In Memoriam

Silvana Alfaro


We lost a warrior. After fighting a year long battle with ovarian cancer our friend, staunch supporter and the first client of the Women’s Center Silvana Alfaro passed away. Silvana was a writer, poet, superb chef, wife, mother and grandmother. She did what she had to do create a good life for her children. That included having to return to her home country to get the proper immigration paperwork after her husband left her when he was a student here in the U.S. She returned to the Lansing area with a goal to get her degree and and she did that. Along the way she hosted fundraisers for the Women’s Center where she cooked everything herself and invited everyone to the table. She spoke at our Dream, Girl! events telling her story and sharing her passionate support of women helping women. At every milestone she called to tell me of her achievement and thank us for helping her. Her enthusiasm for life was contagious and she brightened a room by entering. Just before her diagnosis she was awarded a full scholarship to Wayne State University for a master’s and Ph.D. program to study infant mental health. Silvana gave 110% of herself in whatever she set out to do. She fought the cancer with 110% of herself. She was my friend and I will miss her terribly. Rest in Peace Warrior Goddess. Your work on this earth is complete. ❤️❤️❤️

BIGGER THAN LIFE: Silvana Alfaro

By Claudia Combs–Wise

I first met her at the Women’s Center around 2006. I was new to the Center myself, and she was one of my first encounters. Small frame, sparkling eyes, bigger than life itself-her vibrant personality and charm counterbalanced her petite stature, such a contrast.

She was broken, going through a bitter divorce, a single mom, new to the Lansing community, lost, but determined to survive… It didn’t take long for her to find her niche-making friends, finding herself, work, school, and her career path. She thrived and blossomed into a dynamic, integral part of the Center and its community of sisters. We could always count on Silvana to make us laugh and to take a good, long look at ourselves. Authenticity was the name of her game and it served her so well. Not one disingenuous fiber in her being, she captured the hearts of us all, spreading enthusiasm, determination, and fortitude with her life stories and words of wisdom. Isn’t it ironic that her first career as a doula (where she facilitated birth and supported new life), ended, yet transformed into another type of life support with her natural gifts? She touched so many lives… Though her earthly life ended prematurely, she lives on in all of us who were blessed to know her.

I will miss her but I find Solis in my wealth of fond memories…Her life touched so many other lives-too brief but brimming full of light and love for eternity.

The Women’s Center: The Place Where I Found a Way

By Silvana Alfaro

It was a cold winter day two years ago that I walked out my door wearing a black winter coat and bright apple green scarf and hat. I knew there was a Women’s Center in town and maybe they would help. What I needed the most was to talk to women. I knew they would understand.

I showed up at the Women’s Center and talked to the intern. Cindie was in the office and invited me to sit and talk. As I started explaining that I needed help because I was new in the city, my first son had left home for college, my husband at the time had left after finishing his Doctorate degree and my youngest son was still with me and I needed to figure out what to do with my new reality I began to cry. Cindie immediately understood that I needed someone to talk to.

That morning I stumbled over words of sadness, despair and a feeling of hopelessness that I could not bear on my own anymore. During the last six years I had been a doula, a woman who helps women during birth and postpartum. My whole family was doing a huge sacrifice because my husband was going to school. I had to work to make ends meet so I was commuting from Pittsburgh to Lansing until I could establish my doula business in town. My children missed me and I missed them. It was very painful but I thought it would get better. Time went by and I could not introduce the idea of postpartum doulas in the community so I kept going back to Pittsburgh. In the end everything fell apart. I could not hold the family together because I was too tired to be able to do so and that cold winter day I was trying to build a new reality.

They were there for me, Cindie and the intern, listening, and I felt they cared. I also felt I could trust them because I know what people who help look like. I had been one of them not long ago. I had been helping other women go through difficult times also and I had learnt how important it was to have that support in times of difficulty.

After listening patiently, they offered me to attend to the “Job Seekers” group. I went there and I met other women like me. They were women in their midlife trying to find alternative ideas to create their own unique change in midlife. Each one of us needed to find a way of being productive in a creative sort of way.

I attended the meetings for a few weeks and I realized that what I wanted the most was to go back to school to get a bachelors degree. Doing all the paperwork took a few months because I’m an international student but in the end I started classes. Meanwhile I had graduated from the “Job Seekers” group and started attending the “Not So Happy Endings” group. There again I met other women dealing with ending relationships. I attended the group meetings for about a year and a half. We created a great bond, listened to one another and survived our personal separations in company. To me it was very important to have that kind of support. It makes me feel that my load is not so heavy when I can share my feelings with other women. Finally I graduated from that group when I got divorced. One more time I was ready to move on and go on with my life.

Nevertheless, life has ups and downs. A few days ago I started feeling some changes in my body and I called Claudia, the “Not So Happy Endings” group moderator, to ask her about those changes I was experiencing. She suggested that I should participate in a new group called “Traveling Tips for the Mid-Life Journey.” It was another brilliant idea created at the Women’s Center. One more time they have listened to women and have provided what we need.

I attended the first meeting already and I found what I was looking for. The meetings provide a space were women can talk about the emotional and physical changes of midlife. One more time the Women’s Center created an idea that will help women find a way, their own unique creative way to continue this beautiful passage called life.