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Yaniel Wynter: They Told Me It Was Impossible And I Did It Anyway

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

Trust: after being told that our dreams or goals are impossible we often start to believe this and question ourselves. It’s also easy to mistrust others. We should be open to the idea that some people actually want us to succeed and they are willing to help. Accept the help!

As a part of our series about “dreamers who ignored the naysayers and did what others said was impossible”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Yaniel Wynter.

Yaniel Wynter has been labeled as: a Survivor, an Alien, an Immigrant, and a child; however, while she accepts those tags, she now has a new description for herself. Yaniel Wynter is a 25-year-old nursing student working at Planned Parenthood of Greater NY. Yaniel also works as an Advisor on the Youth Leadership Board with the Brave House. She provides radical and honest feedback to the organization’s leadership on services offered by the non-profit and how they are beneficial to its members. She also assists with developing and implementing educational workshops for members, and she facilitates panel discussions about immigration, social, and gender injustice. Yaniel is passionate about women’s empowerment, social justice, and mental health and has demonstrated her commitment to these ideals in her work with our organization and its members. As a female immigrant herself, Yaniel has provided the organization with invaluable support and perspective that has allowed them to cultivate programming and services for the women and girls supported to best address their needs on both organizational and individual levels.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit better. Can you tell us your ‘backstory’?

Some would say Yaniel ran away from home, and indeed, she did. I was born in Jamaica, and I

migrated to the United States in 2017. I lived in Alexandria, MN, where I was known as the new Black girl in town. I then relocated to the melting pot known as New York City. Shortly after being in NYC, I needed an immigration attorney, and that is how I came in contact with Lauren Blodgett, founder and executive director of the Brave House. The Brave House launched in 2018, I became a volunteer in June 2019, and in 2020 I became a Youth Leader and have been with the organization since. My immigrant story is a combination of struggles and determination. Being a young immigrant woman in NYC has been a challenge in establishing community and staying true to myself and my culture. The Brave House has helped me to share my story and celebrate my diversity and achievements.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I’m currently in nursing school. A nurse is very vital in the healthcare setting. While it is important to treat a patient’s physical complaint, it is very important to provide emotional care. Studies show that open communication and respect between a nurse and their patient has many positive outcomes, such as decreased anxiety. There is no universal definition for trauma. Trauma has long lasting effects on people and I believe that in order to provide optimal care to a patient one must be aware of the patient’s life experiences.This brings us to the health inequities that immigrant women often experience in the healthcare setting. Nurses spend more time with patients therefore I believe that nurses have adequate opportunities to improve a patient’s experience and decrease retraumatization. Often patients get unnecessary treatment because of lack of knowledge of different cultural practices. Immigrant women fear seeking medical care because of these disparities.

I want to get into the healthcare setting and get more people on-board with this emerging concept of Trauma-Informed Care approach. I am passionate about helping immigrant women and the healthcare field is a great place to start while I advance my career to Head administrative levels.

Alongside nursing, I am passionate about personalized care for immigrant women, young girls, and gender non-conforming youth. The experience is more than just statistics, and one size doesn’t always fit all. Being a part of the Brave House has helped me provide feedback on services and have them tailored to care for all members. One member may need housing while another struggles to find food. This allows me to navigate my career by scaling the individualized care immigrant women and young girls need.

In your opinion, what do you think makes your company or organization stand out from the crowd?

The Brave House has an umbrella of services that cater to different needs of the immigrant experience. Most organizations only provide legal support or just housing resources. An immigrant needs more than just one. Having an organization that cares about a person’s overall wellness is hard to find. The Brave House is a community that sends birthday messages, hosts mental health sessions, and has events where members can meet and make lifelong connections.

I also work for Planned Parenthood of Greater NY (PPGNY). There is currently a threat to our community with Anti-Abortion Laws. Abortion is healthcare, along with other sexual and reproductive services. A woman’s sole purpose is not to be barefoot and pregnant. Pregnancy is a personal decision. PPGNY continues to provide non-discriminated care to all and prepares to get an influx of patients this summer from other states. I have seen immigrant women who were raped in detention centers or on their journey to the USA seek care at PPGNY. Patients travel from Texas to get abortion services. I am enthusiastic about becoming more involved outside of work by volunteering and attending protests to advocate for our rights.

Ok, thank you for that. I’d like to jump to the main focus of this interview. Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us? What was your idea? What was the reaction of the naysayers? And how did you overcome that?

In the end, how were all the naysayers proven wrong? :-)

Migrating to the United States at 20 years old has been an experience. I was told that to succeed in NYC, I would need a husband and a family foundation because it is impossible to make it on my own. I was told that I was at a high risk of being a victim of human trafficking. Being a survivor of Domestic Violence made me very scared as I was trying to build a life of my own and not living in the shadows of a man. Having no family and community with cultural similarities has been challenging. The fear of the unknown is my biggest struggle, and the story is still being written.

After five years, I can proudly say that I didn’t need a husband to get me this far, and thanks to the universe, I have not been a victim of trafficking. Was it hard? Yes! But I have found a community of my own which is family. I am enrolled in college and working towards finishing my degree. I work for a multifaceted organization, and that’s one step towards helping young girls like me who are adjusting on their own in this big city.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Lauren Blodgett, the founder and executive director at the Brave House, has played a vital part in the person I am today. She provided legal support, but the care didn’t stop there. Lauren has the vision to make more immigrant women leaders in their communities and customize the immigrant experience positively. Lauren believed in me, a stranger, and offered me an opportunity to be part of her organization. She saw my potential and listened to my story, and decided that I would add a positive influence to the Brave house as a Youth Leader. We met in 2017 while she was an attorney at the Safe Passage Project. Lauren has been in my corner ever since, whether by telling me about internship opportunities, providing resources for job opportunities, or inviting me to join panel discussions. Through Lauren, I have made some great connections in this city.

A few months before the pandemic, I was going through a lot. Seeing my life unfold and accepting my success without feeling like a fraud was one of my challenges. I reached out to the Brave House and told them I was struggling mentally. Lauren matched me with a therapist, and 2+ years later, I have the same therapist. This has helped me accept that I deserve to succeed despite what others believe. Lauren and the Brave House have also matched me with a mentor to help me along my journey and to be a positive role model.

It must not have been easy to ignore all the naysayers. Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share the story with us?

Growing up in Jamaica, I attended a female boarding school. At 12-years-old I was living away from my family and amongst strangers.There was no real separation from school and leisure and I was often homesick. Despite the challenges, our headmistress will always remind us that we are: “ leaders of the finest ilk, leading with integrity through God and by example.” This experience contributed to my independence and promoted my decision making. I was responsible for managing my finances, doing laundry, completing assignments on time and managing my time wisely. Migrating to the United States was like going to boarding school again- being homesick, living with strangers and making sure that I succeed despite the challenges.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 strategies that people can use to harness the sense of tenacity and do what naysayers think is impossible? (Please share a story or an example for each)

  1. Talk: I am a strong believer in telling your story. Repeating your experiences helps you to have a sense of self. Without this you may think that you are undeserving but your story reminds you that you are deserving.
  2. Visualization: people often get scared of outcomes but what if we mentally rehearse scenarios? Training the brain to face reality head-on and allow ourselves to plan and take actions.
  3. Intrinsic Motivation: we all need to find that inner drive that is rewarding to us. This allows you to become creative and find ways to prove the naysayers wrong. This could be breaking down projects into smaller tasks once you become stuck.
  4. Recharge: as much as we would like to work endlessly, we cannot constantly expect the same amount of productivity. We cannot burn the candle at both ends instead we should invest in self care and taking a break when needed.
  5. Trust: after being told that our dreams or goals are impossible we often start to believe this and question ourselves. It’s also easy to mistrust others. We should be open to the idea that some people actually want us to succeed and they are willing to help. Accept the help!

What is your favorite quote or personal philosophy that relates to the concept of resilience?

In the Brave house members often get asked the question, ‘What does Brave mean to you?’ I often say, “ the word Brave means being courageous and dauntless. It is having a very low degree of fear and taking a leap of faith despite the circumstances.” This is the definition I have given myself and I live by this philosophy. Whenever it gets challenging I remind myself that I am dauntless and taking a leap of faith is what I do best.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

The immigrant experience comes in all shapes, colors and sizes. I believe that all healthcare providers, legal representatives and workers of social services should undergo regular Trauma-Informed Care training. A Trauma-Informed Care approach strives for personalized care for each individual and should be second nature to all organizations that provide human services. It should not be geared towards treating the individual but rather providing care that is appropriate to those that have experienced trauma. Ignoring the idea that 1in every 3 people may have experienced trauma increases the risks of re-triggering these individuals.

Can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow the Brave House on Instagram or Twitter @TheBraveHouse or on Facebook!

Thank you for these great stories. We wish you only continued success!

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis

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Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.