about someone else,” she says. Aquino’s daughter is now a 29-year-old woman, about to have her first child and working in parental psychology.

New Life, Aquino says, services the family as a whole. She’s seen women bring up to six children with them to New Life as well as women whose children were taken away from them by the courts. The goal is to help the women not just be stable personally but regain the court system’s trust, Aquino says.

According to WORLD, New Life has seen incredible reunifications with children lost to the court system. Shauna (first names used only for privacy reasons) came to New Life without her 2-year-old son. She had been sexually assaulted throughout her life, resulting in her opioid and alcohol abuse—and her son’s scheduled adoption. Shauna progressed so much at New Life that the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families reversed its decision on the adoption, which her case worker stated that she had never seen previously. Her son soon joined her at New Life.

Aquino says what sets New Life’s success apart from other recovery programs is the faith component.

“I have met women here that have been to 30 programs or 10 or 12 programs and none of them had a faith component, and they would leave every single time. I asked why it didn’t work out—they said they needed more than just the ‘know how.’ These are women who didn’t grow up in the faith, but they all mention that for them the key to success is the faith aspect. That is distinctive about New Life,” Aquino says.

COVID has affected New Life by severely reducing volunteer numbers. At the beginning of 2020, volunteer numbers tallied in at about 35. Today, Aquino says they have a total of 5 volunteers.

“We are short staffed and have pretty much lost our volunteer base,” Aquino says. “That has been hard. We are looking for people who are in love with the mission of New Life and who would be willing to come and be live-in staff and work with our women and children. We have too many people at stake to have people coming in and out due to COVID.”

Two program participants also chose to leave due to COVID. “They went right back to their old lifestyle, which is unfortunate,” Aquino says.

COVID has also helped New Home staff establish a new goal: a school. Due to stay-at-home orders, the children living at New Home couldn’t attend school in person, so were tutored on the New Life campus. What staff discovered is that the children thrived in this environment. They are looking into developing a school on part of the organization’s 6 acres.

Looking towards 2021, Aquino says another goal is to extend their holistic care to include massage and acupuncture therapies. In addition, they plan to add an essential oil regimen to each woman’s daily schedule.

“New Life is such a serious commitment that women love it when they find out that a fun fact about me is, I am a prankster and I love to make them laugh and to be light and be happy,” Aquino laughs. “We have a family-oriented environment. It’s very loving and very homey—not institutional in any way. Everyone cares for each other.”

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