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“River Never Smooth”!

We all believe in love! There’s all kinds of love – love for our family members, love for friends, even degrees of love. We look for a soul-mate; we label people as acquaintances, good friends, best friends and the ever popular, bff! We need love; we won’t thrive without it. When I was 5 years old, I was a flower girl for my Aunt Cass’s wedding. As I knelt in the first pew of the Church, I thought she would go to a Castle and we would never see her again. Her life would be a fairytale. I can tell you it was not as she lost her husband while she was pregnant with their third child.

Some very hurtful and even deadly things happen in the course of love. It’s the latter we’re going to talk about. This is not your typical Christmas feel-good-story but we need to be aware that people we know and even those we think we know may be experiencing physical, emotional and other types of abuse all in the name of love!

Fiona Harewood

Fiona Harewood can tell you about this – she has been there herself. Putting her experiences and her efforts towards regaining her own personal power and self, she has written a new book to help others. Her story is so compelling and important, we, at The Frankford Gazette are helping her to pre-launch her book, “River Never Smooth  – Reclaiming Power After Abuse”. 

A current resident of Juniata, Fiona also is a member of a local Church here in Frankford. She comes to us from the country of Guyana, officially a “Co-operative Republic”, located on the northern part of South America. The northern border of Guyana is the Atlantic Ocean. Guyana is the only country in South America where English is the official language. She would also live for a time in Barbados until 2001 when she came to the United States.

This is not her first book. She also wrote, “I DID IT…You Can, Too”, and in it, Fiona challenges “drop outs to become dreamers”. She knows what she’s talking about – she was a failure during High School, completing only one CXC (Caribbean Examination Council) in English Literature. Once she arrived in the United States and had to clean homes to make ends meet, she knew her way forward would be to finish her education. At 44, she returned to school and after 3 1/2 years, graduated magna cum laude with a degree from Pierce in Paralegal Studies. Another 18 months and Fiona completed the work necessary to receive a Masters in Public Policy from Drexel University. Kudos to you, Fiona. Her education would serve her well. She then wanted to encourage others who, for one reason or another, did not complete their education. Also, she wanted to encourage those students already in school to stay there. She has spoken at schools and other organizations sharing the wisdom that she has earned and learned.

Which brings us to her newest book about to be released. In “River Never Smooth – Reclaiming Power After Abuse”, Fiona is once again sharing her own personal story that is also a national issue affecting millions. In speaking with Fiona, she shared with me the following facts. Did you know that nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in just one single year? Or that more than 12 million men, women and children are affected by varying forms of abuse over a year? Abuse has many types, not just physical. There is emotional, mental, sexual and financial abuse just to name a few. Also, we know that there is not just one type of abuser or one gender alone responsible for such violence.

In her book, Fiona uses her storytelling abilities to illustrate for us what abuse can look like and why some people don’t even feel they’re being abused. In telling her story, Fiona has structured “River Never Smooth” into 4 parts.

Part 1 is “Bad Choices” that many of us make. We have family and friends who try to tell us but do we at least consider what they have to say? This is so important for our teenagers and young adults who need to understand that people who try to point them in the right direction care and are only trying to help. It is very important to listen and learn from other people’s experience as opposed to living their tragic circumstances. We must be ready to accept that this is an abusive relationship and be ready to change it. This can take a long time.

Part 2 tells us about “Starting Over” and this is where friends and families can help victims of domestic violence and abuse. You can’t do this alone. Sometimes, it requires much more than empathy. If we truly want to help someone “escape” their situation, we need to be ready to help them financially, and otherwise, until they can get back on their feet. We know that, especially in the case of women, the choice is to stay with an abuser because of financial needs.

Part 3 explains to us that “Repeating Mistakes” is something that will happen. It takes time, practice and real awareness to choose those who are worthy of your trust and your love. Once you’ve been hurt, literally, it will be a while before you will see as clearly as you need to in choosing friends or partners.

Part 4 leads us to “The Decision and Getting It Right”. Hopefully, you will be stronger by the time you get there and experiencing a sense of power. No matter how many times we have failed or given love to people who will end up hurting us, there is one who truly does loves us unconditionally and that is God. You have got to rely on God’s help for strength, for the commitment you need not to be drawn into what is almost a second nature – putting others first. This is about you and what is best for you!  Surprising as it may seem, you must also forgive your abuser before you can fully heal. Overall, after reading “River Never Smooth”, you will:

  • Identify abuse and know how to deal with it;
  • Know when to move on;
  • Live a life free of regrets; and
  • Rise above your circumstances and emerge an overcomer.


In conversations with her Mother, Fiona shared with me that her Mother once told her, “Your life reminds me of a river – a river never smooth”. Fiona credits her mother with naming the book. For some people, that’s so true. But, like Fiona, we can take that “never smooth river” and redirect it for our own good and to help others traveling that same river.

I feel that Fiona and her story is a very, very powerful one that needs to be told and heard. Look below for an upcoming Global Launch Party on January 26, 2020. You can register for this Launch experience at this link –

Dating Abuse Statistics., Accessed October 13, 2019. National Domestic Violence Hotline. Get the Facts & Figures. resources/statistics/, Accessed October 13, 2019.



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Offering Rehabilitation Services That Respects the Individual; Not Just the Law

We attended the press conference concerning one of our area’s needs – tighter regulations and control over the recovery facilities which we know are very plentiful in the Frankford area. The press conference was held at the offices of State Representative Jason Dawkins in the Daral Building, 4667 Paul St., 19124 on Tuesday, December 19.

State Representative Angel Cruz was also there as both Jason and he were instrumental in forming what would become SB 446 which amends the Administrative Code to require the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs to license or certify drug and alcohol recovery houses which receive public funding.

Together, with State Representative Aaron Kaufer these “bills” (ideas) became amendments that were added to SB 446 that State Senator Thomas McGarrigle will introduce for Senate hearings.

State Representative Cruz explained that benefits should only be used by facilities who respect those in need of recovery services. Sometimes facilities use single family homes that don’t have enough space for those they claim they want to help. Safe havens is what is needed, says Cruz.

State Representative Dawkins acknowledged that this is an ongoing effort. We first have to define what is a recovery house? Dawkins also made the analogy that homicides by overdose has increased in the last four years and overshadows even the deaths we are seeing due to gun violence. He was pleased his colleagues wanted to address these issues and was happy to work with them. ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance is important as well.

We know and see this epidemic, a scourge that is taking the lives of our people, especially the young, and must treat it as the disease it is. Once you contract, it is so very, very hard to escape its grasp. No one should be profiting. It’s time for tighter regulations. Thank you to St. Reps. Jason Dawkins and Angel Cruz for taking steps to bring this topic into the light to improve services to those in need of them. That is simply what it’s all about!

Stephanie Scully, CEO and Founder of the Joy of Living Recovery Program, is held in high esteem here in Frankford. Establishing her first recovery home in 2005, she now oversees 10 facilities. The Joy of Living Recovery Program focuses on providing a safe haven where those seeking rehabilitation feel secure, learn how to structure their days and discover that the “joy” you find in helping others becomes a large part of your own “joy”. The Joy of Living Recovery Program provides volunteers all the time and is willing to support the community whenever and wherever there is a need. We can attest to their great generosity of heart. We had a chance to talk with Stephanie after the press conference. Thank you, Stephanie, your staff and residents for lifting Frankford up each and every day! May you continue to be even more successful in 2018.





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Frankford’s “New Academic Opportunity”

Once you work in the education field, you never ever retire because teaching and learning becomes a part of who you are. It was a real pleasure as well as refreshing to meet Jessica Hasben, the CEO of Qor Charter School. Once you meet Jessica, too, you’ll find that she does indeed have that passion for children and their education that you, too, become a believer and hope that she does indeed succeed.

Jessica has taught in many different academic settings and in most of them, she has found lacking a real commitment to encouraging the growth of the whole child. When Jessica was growing up in Southwest Philadelphia, she was a good student but there was a lack of support, too, and I would venture to say a lack of expectations as well. Jessica wanted to be seen for who she was – that good student but also for someone to recognize her other talents but she felt invisible. She was just sitting in a desk – just another somebody to be taught. That experience can be so hard to overcome.

But Jessica did overcome those obstacles and once she graduated, she felt her future possibilities included teaching and maybe, one day, having the power and position to run a school of her own. So Jessica continued her own education. She earned a B.S. in Psychology from St. Joseph’s University and is presently enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education: School and Mental Health Program. Jessica’s focus in her studies has also been how to equip students not only with the  learning skills they need but also with the other skills needed for success and so often forgotten, such as self-esteem, a sense of belonging, how to communicate and resolve issues, teamwork, setting goals for themselves, etc. which can motivate them during challenging times. So many young people are at risk today and need a “champion”.  Jessica wants to be that champion and create a school culture of acceptance, respect and a focus on each student and his/her particular needs.

Qor Charter School has submitted their application to the School District of Philadelphia. They will be making a presentation very soon so that their dreams and plans become a reality. Already reaching out to the community, there was an information event planned for Saturday, Dec. 16, 2-4 PM at Simpson Recreation Center, 1010 Arrott St. in Frankford with some giveaways. Several families attended. Earlier, Jessica and her family came to the Padre Pio Prayer Center’s “Christmas Extravaganza” to speak with any interested families there.

If approved, Qor Charter School would open in the old St. Joachim School and eventually serve children in grades K-4 with a total of 312 students. St. Joachim is located at 4290 Penn St.We also met her husband, Lamar, who is in real estate and construction, which is a real asset to someone running a school. You can tell that this couple supports each other and cares about our community.

As you can imagine, an endeavor of this type takes a great deal of time to put together. 2018-2019 will be a planning year with school opening for the 2019-2020 year. For the most impact, Jessica believes Qor must start with the primary students – the young students as this is where you can do the most good. The curriculum is geared to students known as “at risk” – those who need those extra supports that really every child needs. Each classroom will have a Lead Teacher and an Assistant. You can read more of their application that was submitted to the School district here.

This is an ongoing story that we will happily follow for you. We are rooting for Jessica and Lamar and the Qor Charter School because we believe that each and every child deserves the best education they can get because so much depends on it – their own feelings of success and happiness and the community’s as well. We need our young people; we are counting on their ideas, energies and passion to take us forward.

Jessica has had an in initial meeting with the School District of Philadelphia. Based on the positive response and support she already feels from the community, Jessica would like us to take a  moment and email them and tell them that you support Qor Charter School’s application and write a sentence why. Be sure to mention “Qor Charter School” so they know who you’re talking about.   All you need to do is to “click” on this link –   Thank you!

If you would like more information regarding Qor Charter School, please contact Jessica Hasben at








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A Healthier Frankford

This past June, Health Partners Plans, Aria Health and the Frankford Community Development Corporation came to the aid of Frankford residents. The annual Health Fair provided fun and games for children while giving adults the medical care and information they need.

The fair which took place at Aria Health’s Frankford Campus consisted of screenings for blood pressure and Body Mass Index as well as face painting and other activities for kids. Volunteers, along with Events and Outreach Programs Manager for Health Partners Plans, Chi Dang, attended to the long line of eager Frankford residents ready to receive these much needed services. Dang explained that screenings like the ones provided at the fair are simple, but necessary, preventative measures that everyone should have access to. Health Partners Plans works to make sure that those who would otherwise go without testing and information are taken care of.

The event that has been going on for three years now continues to grow and to help members of the surrounding community. Certainly living up to their motto of “doing it right” Health Partners Plans in partnership with Aria Health and the Frankford CDC are making strides in the right direction to help everyone maintain a healthier lifestyle.

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Health Federation of Phila Gives Parents and Young Children An “Early Head Start”!

Courtesy of HFP Early Head Start Program

I received an education last week when I went to visit the Health Federation of Philadelphia’s Early Head Start Program at 4606 Frankford Avenue. I was there to speak with the staff and learn about their unique program. Continue reading Health Federation of Phila Gives Parents and Young Children An “Early Head Start”!