Solano Region Client Publishes Two Poetry Books


We are delighted to share the exciting accomplishments of one of our Solano Wellness and Recovery Center clients, Cynaka Harper, who recently published two books. 

Life’s Journey is a collection of poems Cynaka has written over the course of her life, including while living with cancer and mental health concerns. Cynaka copes with mental illness through music, writing, and poetry. Her desire is that by sharing her story through poetry, it will offer hope to others going through hard times and help them remember the good times. Cynaka says, “life is a journey, and I would love to share with you my journey.”

Dreamer’s Fantasy, written under the name G.O. 284, the name Cynaka adopted for Poetry by the Bay, is her collection of fantasy poems. 

We are so proud of Cynaka for sharing her life journey and fantasies with us, and for following her dreams of being a published poet. You are truly an inspiration, Cynaka!

Coping and Hope Though Poetry: Natalie Shares Her Writing


With special thanks to Caminar Case Manager Jason Kaefer who brought this special story to us and to the brave and talented Caminar Client Natalie San Juan who is sharing her gift of poetry with us.

Natalie became a member of the Caminar family through YAIL, our Young Adult Independent Living program. For the last eight years, she has been part of our New Ventures Case Management program.

As a child, Natalie always felt different. Natalie recalls that “everyone said I was too sensitive, and I cried a lot.” As she matured, her feelings progressed until a diagnosis of major depressive disorder fell upon her. Over the years, she has dealt with emotions that would be unimaginable to most people. “I was suicidal at times, in and out of hospitals. It was a dark, dark world,” she remembers. In an attempt to reduce the feelings of sadness, she turned to an old childhood hobby — writing. Through a collection of journal entries, including poetry and stream of consciousness, Natalie managed to mitigate her internal unrest and express feelings of all kinds. This coping skill has allowed her a shelter from the feelings she once thought inescapable. Now, she wishes to share her writing with the hope that it will ring true with others who experience similar situations.

Please enjoy her poem “Prejudice” that was written to encourage people to talk openly about their mental health and to not feel shame in doing so.


By Natalie San Juan

Take a look at me,
and what do you see?

I am not a disease,
I am a human being.

Take off that blindfold,
and reality you will see.

Your words that crush my spirits,
cause ms me non necessary insanity.

You see me walk away with an attitude,
in which you have slowly brought on.

But because you are always a “superior,”
I am always at full fault.

In your eyes I’m a small ant,
that at any moment you will stomp.

I will not judge if you choose not to change,
I just ask for a brief stop.

Take a look around you,
check your brain before you speak.

You just will never know,
who’s soul you’ll tear apart.

I hope you get my message,
hope it sticks to you like gum.

I will not give up fighting,
til this battle is won.

Molly's Story: Wellness is Support

Dokie Riahi, LMFT, School-Based Clinical Counselor, FCS division, accompanied by her service dog Boston, catches up with Molly.

Dokie Riahi, LMFT, School-Based Clinical Counselor, FCS division, accompanied by her service dog Boston, catches up with Molly.

Growing up, Molly had little stability in her young life. Fortunately, she could count on her teachers. It was through the intervention of a teacher, who noticed how Molly was struggling, that she found her way to our Family & Children Services of Silicon Valley division’s on-campus counseling services.

Molly was in the 8th grade when she started therapy and showed signs of severe depression. During sessions, Molly revealed to her therapist the extent of the emotional trauma in her life. Her parents both struggled with substance use. They held themselves together enough that Molly had a home in San Jose and food, yet they were unable to provide crucial nurturing and guidance for their only child.

Our therapist provided Molly with a safe place to work through her trauma, develop tools to manage her depression, learn and practice social skills, and build her resilience to cope with her ongoing life challenges.

When Molly transitioned into high school, our junior high therapist ensured that she connected with our therapist at her high school, Dokie Riahi, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). This proved essential. Molly’s mother would pass away during her freshman year. Dokie was there for her.

Today, Molly is in her senior year of high school. She works part-time and just received her driver’s license. She’s convinced that her father won’t live to see her graduate. In therapy, Molly has a safe place to talk through and face her fears, prepare for the future, and learn tools to cope effectively with the effects of stress and trauma.

Thanks to the resilience Molly has built through consistent therapy, she has maintained her mental wellness and avoided decompensating, despite the stress with which she lives. She hasn’t followed in her parents’ footsteps of addiction. She’s stayed in school and secured employment. And, most critically, she’s held onto hope for her future.

“I can’t believe that there was a time that I couldn’t motivate myself even to get out of bed or take a shower,” says Molly.

Thanks to the consistent, high quality mental health care our donors and funders make possible, Molly has had support throughout the critical years of her adolescence. And that, paired with Molly’s spirit and dedication, has made all the difference.

Ben's Story: Wellness is Recovery

Members of our Healthy Partnerships division team.

Members of our Healthy Partnerships division team.

When Ben was 18, alcohol took over his life. Starting with drinking at parties and when hanging out with friends, soon alcohol was the answer to every question. Feeling stressed? Wanting to relax? Hanging out? Drink, drink, drink. Eventually, he found he couldn’t stop.

Ben reached out for help when he was 25. For the next seven years, he tried rehab 10 times and was in and out of the emergency room. At age 32, he hit rock bottom. He accepted that he had no control over drinking or his life.

Ben thought he was a lost cause. When introduced to our Healthy Partnerships division’s treatment programs, Ben assumed it would be like other rehabs he tried. But without other options, the nine-month program was worth a shot.

As he began the program, Ben says, “I wasn’t into it because I was so broken.” Yet he knew he was in a life-or-death situation and he kept showing up. With the guidance of his counselors, Ben gained insights into and worked through crucial issues that were behind his drinking.

Sober since October 25, 2017, Ben knows recovery is a lifelong process, with no shortcuts. Each day, he uses what he learned at Healthy Partnerships to stay on the path of wellness.

Jobs Plus Helps Karina Reach For Her Goals

Craig Wiesner, Karina, and Derrick Kikuchi in front on Reach & Teach on 25th Avenue in San Mateo.

Craig Wiesner, Karina, and Derrick Kikuchi in front on Reach & Teach on 25th Avenue in San Mateo.

With the help of Caminar Jobs Plus, Karina has found gainful employment, self-esteem, and confidence to continue her education and fulfill her dreams.

Before Caminar, Karina—a 19-year-old student at the College of San Mateo—was shy, antisocial, and had trouble being independent. Going out by herself caused anxiety.

Referred to Jobs Plus from the Department of Rehabilitation, Karina worked with her Caminar Job Coach to determine the type of work she’d like to do. She realized that working in a small, family-owned retail environment would suit her well. With the guidance of her coach, Karina learned skills for interviewing and working in retail and began to believe in herself.

We feel very blessed to have Karina working with us. She is wonderfully dependable, thorough, thoughtful, and has become an integral part of our team. We’re also excited and proud that she has started taking classes at College of San Mateo. We’re grateful to the Caminar staff for all their support.
— Derrick Kikuchi and Craig Wiesner, Reach & Teach Co-Founders

Today, Karina works at Reach & Teach, an independent book, toy, and fair trade store on 25th Avenue in San Mateo, where she has been for almost a year. She helps with pricing, creating displays for products in the shop, customer purchases, and a variety of data entry tasks. Reach & Teach Co-Founders, Derrick Kikuchi and Craig Wiesner, feel blessed to have Karina working with them. She is wonderfully dependable, thorough, thoughtful, and has become an integral part of their team.

Karina’s time at Reach & Teach has taught her to manage her time, work with different people, and socialize better. It has given her more confidence and self-esteem, and she feels useful knowing she can help her family and help her bosses run the store. Karina states, “I am learning how to manage when I am overwhelmed and believing that I am capable of doing certain things I did not know I was able to do.”

Staying in school, continuing to work at Reach & Teach, and earning a degree in Psychology is Karina’s goal. She is grateful to her Jobs Plus team for helping her to achieve something she was previously so afraid to do. And, we are all delighted to see Karina thriving in work, school, and life.

I am learning how to manage when I am overwhelmed and believing that I am capable of doing certain things I did not know I was able to do.
— Karina

Special thanks to the corporations and foundations that support Jobs Plus through their philanthropy. Our 2018-2019 fiscal year funding partners include Genentech, the Safeway Foundation, and the Wells Fargo Foundation. Thank you for empowering people to overcome barriers to employment and thrive as employees and coworkers.

Back to School—and Back to Life—With Supported Education

Caminar’s Supported Education Peer Counseling Graduating Class of 2018

Caminar’s Supported Education Peer Counseling Graduating Class of 2018

Growing up with bipolar disorder, Sam faced significant struggles in his home and school life. Throughout his teenage years, he bounced between “out of home” placements, compounding his emotional trauma.

Sam’s challenges continued through early adulthood until he connected with Caminar’s services.

Recognizing that Sam was a bright and talented young man in need of community and direction, his case manager urged him to enroll in school and linked Sam with the experts in Caminar’s Supported Education Program.

The program’s Peer Counseling class at the College of San Mateo offered the perfect introduction to college life. Sam flourished in the class and found the confidence to continue his education. He then enrolled in the college’s Electronic Music program, where he learned to produce songs and shared his music at college performances.

Since graduating, Sam has joined the workforce and moved into his own apartment.

While continuing to experience life’s ups and downs, Sam works with his team at Caminar to manage his mental health condition, connect with community, and access the quality care that enables him to overcome challenges and continue moving toward his goals.

Thank you to all of our donors and funders who provide support that allows Sam, and other vulnerable members of our community, the opportunity to live their best lives.

A Look Back at 2018

With 2019 fast approaching, we look back on Caminar's impact in 2018.

Because of the generosity of our donors and funders, more than 20,000 people last year made progress in overcoming major life challenges and moved toward greater resilience, wellness, and independence. 

From all of us at Caminar and our Family & Children Services of Silicon Valley, Healthy Partnerships, and Project Ninety divisions, thank you!

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Jason Finds Recovery and Wellness Through Our Project Ninety Division

Jason grew up in a state of turmoil. His parents divorced when he was a baby and he never knew his father. His life spiraled downward when his mom married an abusive alcoholic. He experienced abandonment and depression, never did well in school, and felt like he didn't fit in.

To escape an abusive home life, Jason ran away and turned to drugs and alcohol.

Jason connected with mental health and recovery services after time in juvenile hall. His life seemed to be heading in a better direction. But, drugs and alcohol lurked back into his life.

After 15 years of substance abuse, Jason committed to change his life.

On his 30th birthday, Jason knew he had to change his life for good. He sought treatment at Project Ninety. After completing our 90-day program, Jason continued on his path to wellness by becoming a Project Ninety volunteer and taking part in the 12-step recovery program.


Recovery is possible with the right support.

Today, with over three years of sobriety, Jason is thriving, enjoying life, and reconnecting with friends and family. He is employed in work where he is making a difference in our community and is continuing his college education.

Jason credits Caminar’s Project Ninety division with helping him to turn his life around.

Without the generous support of our donors and funders, Jason may not be here today.

Caminar and our Project Ninety and Family & Children Services of Silicon Valley divisions combined to help more than 20,000 people last year overcome life challenges and move toward resilience, wellness, and independence. We couldn’t have done it without our circle of support.

Michael Finds Resilience with the help of Integrated Health Care

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With the help of Bridges to Wellness, our integrated primary and behavioral health care program, Michael* has a new-found healthy lifestyle and is working on remaining stable and resilient through life’s up and downs.

Over a year ago, Michael, who is in recovery for severe mental illness, was connected to Bridges to Wellness by his mental health case manager. He received an alarming wake-up call when the Bridges to Wellness nurse reviewed with him the initial wellness lab test results. In addition to having extremely high levels of cholesterol, Michael was pre-diabetic. Smoking 40 cigarettes a day also was affecting his health.

Motivated by the test results, Michael decided to make changes in his life. With the support of the nurse, he set wellness goals and created a plan. Encouraged by the Bridges to Wellness team, Michael began taking daily walks, which he found reduced his urge to smoke. Through the program’s smoking cessation group, he learned effective strategies, connected with peer support, and eventually quit smoking completely.

Using his savings on cigarettes, Michael joined a local gym, where he works out most days. Now he is maintaining a healthy body weight and his cholesterol and glucose levels are within a healthy range.

Michael is feeling, breathing, and looking better now than he can remember. His own determination and resilience, along with support from our mental health and Bridges to Wellness program professionals, have helped him enjoy a healthier quality of life.

With philanthropic investment, we aim to expand these integrated health services to reach more clients in San Mateo and Solano counties and to add services in Santa Clara and Butte counties.

* Name changed to protect client privacy

Gabby's Story: Finding Wellness and Hope for her Family

Your support opens the door to wellness and recovery for local families, like Gabby* and her children.

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When Gabby began meeting with one of our counselors, she was coping with depression and in the early days of recovery from substance abuse.

What hurt most was feeling she had failed her kids. Seeing them taken away because of her drug use had left her without hope. She saw no path forward.

Thankfully, Gabby was connected with our Family & Children Services of Silicon Valley (FCS) division’s community of support. With her counselor’s expert guidance, Gabby delved into the complex issues underlying her depression and addiction and the choices she had made.

One day, she confided that her boyfriend was growing increasingly controlling. Linked with one of our domestic violence survivor specialists, Gabby learned about “red flags” of unhealthy relationships and the effects on children, and assessed her risk factors. When she was ready, she had the support needed to end the relationship safely and to begin to heal.

Thoughts of her children, the encouragement of her team at FCS, and new wellness strategies empowered Gabby to build her resilience and persevere, even at the hardest times. The day came when Gabby and her children were reunited.

“Today we’re living a new life,” says Gabby, who stays connected with her counselor for regular check-ins and treasures her weekly support group meetings with other survivors of domestic violence.

Now, thanks to our compassionate donors, Gabby and her children have a trusted place to turn when they need support along the path toward resilience, wellness, and independence.

* Names changed to protect confidentiality.

Brian's Path to Wellness


Many of our clients may not be on the path to wellness without the support we receive from the community. We are so grateful to our donors and funders who make the life-changing work of Caminar possible.

We invite you to meet Brian, who shares his inspiring journey to wellness after multiple mental health diagnoses in this special video

In Brian’s words,

“Caminar gave me something to live for.”

Peter's Journey to Wellness

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A traumatic childhood left Peter with emotional wounds, severe depression, and PTSD. Eventually, his depression and PTSD became so debilitating, he was unable to get out of bed many mornings and missed so much work that he nearly lost his job.

Peter was referred to Caminar’s transitional residential home, where he received support and time to recover from his mental illness, gain coping skills for his mental health conditions, and relearn daily living skills.

The journey to wellness is paved with the right care and support.

When Peter was ready, he returned to his life more prepared to manage his depression.

Today, Peter is thriving. Once a shut-in, he’s now a lead carpenter with a flourishing business. He approaches each day as a gift.

Peter credits Caminar with saving his life.

Peter has a strong sense of community and gratitude, having benefited from the generosity, compassion, and support of others on his journey to wellness. To show his gratitude, Peter now volunteers his time and skills to help those in need.

Without the support of our donors, Peter may not be here today.

We are so very grateful for Peter’s wellness, and for the generosity of our supporters who make the life-changing work of Caminar possible.

Christopher’s Path to Wellness, Paved with Support from our AOT Program

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Christopher was referred to Caminar’s Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) program after psychiatric hospitalization following an altercation with his family. He didn’t believe he had a mental illness and wasn’t able to define why he had been hospitalized.

Christopher is a young man struggling to come to terms with mental illness and delusional thoughts, thoughts that sometimes convinced him the world was against him. He feels isolated, socially awkward, and ashamed for the dark thoughts in his head.

Our AOT program assists San Mateo County residents with severe mental illness as they transition from inpatient care to outpatient living. The program provides 24/7 intensive mental health services, housing support, and life skill development for Christopher and others like him.

The path to mental health and wellness, however, isn’t a straight line. Christopher had been moving forward in his recovery, until one day when he experienced a setback and destroyed property at his parents’ home. This time, he did not find himself in the hospital. Since he was connected with Caminar’s AOT Program, his Caminar caseworker jumped into action, meeting with him immediately to provide a mental health assessment and establish additional support

His caseworker helped Christopher to stabilize and avoid another hospitalization. Together they created a safety plan, and the caseworker offered support both to Christopher and his family. Most importantly, the caseworker built trust with him and encouraged him to reach out whenever he needs help in order to prevent a crisis in the future.

Christopher is still connected with Caminar. He recently graduated from AOT and stepped down to our New Ventures case management program, which provides lower intensity mental health case management services. Christopher continues to move toward wellness and recovery. And, the AOT program is proving its intended value to help those who struggle to live safely in the community.

Recent San Mateo County data, as highlighted in a story in the Climate Online, indicate the AOT program is working.

After a year in the program, clients saw

  • 66% reduction in the number of days spent in jail

  • 13% drop in homelessness

  • 50% reduction in episodes of hospitalization

Length of hospital stays also reduced significantly, from 252 days prior to the program to 96 after. Episodes of psychiatric emergency services dropped from 35 to 21.

Such reductions in jail time, emergency response, and hospital services have saved the county considerable money. And, the services and care provided allow Christopher and other vulnerable neighbors to move toward wellness and live in the community with dignity.

Caminar launched the AOT program in August 2016. The program uses the Full Service Partnership’s “whatever it takes” approach to support individuals with serious mental health conditions to move toward wellness, recovery, and independence.

From Hospitalization to Home: Tina’s Journey to Recovery

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Earlier this year, Tina* entered treatment at Caminar immediately upon discharge from the hospital. She had been referred to our San Mateo County Region’s Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) program, which provides intensive treatment and support for adults with severe mental illness who are disconnected from the mental health system. 

Tina had been living with roommates who were actively engaged in unhealthy lifestyles, and she had been heavily abusing substances. Her mental and physical health were in a fragile state.

At Caminar, Tina began working regularly and diligently with a psychiatrist and a case manager. And, she enrolled in an outpatient substance use treatment program. 

With the newfound support and compassionate care, Tina regained her resilience and began to rebuild her life. She invested the time and work to become clean and sober,  and her mental and physical health improved. Now, she is living with family, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, working towards securing employment, and committed to the journey of recovery. 

*Name changed to protect client privacy.

Building Circles of Support, Strengthening Families

We are delighted to share with you a story of resilience and hope, which was featured at this year's Circle of Support Luncheon. With the help of our Family & Children Services of Silicon Valley Division's Teen FAST Program, one family built circles of support and strengthened their family.

The Teen FAST program engages and empowers at-risk youth to make positive life choices. And, it works with the entire family to build and enhance the family. The Luna family's journey with Teen FAST is no exception.

Please enjoy this video of how the Luna family learned to communicate and work together to find hope and stability. 

Looking Back At 2017

As we start 2018, we look back on the Caminar's impact in the last year. The work our donors and funders make possible changes lives; the generosity provides people with complex health needs the opportunity to move from crisis to independence. 

One in five of our neighbors will experience a mental illness. Approximately 10.2 million adults have co-occurring mental health and addiction disorders. Approximately 26% of homeless adults staying in shelters live with serious mental illness. And, approximately 24% of state prisoners have “a recent history of a mental health condition.”

At Caminar and our Family & Children Services of Silicon Valley division, we offer care tailored to the needs of each individual, allowing us to effectively address complex needs and empower people to transform their lives. Because of community support and the tireless work of our staff, people like Thomas and April have a safety net and many lives were changed.

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Following our January 2017 merger with Family & Children Services of Silicon Valley, we have expanded our reach and strengthened our capacity agency-wide to help our most vulnerable community members toward an improved quality of life. We look forward to continuing this work in 2018!

From Alone and Without Hope to Resilience: Michael's Story

Do you know someone like Michael? Someone who struggles with his mental health and lives on the margins, alone and without hope?

In his 20s, Michael began to struggle with mental illness. A doctor misdiagnosed his condition, leading to treatments that made Michael feel worse. He turned to self-medication. Over the years, relationships with family and friends frayed and fell away. Living on the margins, often homeless, he was alone and without hope.


Michael’s journey with Caminar began at one of our crisis residential treatment programs. His life began to change with a correct diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. At last, receiving appropriate treatment and care, Michael’s physical and mental health improved. With new hope, he committed to the work of recovery.

Michael’s journey took him from constant crisis to independence. His Caminar team helped him secure a job and a safe place to live. He’s doing the work to keep moving forward. He tells us he feels stronger than ever.

One in five of our neighbors will experience mental illness. Resilience is possible with quality care and compassion.

We are so proud of Michael and his hard work, dedication, and commitment to healthy living. And, Michael's story isn't  a rarity. Many people like Michael have become more resilient, moved from crisis to independence, and are enjoying healthier, fuller lives.


Building Confidence, Achieving Goals: April's story of Resilience


Three years ago, April was spending the nights on the streets or in local parks in the bushes. April found the strength and courage to not only realize she needed help, but to ask for help from the Butte County Department of Behavioral Health. April was referred to Caminar and became a tenant of Avenida Apartments and an employee of Caminar’s vocational training program, Sensible Cyclery.    

When April started at Sensible Cyclery, it was difficult for her to make eye contact with her colleagues and her supervisor when speaking with them. After a few months, there was a dramatic change; April started to build the confidence she needed in order to achieve the goals she set for herself.

After completing and graduating from Sensible Cyclery, April enrolled in Butte College to take courses to become a computer programmer. April is now finishing her last semester and has been handpicked for an internship at a local computer programming company.

April is moving to a regular, non-assisted apartment in the community as of December 1, 2017. April did not have to leave Avenidas, and when asked why she was, she simply said that she wants someone else to benefit from the help and opportunity that she had from Caminar’s services.

Sincere thanks to April and Scott Walker, Program Manager for Sensible Cyclery, Pro-Touch and Avenida Apartments, Caminar Butte County Region, for sharing this inspiring story of resilience. 




Watch Sheri’s Story: From Crisis to Independence

At our 2nd Annual Mental Health Symposium back in May of this year, we premiered a very powerful video of one of our former clients. The subject of the film, Sheri, faced serious depression, which led her to engage in self-destructive behavior and attempt to take her own life. Thankfully she survived and was referred to Caminar, where she received services that have helped her in the long road to recovery. Please take a few minutes of your time to watch this very inspirational story.