Brianda Cediel - Executive Director
name is Brianda Cediel. I am the co-founder and Executive Director for
Hands Across the World. We are the first contact for Refugees and
Immigrants who have come with their families to make Central Minnesota
their new home. Our motto is: From Hands to Hearts to Minds toward
Peace. Here’s a little information about myself. I was part of the
Teachers of Color Program at Saint Cloud State University in St. Cloud,
MN. In 2001 I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in ESOL. I am currently
continuing my education at Viterbo University to obtain a Masters Degree in Servant Leadership.
I was born in the United States but grew up in Bogotá, Colombia, South America. I received an Early Childhood Degree in Colombia and traveled to Mexico to continue my education in Arts with children and teaching experience. This offered me the opportunity to live in both countries and to understand both cultures and lifestyles. My native languages are English and Spanish.
I came to St. Cloud, Minnesota in 1999 and I am widowed with three children (Felipe and twins Francisco and Camilo). I am extremely proud of my children. My oldest son attended the University of Minnesota and is currently working in Colombia at the Dunkin Donuts franchise which his father helped found. Francisco is pursuing a career in medicine and Camilo has worked in New York City since his graduation from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in finance. The success of my children is the same success that I wish for future generations in our country. I was a dedicated mother, active volunteer in their schools, and attended all their sport games; I am an enthusiastic collaborator in all their dreams.
On October 2003, We, my friend Sr. Tonie and I, began a program called HANDS ACROSS THE WORLD. I recognized that for many parents whose first language isn't English, it can be an extremely frustrating experience as they merely observe their children learn English but are unable to participate themselves. We developed a program using English as a second language techniques to provide a life long learning environment to educate parents and children in their first attempt at acquiring English language skills and basic living skills. We serve families from different countries and ethnic backgrounds who have newly arrived in Central Minnesota. The program also emphasizes cultural diversity, new friendships, self sufficiency, pathways to Citizenship and most importantly a true sense of being welcome to their new home. The program started using the Bethlehem Lutheran Church facilities. In 2005 we were in the need of expanding our program and the Boys & Girls Club invited us to share their southside facility. Now, in 2010 our program continues to grow serving 165 adults and 60 children. Because of the success of our programs we now have our own school site. The St. Mary's Parish has invited us to move our programs to the Mary Center, located at 823 1st St. South, St. Cloud, MN.
Hands Across the World is a non-profit organization funded by local, state, federal contributions and private donors. Please feel free to visit our classrooms and participate in this journey. You will enjoy visiting with students from all over the world, and learn from their wonderful cultures.
Not a Dull Moment
By Sister M. Antonia (Tonie) Rausch, OSF
is now 75 years since the Easter morning of my birth in 1933. Those 75
years have passed with exceeding speed, starting with a wonderful
loving home and family of 12 with parents ever ready to make life
exciting! From day one I was an activist, mostly in a running mode,
symbolized by hours of figure skating on the ice of Big Stone Lake on
the border of Minnesota-South Dakota or swimming in its warm summer
After completing studies at the all-girls high school in Little Falls, MN, I chose to enter the community of the Franciscan Sisters. I was looking for a life of dedication to the poor, to justice in our world, and to peace among peoples. At the time, options were limited for such a choice of lifestyle. But here it was, Franciscanism at its best!
As time went on, this organization of Catholic women updated so that it became a center for spreading the Franciscan message of peace and love, not only to the immediate area of central Minnesota and Wisconsin, but to the wider world.
Soon I was off to a liberal arts college, The College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, MN, and later for courses at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and a final M.A. at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana—a solid beginning to my on-going education.
After teaching art and history for 15 years at the very high school that I had attended, I moved on to working for peace organizations in Duluth, MN, and then in Jackson, TN, Tennessee, after training in Little Rock, AK, I became a Community Organizer for the poor. This proved to be an excellent preparation for moving on, in 1986, to missionary work in Tanzania, Africa.
Africa proved to be a life-changing experience! Work for justice? Serve the poor? Find way and means to spread peace? This was IT! Nothing could have been more effective in placing the challenge right in front of me! I taught in secondary and pre-secondary training schools for 12 years, developing young people for leadership in their own country, working as I did, always under the leadership of the local people. I lived and worked on Zanzibar Island among the Muslims, lived and taught in a boarding school with Catholic seminarians, men and women, and settled in a village of Maasai, alone with them, teaching at their school, with 105 students in one classroom.
In 2003 I returned to the United States and came to St. Cloud to search for immigrants and refugees who might need help to experience a welcome in my own country—the kind of warm welcome I had experienced in Africa. I taught adult education courses for two years at District 742. At the same time, I partnered with Brianda Cediel to start a non-profit ESL school, Hands Across the World, for adult refugees, immigrants, and their children. This is where I continue to work for justice and peace, offering opportunities for marginalized to integrate in American culture and become active citizens.
It had been a long journey. I have enjoyed every moment of it. Well, almost!
Copyright ©2007-2009 Hands Across the World.