Gina Li joined our community of volunteers in December 2011. Since then, she has been involved in so many of W.O.M.A.N., Inc.’s efforts to support survivors of domestic violence! Gina has assisted with administrative projects and has been a representative at countless community events, and besides that, she regularly takes early morning shifts on the crisis line. Most recently, she has put a ton of energy into our grassroots fundraising efforts by throwing her own karaoke fundraiser party, and is helping to head up our volunteer events committee. We are constantly impressed by Gina’s sense of commitment, quality of work, and skills as a leader and team member. We’re so grateful she’s here! To learn more about Gina, check out an interview with her below.
When did you first get involved with WOMAN, Inc?
I started volunteering with W.O.M.A.N., Inc. in March 2012; I completed the 40-hour domestic violence training the month before (i.e. February 2012).
What inspired you to do anti-violence work?
So many different factors drew me to this field of anti-violence work. To name just a few, growing up, I heard a lot of gender-specific stereotypes tossed around and while I know it was meant to be harmless, I couldn’t shake it off completely and wondered why people’s differences meant that they should be designated/labeled with certain behaviors (i.e. being told that girls—but not boys—need to make sure that they are proper/polite at all times).
Additionally, while in college, I took a course series in “Women Studies,” which really got me reflecting on not only the conspicuous forms of prejudice and discrimination, but also the lesser obvious ways sexism, racism, and classism intersect and are embedded in society. One of the main “quotes” that stuck with me the most is that “equal does not mean the same.” This points to a very important lesson reinforced in the 40-hour training which is to “meet [domestic violence] survivors where they’re at.” Each individual we serve is exactly that—an “individual”—and it is important to acknowledge and listen to each person’s unique stories in order to truly help them.
These experiences, amongst numerous other reasons, drew me to W.O.M.A.N., Inc. and anti-violence work, as I wanted an opportunity to help empower others to realize their amazing potential as individuals.
What kind of opportunities have you been involved with here?
I began serving as a hotline peer counselor” on the 24/7 crisis line right after completing the 40-hour domestic violence training in March 2012. I have been lucky to serve on the crisis line at different times of the week (i.e. weekday mornings, weekend afternoons, and most recently, weekend early mornings), allowing me the chance to speak with and listen to a wide variety of survivors.
I’ve also attended several outreach events, such as SFWAR’s Walk Against Rape, Surviving and Thriving, and most recently, The Vagina Monologues, in which I had the opportunity to share with other community agencies information about W.O.M.A.N., Inc.’s general philosophy (i.e. survivor-oriented, harm-reduction and strengths-based) and the services offered.
Most recently, I’ve become involved with the new “Events Committee,” grown out of an interest and need for planning different fundraising events. I co-hosted a “Karaoke Night” last year in December with Julia, a fellow (awesome) volunteer. Since then, I’ve been a part of a community of other volunteers all set out to help plan different events to not only benefit W.O.M.A.N., Inc., but also to respond to the needs of the broader community, like self-defense for all people.
How has your involvement impacted your life?
My involvement with W.O.M.A.N., Inc. has taught me so many lessons. Amongst the many, it has taught me the importance and powerful impact of simply listening and also, that people are such “powerful”/resilient creatures. My initial tentative belief that people can rise above all obstacles has gradually solidified with each survivor and community member I’ve spoken with.
What pieces of wisdom would you share with new volunteers or community members who are interested in supporting W.O.M.A.N., Inc.?
Keep calm and truly listen to what the survivor needs. Not everything will always go “smoothly,” but you can never go “wrong” if your heart’s in the right place and you want to help.
*Also, if you ever have a tough interaction, don’t be afraid to reach out to a fellow volunteer or W.O.M.A.N., Inc. staff. Along those same lines, practice good self-care.
What do you enjoy the most about volunteering at W.O.M.A.N., Inc.?
I like that the agency provides such a wide variety of opportunities for volunteers to get involved with. On a similar note, I like how the agency invests so much time and education in their volunteers so that they are prepared to take on these opportunities.
Can you share one fun fact about yourself?
I can hula-hoop forever…yes, forever!