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SafeHouse Center
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Volunteer Voices

SafeHouse Center Volunteers share their thoughts about what they do at SafeHouse Center—and why it’s important

 

As an intern at SafeHouse Center, I have learned the importance of having a great set of volunteers at SafeHouse Center. Our volunteers are valued and truly keep the programs running. They make it possible to provide survivors with the support they deserve. Becoming a part of this team is important because you could be the person to offer hope to a survivor, the person to mentor kids in our shelter, the person to be the friendly face after an assault, or act in many other necessary roles. Without the volunteers, our job as advocates would be impossible. Please consider volunteering with SafeHouse Center. Even after my internship ends I will continue to volunteer with DVRT because I understand the importance of my sincere commitment. L.B

RESPONSE TEAM VOLUNTEERS

I am a volunteer with the Domestic Violence Response Team for SafeHouse Center.  I typically work weekends, which is a 24 hour on call duty that runs from 8 a.m. till 8 a.m. (weekdays are 5 p.m. till 8 a.m.).  It is mine and my partner’s responsibility to respond to calls that come in from the police departments and hospitals in the Washtenaw County area. The #1 person takes all the calls and fills out all the forms (unless you get really busy). The #2 person supports the # 1 person and goes with them on calls.  But enough about the logistics of being a DVRT volunteer.  The reason for this email is to tell you how I feel I make a difference.  Most times when we respond to a call, the person that you talk to is very appreciative of the support that you are giving them.  It is mostly women that you talk to although I have spoken with men before.  Sometimes I know that the woman is not going to leave her batterer, but that is not what I am there to persuade her to do.  It is my responsibility to offer her support and resources available to her should she choose to try to leave him, which is a lot harder than most people think.  It helps these women to know they are not alone and that there are people out there that care about them. G. G.

When I first started participating on the Sexual Assault Response Team, I was nervous, I was out of my comfort zone, and I couldn’t imagine what I could say that would be of help at that terrifying and vulnerable point in someone’s life.  However, I soon understood the importance of my role and I immediately forgot my selfish distress. After spending time talking and listening to survivors, I’ve come to realize that I am the first person, and possibly the only person they will ever encounter who will offer the support and empathy that is so crucial to their healing. It’s not my favorite thing to be woken up in the middle of the night and to drive out to the hospital ER, but it is absolutely worth I because I know that I may be able to offer comfort to someone after they’ve just survived one of the most intimate and heinous crimes.  I am there to share with them that this is not their fault. J. A.

My volunteering as a member of the Sexual Assault Response Team is very rewarding.  While it may seem strange to hear this, it is important to understand that a survivor of rape, faces more additional strangers immediately after reporting an assault, right when they are feeling so vulnerable and not knowing who to trust.  When the pager goes off, I have the fleeting thought; “damn, another rape”.  I don’t want that survivor to be alone, while their emotions are bouncing off the charts.  I want to give them some control back.  I want them to know they have an entire team of support next to them.  That they are leaving the hospital with SafeHouse Center resources that will be valuable to them in the next few days, weeks, and beyond. D. J.
DVRT has helped me grow as an individual. I didn’t have a lot of experience in working with people one-on-one so I felt that DVRT would be a challenge for me. One of those challenges that would push me far beyond my comfort zone. And it did. But I was able to find growth on the other side! With this experience, I have grown as an advocate, an individual and an activist. I was apprehensive about long nights that would then affect my mornings. But driving home at 2 am, leaving the hospital and feeling like you have given a survivor a moment of not feeling alone or a piece of hope or a chance to see that it’s not their fault is an amazing, invaluable feeling that is much more important than sleep. I’ve gotten a better understanding of domestic violence in this volunteer role and I will take the lessons of interacting with each survivor with empathy where ever I go. DVRT has shaped my experience at SafeHouse and shown me how important the one-on-one support is to not only the survivor but to the movement. In DVRT every conversation and interaction counts. And you become the vehicle that drives the idea that there is someone to talk to when a violent situation occurs, there is someone who will listen, there is someone who will provide support and there is someone who cares. I leave every shift with the knowledge that I was the “someone” who dared to be compassionate in the hopes of helping in someone’s healing. And that feels extraordinary. L.B.

Volunteering with the SART program has been a life changing opportunity. My experiences have been meaningful and powerful, and have deeply changed my consciousness and awareness of sexualized violence.  Volunteering has offered one outlet for promoting positive change for survivors.  It is my hope that by providing quality, compassionate, empowering service, we can communicate to survivors that healing is possible, support is abundant, and the assault is not their fault.  They do not deserve shame or blame.  Also, with this awareness, I hope we can create a world free of this violence. G.F.

I have been volunteering with SafeHouse Center for the past year on the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART). When I am on call for SART, I meet with a survivor of sexual assault at the hospital immediately following the assault.  My role is to be an advocate for the survivor; I walk her through the process of the medical examination, support her in dealing with the hospital staff and the police, and provide her with information on resources in the community to help her through her healing process.  As an advocate, the survivor’s well being is my sole concern.  I have had the privilege of being there for several women whose backgrounds were very different from my own, and who viewed the world through a different lens. When I meet a survivor and connect with her under these circumstances, we set our differences aside and bond through the common experience of human emotion. In doing this work, I get a sense of oneness of the human spirit that I feel is missing from our society. It is this sense of oneness, I believe, that enables social justice. E. L.

DVRT I do what I do because it’s all about education.  The enlightenment that you can shed upon women on any given day or any given conversation is very rewarding. L.C.

SHELTER/HELPLINE PROGRAM VOLUNTEERS

The more time I spend volunteering in the SafeHouse Center Shelter/HelpLine Program, the more I want to give. There is an overwhelming need for this organization in our community. And, knowing it is only partly state funded and given the situation of our economy, I’m grateful for each and every day it continues to reach out and manifest miracles for residents in need. The staff I’ve interfaced with and supported, over the years, have been very appreciative of my volunteer work.  I’ve never met a more compassionate group.  The hours I’ve spent attentively listening and supporting those in need on the crisis line and the administrative and creative work I’ve contributed, as a whole, has given back in more ways than I’m able to describe.  The gratification of knowing my contribution has made a favorable difference to staff and/or a resident in need, fills my spirit in a way I’ve never before experienced! I highly recommend this work to everyone and anyone.  It will change the way you look at the world and warm your heart if you’re just open to volunteering. K.W.

If I had to summarize my “words of wisdom” into a crisp message, I would say: Don’t expect to know (or feel like you should know) everything about your role as a SafeHouse volunteer at the end of training.  Anything I was afraid I didn’t know, I learned through “on the job” Shelter/HelpLine training, and for me personally, nothing beats real world experience. L.A.

As a Shelter/Helpline volunteer everyday at SafeHouse is different, but in the end always rewarding. Some days the crisis line is busy, in which case I focus on answering those calls. On other days the phone line is quiet, which is when I try to do whatever I can to help around the Shelter. This often means consulting the House Manager to see what tasks need to be done. This may be cleaning and preparing rooms for new residents, organizing the office, or stocking different areas around the shelter. I have always had an interest in the issues of domestic violence and sexual assault, which is why I got involved as a volunteer at SHC. Since I began volunteering, almost a year ago now, I have learned much more about these issues. Although the work can be difficult at times, there is always support offered to you through staff members and volunteers. My main advice for future volunteers: don’t be afraid to ask questions, staff is more than willing to answer them, and it is the only way to fully understand the work! K.S.

CHILDREN AND YOUTH VOLUNTEERS

As a Children and Youth Program volunteer, I take two hours of my day to enjoy being a kid again. Not only do I get the chance to be worry free during playroom, the children do as well. The focus is taken off of me and my life and placed on kids who may not get as much attention as they deserve in their everyday lives. I have remained a Child and Youth volunteer even after the six month commitment because it’s fun, rewarding, and I genuinely look forward to coming every week. Playroom is so important because it gives the children a chance to be kids and the moms an opportunity to relax. I love having the chance to spend time with the kids; there’s no other feeling like being given a drawing or painting with “I love you” scribbled on the front. The gratitude from the mothers is a wonderful feeling too. As Children and Youth volunteers, we also have the experience of meeting other volunteers who share our passion for helping children and who are truly nice people. With as little as two hours a week, we can make a positive difference in the lives of others. L.P.

Children and Youth Program. Volunteering in the SafeHouse Center playroom has been a hugely gratifying experience for me. After the extensive training program, I felt theoretically well prepared for the playroom, but a little unsure about the actual nuances and logistics of what would happen. I should have known better. SafeHouse Center is a finely tuned network of caring. There are always experienced volunteers and staff members available to support and advise new volunteers. The playroom notebook in which each night’s “adventures” are logged, and the group email network keep all children and youth volunteers and staff members in touch with the needs of the children.

I enjoy working with volunteers with diverse interests. Whether game, craft, activity, reading, sport, or toddler oriented, all individuals seem to mesh to provide a solid team to care for the children. I like getting to know children as they enter the shelter. While many aspects of their lives are in transition, they seem to recognize the playroom as a place intended just for them to have fun. Being part of that comfort zone, and a provider of respite for their mothers, is rewarding~ to say nothing of watching a two year old in a dinosaur suit nurturing a doll in a stroller, a four year old in a bat costume flapping his wings in preparation for flight to take his “daughters” to school, or a ten year old guiding two five year olds through tricky origami steps. It’s so worth it! B.P.

In the short time I’ve been a volunteer for the Children & Youth Program, I have found it not only the most rewarding experience but also the most educational as well.  One of the best things has been meeting all interesting people I’ve come across and getting to know them; both the volunteers and the service participants.  I’ve had lots of fun doing things like playing board games, card games, going outside when the weather’s nice to run around, go down the slide, and play basketball or soccer.  I look forward to every session of Playroom I come to; it’s very refreshing and I’ve gained so much in the little time I’ve been doing it and I continue to look forward meeting new people and using what I’ve learned throughout life. S.B.

I volunteer in the Children and Youth Program because it makes my heart melt when one of the kids sees me, shouts my name and runs up and gives me a big hug.  It makes me feel like I’m really doing something to make their traumatic realities a little lighter.  I’m continually amazed at their resilience and the need to have fun and just be kids in the face of all this violence and adversity.  It’s also very gratifying to know I’m doing something for the Moms too.  Approaching an overwhelmed, bewildered and distraught Mom who is entering shelter, and asking her kids if they would like to see the playroom while Mom gets settled, then seeing the look of gratitude and relief on the Mom’s face is worth a thousand words.  The volunteering in the playroom and cooking for these women and their kids fills my heart.  I really and sincerely care about them and I’m grateful for the experience.  I more than ever realize the absolute necessity of facilities like SafeHouse Center. N.M.

Being a Children and Youth Program volunteer is a lot of fun and I have received as much (or more) than I have given.   When you open playroom you are rewarded with shouts of joy and beaming happy faces.  The children are a treat and it is actually relaxing to lose yourself in hilarious game of Apples to Apples after work on Friday night. What’s not to love about children who love to dress up, crawl through play tunnels and serve you a big plate full of play food?  The biggest reward for me is that the SafeHouse Center moms are so appreciative of the opportunity to send their kids to playroom and have a little time to themselves.  Some moms express that gratitude with words or big smiles and some have relief written all over their faces as they look forward to a little rest or time to get something done while the kids are having fun in the playroom. C.B.