FVPC has amazing volunteers. While FVPC is often only a slice of our volunteers’ lives, the work they do can impact their entire journey. This month, we are highlighting four previous volunteers who are making a difference in their communities using some of what they learned during their time at FVPC.
When did you volunteer with FVPC and for how long?: I helped with hotline day shifts, from spring 2008 to spring 2011.
What are you doing now?: I recently relocated to Oakland, CA to begin my post-grad adventures. I arrived with an assurance that I would begin my career path in the non-profit sector, particularly focused on women’s empowerment. I am currently finishing up a fellowship at Women’s Initiative, a Bay Area non-profit that trains and supports low-income women to start their own businesses. I have recently become involved in the Occupy Oakland community gatherings, and was able to march with tens of thousands of citizens to shut down the city Port.
How has your time with FVPC impacted your current situation?: My years at FVPC have impressed upon me a consciousness that remains aware of potential life situations someone may be experiencing. At Women’s Initiative, many of our clients have been or are currently in abusive relationships; and so when I contact a woman I bring that awareness and sensitivity by remaining more anonymous on voicemails and by cultivating a safe space where she can share any situation that is affecting her as a business owner or as a person.
Do you have any words of advice or pearls of wisdom for current volunteers?: Remain open and supportive in all circumstances. You may never know when your extension of support touches someone in a way that they are never able to share with you.
You can learn something about yourself from every person you come in contact with. Being a volunteer can sometimes produce a false sense of one-way assistance. Every client you come in contact with can teach you so much about so much; as you actively listen, make such that you are truly taking in the wisdom that each person brings with them.
When did you volunteer with FVPC and for how long?: I started training to become a volunteer February of 2010. Once training ended I signed on as a phone advocate daytime and night. I also helped with community education events. I stayed on as a volunteer up until I left for the Peace Corps in January 2011.
What are you doing now?: I am a volunteer for the Peace Corps in rural Nicaragua. My assignment is to work on maternal and child health. This makes my primary job community health education. I do a lot of hiking through the mountains looking for pregnant girls to talk to.
How has your time with FVPC impacted your current situation?: One of the biggest factors affecting women’s health in Nicaragua is domestic violence. Whereas at FVPC part of our job as advocates is to offer information to resources such as shelters, hospitals, lawyers, daycare, support groups, etc. Here in Nicaragua we lack all of these resources. One of the best things I can do for Nicaraguan women is to be a listening ear. Training with FVPC helped me learn how to be an active listener. I can be a support for a woman in need and I can validate her feelings when she feels like nobody understands.
Do you have any words of advice or pearls of wisdom for current volunteers?: Keep in mind that listening is valuable. There will probably be many moments when you feel like you can’t really “do” anything for a client. Being there in that office when they may not have anyone else to turn to is really important.
You will carry these skills and this experience with you for the rest of your life. Unfortunately, domestic violence is a worldwide chronic problem. Like me, you may be asked to play the role of advocate to a friend, coworker, or family member and you will feel incredibly frustrated about how to help them. Then you will think back and remember that what they need from you is your listening ear and your support. That can be their first step on their path to safety, and maybe changing their lives for the better.
When did you volunteer with FVPC and for how long?: I started volunteering with FVPC late in the summer of 2010. I became their Women’s Studies Intern during the Spring of 2011. I would consider myself on temporary leave from FVPC, but I hope to go back to volunteering at FVPC after my graduation from law school.
What are you doing now?: I’m currently a 1L at UNC’s School of Law.
How has your time with FVPC impacted your current situation?: During my internship at FVPC, I was able to spend every Wednesday in Domestic Violence Court in Hillsborough. At that time I had already decided I wanted to attend law school, but working with our clients in the courtroom opened my eyes to a whole new area of law that needs passionate advocates. Since I started law school I have become the Pro Bono Chair for UNC Law’s Domestic Violence Action Project. We are in the midst of planning a new “Know Your Rights” presentation that will inform members of the community about the legal recourses available to domestic violence victims and will hopefully clarify some key questions that domestic violence victims often have. I am also working with the Wake County District Attorney’s office through a pro bono project to help prosecute domestic violence cases. I know my experience at FVPC deepened my insight into domestic violence in order to grant me a better understanding of the impact of domestic violence on our community. Also, my memories of clients and staff at FVPC greatly contribute to my drive to continue to work with domestic violence.
Do you have any words of advice or pearls of wisdom for current volunteers?: One thing I would like to say is that it’s ok to feel something after interacting with clients. As advocates you will be confronted with challenging and at times emotionally draining experiences. You will most likely have at least one client whose story affects you more than you were expecting. Be honest with yourself about how you’re feeling. Think about why you’re responding to the situation the way you are and then take advantage of the amazing staff members at FVPC to talk it out. You will grow as a person and you will become a stronger advocate if you take care of yourself. And remember, the work you are doing is invaluable and greatly appreciated!
When did you volunteer with FVPC and for how long?: I volunteered with FVPC for three and a half years during my time as an undergrad at UNC. During my first semester, I heard in my women’s studies 101 class that FVPC was looking for childcare volunteers. After doing the training I decided I wanted to do more than childcare and so I did a weekly hotline shift as well. The most influential volunteering, for me, ended up being the support groups I got to co-facilitate. One of the groups was at a transitional housing shelter for women and children. It made a lasting impression on me to see the devastating convergence of the cycles of poverty and violence.
What are you doing now?: I’m now working for Pisgah Legal Services in Western North Carolina. I do intake with all of the low-income clients who call us about domestic violence. As part of the application for services, every survivor of domestic violence is offered safety planning. My time at FVPC prepared me to safety plan effectively and broadly with the diverse range of clients I speak to daily. It has been an incredibly empowering role to match up survivors with attorneys who help them get domestic violence protective orders, divorces, custody of their children, as well as legal advice or representation on any issue that impacts their basic needs like housing, health, or education.
How has your time with FVPC impacted your current situation?: I can’t imagine I would have such a fulfilling job today if it hadn’t been for that announcement about FVPC needing child care volunteers during my first year in college! Back then I would never have expected domestic violence prevention to become a passion. I remain inspired by the survivors I meet or spoke to on FVPC’s hotline, who had the bravery to come forward about their experiences and the courage to make drastic changes in their lives.
Do you have any words of advice or pearls of wisdom for current volunteers?: I would say the most valuable lesson I learned from FVPC’s staff and volunteers was that doors and hearts open when you beginning every interaction with compassion.
Wow! These volunteers are doing great things! You never know where a volunteer opportunity will take you, as Lily said, it just might impact your entire life’s direction. It is fantastic that each of these volunteers has channeled their passion for being a domestic violence advocate into a satisfying and unique future. Good luck to all of them! I hope you were as inspired by their stories as I was.