Thursday, October 29, 2015

Diversity in Police Force Can Aid Domestic Abuse Survivors

Interview with YWCA Bilingual Advocacy Specialist Beatriz Velasquez

We are nearing the end of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but our advocacy and support for survivors of domestic abuse is a year-round endeavor. At YWCA we recognize that each survivor’s story and experiences are unique, and we strive to highlight how issues like racism, heterosexism, and language barriers complicate the experience of domestic violence survivors seeking help.

 One issue that can factor into a survivor’s decision to reach out for help is whether or not they feel safe going to the police. The higher incidences of police brutality towards people of color has been at the forefront of our national discourse in particular this year, and it is one of the contributing factors towards the general mistrust of police officers by minority communities.

 One woman working with the Vancouver Police Department to improve diversity training in our own community is YWCA Clark County Bilingual Advocacy Specialist, Beatriz Velasquez. Beatriz has worked for YWCA for almost five years. In order to highlight the particular struggles faced by domestic abuse survivors in the Latino/Hispanic community, she advocates for them as a member of the Vancouver Police Department Chief’s Diversity Advisory Team (CDAT). The CDAT holds a monthly meeting where community members representing various local minority groups can share their thoughts and concerns with selected police officers, members of the Vancouver Fire Department, and representatives from the City of Vancouver’s human resources department.
Beatriz Velasquez

 Beatriz has personal experience in dealing with domestic abuse, and knows firsthand how hesitant many members of the Latino/Hispanic community are to reach out to the police. In some instances the distrust is encouraged by the abuser, telling their victims that if they call the police they will end up deported or in jail. In an interview with The Columbian earlier this year, Beatriz noted that “In my community, I can say 70 percent are afraid to make a (911) call. They worry about what will happen when an officer shows up.”

 Beatriz notes that in addition to the fear many in the Latino/Hispanic community feel towards the police, language barriers can also act as a significant roadblock in seeking help. This is an issue Beatriz has raised in her CDAT meetings, and feels positively that the Vancouver Police Department is taking her concerns seriously.

 “They are very aware of how important diversity is in the department,” she says, “ They are very open to listening to the concerns of the community, and listen very carefully when I voice my concerns. It has been a pleasure to work with them, and to see them as people who love their job, and their community.”

 This sort of unity, at the end of the day, is precisely why Beatriz continues to do the work she does, and why she is positive about the impact of the CDAT and other similar efforts in the future. “I believe that we can all be part of the solution through communication, understanding, and love for one another. We all may look different, but our intentions are the same: To make this world a better place for our loved ones.”

 Click here to read The Columbian’s full profile of the CDAT, and here for more information on domestic violence and YWCA’s SafeChoice Program.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

You're Invited to "In Her Shoes"

Join us Tuesday, October 20th to experience this free event which showcases the challenges and obstacles women in violent relationships often face. 

In addition to our ongoing efforts to raise funds for Purple Purse Challenge this October, YWCA Clark County is hosting the event “In Her Shoes” Tuesday, October 20th from 4-7pm.

 Described by our SafeChoice Program Director Stephanie Barr, "In Her Shoes" exists “to help people who have not experienced domestic violence better understand the experience of trying to survive and possibly leave an abusive relationship. It’s an interactive workshop where participants are given a true scenario and have to make choices about how to move forward with their lives.”

 Four different versions will be held with each staggered so that a different version begins every 15 or 20 minutes. YWCA offers each version, original, immigrant (offered in English and Spanish), teen and economic justice, in part to address the nuances and specific obstacles faced by domestic abuse survivors.

 “Each survivor has a unique story to tell,” notes Barr. “We think that even people who are familiar with the dynamics of domestic violence can learn something by stepping into the shoes of someone who may have faced barriers because of their age, country of origin, native language, sexual orientation, or economic status. There is so much to understand about the ways that other forms of oppression, such as racism and heterosexism, complicate the experience of domestic violence survivors who are trying to get help that truly meets their needs.”

 One of YWCA Clark County’s main goals in addressing domestic violence is to encourage our community to feel engaged and informed on how they can support survivors. The exercises and scenarios presented at "In Her Shoes" aim to do just that.

 Please consider joining us for this free and enlightening event this coming Tuesday, October 20th, and spread the word to family and friends on social media. Hope to see you all there!

Click here to open an "In Her Shoes" flyer containing all important information about the workshop.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Join the Purple Purse Challenge!

Help us Fundraise for Victims and Survivors of Domestic Violence through the Month of October. 

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, and part of YWCA Clark County’s mission during this time is to bring attention to and get involved with powerful and worthwhile campaigns and events that need support. One such campaign is The Allstate Foundation’s Purple Purse.

Aimed at “creating long-term safety and security for survivors through financial empowerment”, last year’s campaign drew over 140 community partners together in support of Purple Purse through fundraising from CrowdRise. In total, $2,500,000 was raised to help give survivors of domestic violence the financial knowledge, skills, and resources they need to escape the cycle of abuse.

One of the most common questions poised to survivors of domestic violence is “Why stay?” While the answers are complicated and different for each survivor, one of the top reasons women stay in abusive relationships is that they simply do not have the financial means to break free. According to The Allstate Foundation’s website, 98% of all domestic violence cases involve some sort of financial abuse.

Financial abuse can take on several different forms, but the main goal for the abuser is to isolate their spouse or partner from accessing financial independence, whether that involves preventing them from accessing banks or credit cards, monitoring their partner’s spending habits, restricting transportation, or impeding the ability of their partner to find employment.

This is exactly why one of the main goals of The Allstate Foundation’s Purple Purse is to help domestic abuse survivors better understand and have access to their own financial resources.

This year, YWCA Clark County is proud to be one of over 160 nonprofits joining in the challenge. All the funds we raise will be used to provide survivors with advocates who help with safety planning, housing, employment, childcare and other critical services to ensure a safer future for the entire family.

Click here to donate through YWCA’s Crowdrise page. The person who raises the most money for our SafeChoice program will win an actual purple purse designed by award winning actress and Purple Purse spokeswoman Kerry Washington!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Join Us for Give More 24: September 24th, 2015

YWCA Clark County is happy to once again be partnering with Give More 24, a regional 24 hour online giving challenge organized by the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington (CFSWW). This year the event will begin Thursday, September 24th at exactly 12AM and continue throughout the day.

Last year, through the generosity of our community, we were able to raise $2,514, and won an additional “Happy Hour” bonus from CFSWW for recruiting the most new donors from 5-7pm on the giving day. That’s a total of $3,514 that was able to be put towards YWCA’s mission to eliminate racism, empower women and promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.

This year, we’re aiming higher, and hope that with your support we can reach $5,000 by the end of the giving day. So mark your calendars, and plan to give more to help women, children and families escaping domestic violence. Give more to provide advocacy for survivors of sexual assault, and support abused and neglected children in the court system. Our outreach is only as powerful as the support we receive from our community. Give more to help us achieve more.

If you haven’t already, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates, and to help spread the word on Give More 24 to friends and family. Together we can make September 24th a day to remember!


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Interview with "Girls on the Run" Founder Molly Barker

Empowerment, at its core, is about making people aware of their value. It’s about providing the skills, knowledge, and belief to people that they can handle and overcome whatever life hands them, and it is essential to the mission of YWCA Clark County.
Molly Barker

At YWCA’s upcoming 2015 Annual Empower Luncheon, we’re recognizing the work of guest speaker Molly Barker, founder of Girls on the Run. Molly was kind enough to take the time before the event, and answer a few questions about her work and the importance of empowering young girls both physically and emotionally:

Q: What inspired you to start Girls on the Run in 1996? What had you been doing previously?

Prior to Girls on the Run I held a number of jobs, all working with youth. I was also doing my best to figure out who I was. After years of struggling with my own feelings of self-worth and then witnessing the struggle young girls were going through, I decided to start Girls on the Run.

Q: How does Girls on the Run integrate building both the physical and emotional abilities of young girls?

Each lesson creatively integrates physical activity with games and lessons that focus on any number of tools and skill sets that girls can use to stand up for themselves, and stay true to who they are. The games are fun, engaging and physically active.

Q: What about physical activity, or running in particular helps girls to feel empowered and capable?

I've been a runner since I was 14. While running didn't save me from some of the struggles I encountered in adolescence and young adulthood, it did and still does provide a space in my day where I feel the most empowered physically. Running also provides a space in my day where I can just be unencumbered by stress. I just breathe, listen to my feet on the pavement or path. It's a spiritual sanctuary in a way.

Q: Why the focus on girls in 3rd-8th grade?

3rd to 5th grade girls are moving into abstract thinking. Life becomes a bit more confusing. The notion of absolute "right" and absolute "wrong" gets fuzzy. Girls on the Run wants to reach girls in this critical stage of development, so they have the tools to navigate these "grey" areas of life with a sense of confidence and self-awareness. Our program for 6th through 8th grade further enhances these skills, but puts a great deal of emphasis on having the girls lead the conversations and lessons. They can take on leadership roles and apply what they learn in real life situations.

Q: In what ways does Girls on the Run emphasize relationship building and teamwork? Do you feel those skills are particularly important for school aged girls to learn, in comparison to other demographics?

I think these skills are important for all people! However, developing these skills at an early age makes it easier to hold onto them as we grow up into empowered adults.

Q: What is your proudest moment from Girls on the Run?

It was watching my own teenaged daughter coach the program. She wasn't even born when I started Girls on the Run. The joy in her eyes and the joy in the girls’ eyes was something I will never ever forget.

Q: What are you looking forward to about speaking at YWCA’s Empower Luncheon?

I love speaking and meeting new people. I love the mission of the YWCA. I love hearing the stories of empowered girls and women.There is too much good here to list!

Q: Can you tell me a little about your new organization The Red Boot Coalition?

The Red Boot Coalition addresses the current heightened level of "us versus them" so prevalent in our country today. The program, led by trained guides, creates places where people listen with compassion and share with vulnerability, and by doing so create a new conversation where solutions are found and people feel safe, connected and loved.

Thanks again to Molly for answering our questions with such insight and enthusiasm. If you’re interested in hearing Molly speak or learning more about YWCA’s Empower Luncheon on September 16th, click here. Registration closes September 8th.

Monday, August 17, 2015

YWCA Congratulates Lauren Sheridan

We’d like to congratulate our SafeChoice Volunteer Support and Advocacy Specialist, Lauren Sheridan for receiving a scholarship from YWCA USA to attend the World YWCA Quadrennial Council meeting this October in Bangkok, Thailand!

Organized every four years, the World YWCA Council is the largest gathering of YWCA members from around the world. According to World YWCA Council’s website the event promises to be, “a collectively empowering environment for the 600-800 women expected to take part from over 100 countries. It is a place of celebration of women’s leadership and of building vision for the future.”

Adds SafeChoice Domestic Violence Program Director, Stephanie Barr, “It is a time for membership engagement, decision-making, reflections, and networking. Lauren will be an excellent ambassador for YWCA Clark County and YWCA USA.”

The selection process was highly competitive, with Lauren earning only one of six scholarships awarded by the YWCA USA Board of Directors.

We again congratulate Lauren on her achievement, and look forward to hearing about her experiences in Thailand later this year!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Why I Volunteer for YWCA Clark County

Rachel Pinsky (left) with YWCA Clark County Volunteer Coordinator Nichole Peppers (right).

By Rachel Pinsky, YWCA Clark County Volunteer

I moved to Vancouver a couple of years ago. I was looking for a volunteer opportunity to do some good work, meet people, and get to know the community. In the past, I have assisted survivors of domestic violence, which is what initially led me to YWCA Clark County. When I found YWCA’s website, I was amazed at all their programs. There is a domestic violence shelter and advocacy services, counseling for survivors of sexual assault, a child care program for low-income families, a court appointed special advocate program that assists children who have been abused and/or neglected, and an independent living skills program for children aging out of the foster care system.

My background is working directly with survivors of domestic violence; however, my schedule was not conducive to doing the training necessary to provide that kind of direct service. I worked with the volunteer coordinator, and she found a place for me in the Philanthropy Department. I had never worked in fundraising, but I knew this was a vital part of a non-profit agency, and I was eager to learn develop new skills. I have volunteered in the Philanthropy Department for two years. I have learned a lot about organizing and setting up events, procuring auction items, and all the things that go into successful fundraising. The director and staff of the Philanthropy Department have done an excellent job of finding interesting tasks for me. I also enjoy the way they work together as a team.

My schedule recently became more flexible and I went through the training to be a SafeChoice volunteer. The SafeChoice training was fascinating. I learned about the dynamics of domestic violence, empowerment-based advocacy, and many other things. Since completing the training, I am learning to be a court advocate for survivors seeking a restraining order.

There are many things I love about volunteering at the YWCA Clark County. It is a warm, supportive environment. The people that work there love their jobs and work together as a team. In addition, there are so many volunteer opportunities that it allows volunteers to learn and grow while they are helping others. I highly recommend contacting the volunteer coordinator, Nichole Peppers. She is a great person to work with and she will find you a volunteer position that fits with your schedule and your interests. I also encourage potential volunteers to try different types of work within the organization —YWCA Clark County does so many great things. It is interesting to try them all so you can find your true calling.

For more information about volunteer opportunities at YWCA Clark County please contact Nichole Peppers at 360-906-9112 or The next training cycle begins September 3rd.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Celebrating 2015 Val Joshua Award Recipients

Diana Perez (left) and LaQuoya Tyler (right) posing with their awards.

Social justice does not just “happen.” It takes dedicated individuals, groups and communities to instigate change, keep the momentum, spread the word, and celebrate successes. One way YWCA Clark County celebrates those who are making a significant impact in social justice is through The Val Joshua Racial Justice and Youth Social Justice Awards. This annual award ceremony honors two local citizens who are carrying on the legacy of Val Joshua, a former YWCA Clark County board president and community leader who committed her life toward the elimination of racism.

The Val Joshua Racial Justice Award went to Diana Perez, President of Southwest Washington’s League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). As president of LULAC, Diana strives to be at the forefront of supporting the mission of the organization, which seeks to advance the economic condition, educational attainment, political influence, housing, health and civil rights of the Latino population of the United States.  

Diana re-established the local LULAC chapter in 2011 after noticing that, “the need for organizational skills in our community is huge, especially within underserved communities and in our youth.” She continued, “As an educated Latina, I felt that it was my responsibility to start giving back in a substantial way where there was purpose and meaning. I don't know if I would have had the courage to establish a new Council had it not been for the support of many in the Latino community.”

Despite all the wonderful work she’s done for the community, Diana was still shocked to learn she’d been given the award after receiving an email from Kate Sacamano, YWCA’s Director of Philanthropy, “I had to read her message three times to make sure, then I took a deep breathe, and thought of my parents while I fought back those tears.”  Diana was particularly proud to tell her two children about the award.

Recent Fort Vancouver High School graduate LaQuoya Tyler was presented with The Val Joshua Youth Social Justice Award and Scholarship, in addition to being one of four recent recipients of YWCA Clark County’s Young Woman of Achievement Award & Scholarship earlier in the year.

LaQuoya, who plans on attending Western Oregon University in the fall, was heavily active in her school’s Black Student Union. Additionally, LaQuoya logged hundreds of hours of voluntary service on behalf of HIV/AIDS patients:

“A few years ago, my family was approached to be a part of a pilot project called HIV/AIDS of Faith. Our purpose was to bring awareness to the churches in the NW Portland area about HIV/AIDS prevention and protection. It became a passion of mine ever since.”

She is equally passionate about mental health issues, and is a trained Mental Health First Aid worker with experience working with youth, and promoting mental health awareness programs like Open Minds Open Doors to help eliminate the stigma of mental illness.

LaQuoya credits her father and grandmother for instilling her with a passion to give back to her community at a young age. Like Diana, she was humbled that her advocacy was being acknowledged, “I was honored that the people around me thought so highly of me, and a little overwhelmed, if I’m being honest!”

Diana described the reception itself as “a sweet and loving environment”, and she particularly enjoyed meeting and being alongside LaQuoya. Both women felt touched by the support they received by members of the community, with Diana noting, “Some of my good LULAC friends attended, and the kind words shared by Mr. Jack Burkman was very special to me. The time and energy it took the staff from YWCA to celebrate the award is greatly appreciated.”

Adds LaQuoya, “I’m not really good at taking pictures or speaking on the spot in front of an audience, but it really was a wonderful experience. And the cake was delicious! I also really enjoyed the piece of art I received. It will be cherished for as long as I live.”

Congratulations once again to LaQuoya and Diana on your well-deserved awards. Thank you both for being shining embodiments of what it means to advocate for social justice and racial equality in our community!

Click here to see more photos from the event!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

LGBTQ Advocacy and Support at YWCA Clark County

Like so many across the country, YWCA of Clark County rejoiced in Friday’s SCOTUS decision declaring a constitutional right to marriage equality across the country. We’ve long embraced diversity, and stood for the fair and equal treatment of our LGBTQ citizens.

While we see this victory as monumental, we know the fight for full equality continues, and vow to stay vigilant in our advocacy and support. One way we do that is by making sure LGBTQ people always feel welcome, safe, and respected at YWCA of Clark County.

We reached out to Ariella Frishberg our Domestic Violence Prevention, Outreach, and Advocacy Specialist to help highlight the ways in which YWCA provides a safe space for our LGBTQ citizens of Clark County.

On YWCA’s staff dedication to equality:

AF: All of our advocates are trained on how LGBTQ folk are affected by domestic violence, so we are all equally able to assist an individual who identifies within that umbrella. As the LGBTQ advocate, I teach the trainings on domestic violence in the LGBTQ community, and work with other colleagues to make sure our services are as inclusive and welcoming as possible. I am also able to focus some of the outreach I do to the LGBTQ community specifically, by organizing YWCA’s involvement with Pride and presenting at local gay-straight alliances.
On our LGBTQ Community and Domestic Violence training:
AF: During our volunteer training cycle we have a three hour training devoted to domestic violence and marginalized communities. An hour of this training focuses on how domestic violence manifests in the LGBTQ community. In the training, volunteers and new staff are acquainted with vocabulary they may not be familiar with and introduced to some of the extra challenges and obstacles that LGBTQ survivors of violence face.
On some of the specific obstacles faced by LGBTQ survivors of abuse:
AF: There are a lot of reasons why someone might not leave an abusive relationship, and when you come from a marginalized community those reasons can be compounded by the oppression you already face. Examples are an abuser threatening to out the victim to friends or family if they leave, fear of not receiving services at domestic violence agencies because of their gender or sexuality, fear of isolation from an already small, very connected community, and fewer support networks to fall back on if they come from a family that isn’t accepting.
On our gender inclusive SafeChoice Domestic Violence Shelter:
AF: Gender inclusive shelters are becoming more common, but we are still the only one in Southwest Washington. One of the things that changed when the shelter became inclusive was that we have advocates on staff 24 hours a day, instead of just during the day. We also adapted the shelter so that each participant has their own room, instead of participants sharing rooms. One of the first things participants agree to when they come into shelter is an understanding that the shelter is gender inclusive and that we do not tolerate discriminatory language and behavior. Because staff are there at all times, participants are able to come to the advocacy office for support if a problem does arise. It’s important to us that everyone feel safe at our shelter.
Many thanks to Ariella for sharing her insight, and for being a powerful advocate for everyone who walks through YWCA’s doors!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Jean's Legacy Continues

We are saddened from the loss of Jean Lacey, a woman whose legacy extends throughout the region, nation and the world. During her 19 years as Executive Director of YWCA Clark County, she spearheaded outreach and prevention programs for teens, incarcerated women, and survivors of domestic violence. 

She also served with Soroptomist Vancouver, the Vancouver NAACP, and was appointed to the Washington State Commission of Women. Jean was one of 25 women from the US selected to travel the world with Mary Rockefeller, meeting Gahndi and President Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines along the way. From First Citizen to Women of Achievement, her resume is littered with awards for her leadership, community engagement and philanthropy.

Jean truly felt a responsibility to the community, “You must pay rent for the space you take here on this Earth, and the only way you can really do that is by doing good deeds in your community.” 

In 2015, YWCA Clark County is still reaping the benefits of Jean's leadership and vision. “Her service to our community will not be forgotten nor will her tremendous sense of humor,” says Sherri Bennet, current Executive Director of YWCA Clark County.
YWCA Clark County Executive Directors Joyce Kilpatrick, Sherri Bennett,  Kathy Kneip,  Val Ogden and Jean Lacey have lunch together at the Grant House.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Celebrating Our Generous Community

At YWCA we know that we would not be able to do what we do without the support of our community. That’s one of the reasons we love shining the spotlight on individuals who embody the values of commitment, service, respect, diversity, and teamwork.

Tanisha Harris, CASA Program Specialist at YWCA Clark County knows one such individual very well: Her mom, Karen Harris who in January started organizing a monthly giving drive for YWCA’s SafeChoice shelter, Y's Care program, Independent Living Skills program, and our multiple support groups.

“My mom has always had a caring heart, and a lot of compassion and empathy for people” Tanisha says, “She taught my brothers and me at an early age that charity begins at home. This year she wanted to do something that was meaningful and made an impact year round.”

Karen Harris says she first started to really think about giving back on a grander scale this past November. “I got to thinking that everyone is always so generous during the holiday season, but what happens after that? The donations are down, but the need is still there.”

After consulting with her daughter, Karen was surprised to discover just how many programs YWCA sponsors, particularly those that aid children, and decided to collect various goods each month to help support them.

Karen admits she was not quite sure how to get others involved at first. In January she told family members, and posted the idea to her Facebook account. The theme for January was canned goods. With the help of family and friends, Karen collected 136 cans of food to donate to YWCA!

Karen has since collected over 800 food and beverage items for families, youth and children served by YWCA! She’s also collected clothing items for infants and children, and in the coming months has plans to collect school supplies, toothbrushes, toothpaste and and other oral hygiene products.

Since February, Karen has been using the website to inform people in the area about her giving calendar.  She has also reached out to her neighborhood and 10 nearby neighborhood associations, with plans to expand even more in January. She has been overwhelmed by the support she has gotten within her community, and in particular at the kindness of strangers. She admits she probably only knows “about half” of the people who have participated in these drives, and has a donation box set up outside her home for people to leave supplies anonymously.

“That is probably the most rewarding thing for me,” Karen says, “that people are willing to help those in need. One time I checked the box and found 7 boxes of Cheerios - I actually cried seeing them. I thought to myself, this is the way it should be, people helping each other. We all need to keep in mind that at any given time it could be us that is in need of help.”

The only regret Karen has is that because so many donations are made anonymously, she’s unable to thank every person who contributed. Karen exudes humility when discussing her efforts, noting, “My faith leads me to believe that we are to help the underserved. I am just one person in this project. I only organized it, but it is the community that is making all of this possible, and I am so thankful to each one of them.”

We at YWCA are also thankful to everyone who has contributed, and to Karen for having the determination and spirit to put this all together.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Teambuilding with YWCA

By Sharon Svec

There’s a teambuilding exercise we do at YWCA Clark County, and every time I participate in it, I feel pride in myself, and in those I work with. We’re handed an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper, which lists each one of YWCA’s core values:
  • empowerment – we provide the tools and support that build self esteem and foster positive life choices 
  • diversity – we celebrate and respect our differences and recognize the dignity of each individual teamwork – we cooperate to achieve our shared vision 
  • commitment – we believe in and live our mission and are authentic in our word and deed 
  • service – we are leaders in providing quality and innovative service in a caring, compassionate, safe environment 
  • respect – we value and honor individual ideas, contributions and opinions 

We’re then asked to choose a value that we resonate with, and to describe how that value is significant to the work we do at YWCA. I admit that I almost always choose empowerment.

I’ve worked in a number of different places, and I’ve never experienced empowerment like I do at YWCA Clark County. Not only is it a leading value in the work we do with participants, but empowerment is stitched into the fabric of daily life at YWCA. You can walk down the hall any day, and see empowerment in action. Sometimes, it’s a supervisor providing a leadership role to a team member. Other times, it’s through the interaction of a father with his child, when he listens to her intently as she describes her day. And often, I witness empowerment in the smiles and conversations of those who’ve just attended a support group or a class on domestic violence.

 The 5 other values, which make up YWCA’s core values are shared throughout the course of the exercise. It’s a great teambuilder. We all get to know each other in the context of our shared values. 

YWCA employs a similar exercise during all staff meetings, when staff are encouraged to recognize a team member who has demonstrated a core value. We name the value and share how this person has exemplified it in their work. In the end, we come out of the exercise feeling pride in our selves, in each other, and in the work we do. Practicing this acknowledgment helps remind us of why we do this work, and that we’re not alone in seeking the best for our community.

Right now, YWCA is offering an opportunity for all people in the community to join YWCA in this teambuilding exercise. Here’s how you can join in!

  • Share your favorite value with a photo, video or statement using the hashtag #yvaluesmatter.
  • Tag your post with @ YWCA Clark County (Facebook) or @ywcacc (Twitter) and your post will appear on YWCA’s social media pages. Your post will also display on YWCA’s website.
  • Invite friends to share in this community-wide exercise by tagging them in your post.
  • You can also make a donation in recognition of a friend who shares our values.

I hope that you join YWCA during this campaign to help spread awareness of our services, fundraise for our programming, and ultimately shape our community into one of peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

My First Lobby Day

By Amira Rebihic, YWCA Clark County Volunteer

In October of 2014, I sat down with my advisor at WSUV and discussed my options for helping others while learning more about local communities and populations. I received a huge packet full of organizations that offer volunteer programs, and YWCA stuck out to me. After contacting Lauren Sheridan, I got in touch with my current supervisor Ariella, and decided it was a great fit. Never would I have imagined that I would get to do a lot more than one-on-one help with participants.

Annette, Amir and Hoda representing YWCA in Olympia.
On March 19th 2015, I was lucky enough to attend Lobby Day in Olympia, WA. Alongside five very dedicated and passionate women from YWCA Clark County, I met with District 17’s Senator Don Benton and two representatives, Lynda Wilson and Paul Harris. Initially when I heard about the trip, I was under the impression I would be going to engage in a peaceful protest of some kind and/or make phone calls to raise awareness of domestic violence. Oh boy was I in for a ride! After three hours of training led by the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, I ended up sitting in the offices of the respective Senator and representatives, engaging in conversations that dug deeper than simply telling them where we come from and that we need funding. Thankfully, they all supported our cause and understood the importance of the daily work that is done at both our office and shelter, and most of their opinions are reflected in their votes.

Just a few months ago, I myself was ignorant to just how unfortunately prevalent domestic violence is in our area. At one YWCA location, over 13,000 hotline calls were made. Being a part of a team that focuses on not just helping survivors of DV, but does their best to educate our youth and empower women to prevent it is truly a privilege. I am grateful I had the opportunity to attend Lobby Day and talk to the people who ultimately keep our programs running – all the constituents who take their own time and energy to help others regain their identity and confidence.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Make History During Women's History Month

After International Women’s Day, and amidst Women’s History Month, I reflect on what it is, what it was, and what it will be – to be a woman. I suppose it’s quite different everywhere.

In many parts of the world, women are mistreated and abused. This is accepted behavior in a number of cultures, and standing up against this abuse from within the community can be life-threatening. Then there are small pockets of matrilineal communities like the Maliku in India or the Mosuo in China where abuse is rare, if existent at all.

Here in Clark County, we experience both the freedoms of our current culture and the oppressions of a lingering one. As a result, women and children are abused, raped, bought, sold or disrespected in another regard. Also, as a result, those of us living free of abuse are in a unique position to take action against it, without fear that we will be arrested, jailed, or beaten.
Action can take on many forms. Here are just a few examples:

Carry that Weight
College student Emma Sulkowicz carried a mattress around campus during her sophomore year, drawing international attention to the issue of campus rape. As a result of Emma’s actions, and those of thousands of others less publicized actions, colleges all over the US are being required to implement sexual assault training programs for faculty and staff. Many other colleges are taking additional steps to protect the victim’s rights.

Erin Merryn changes legislation
Guest speaker at YWCA’s luncheon in 2012, Erin Merryn is changing legislation one state at a time. Erin travels from state to state to get Erin’s Law enacted across the US. In addition to continuing education and training for teachers, the law provides that health education programs require age-appropriate sexual abuse and assault awareness and prevention. 

Prompted by the NFL’s response to Ray Rice, and other abusive players, #WhyIStayed engaged people in a conversation all over the world about why victims stay in abusive relationships. It was followed by an even more empowering conversation about #WhyILeft

Take advantage of your freedoms, and use them to free your neighbors, friends, and community members from abuse and oppression. At YWCA, we can help.

For nearly 100 years, YWCA Clark County has advocated for the rights of oppressed populations. Stand with us as we advocate for change in legislation that supports survivors, eliminates oppression, and protects children. Share our contact information with a neighbor or friend who may need help. Join us as a volunteer, donor or partner, and together, we can fight oppression and abuse.

Volunteer training starts April 2, 2015
To get involved in volunteering or in other ways, find us online or call us at 360-696-0167