The W.O.M.A.N., Inc. Volunteer Experience: Survivor Support Volunteers

Crisis Line Program Training

Crisis Line Program Training

For many years, our volunteer program was focused on a few key opportunities: working on our 24-hour crisis line, with our children’s program, and in our outreach program. These opportunities continue to be central to our work in that the crisis line is often the first point of contact for survivors. Volunteers working on the line understand what an important role they play in helping survivors to feel safe and comfortable when accessing support. They offer emotional support through peer counseling, utilizing skills such as validation, reframing, and active listening, as well as help survivors put together plans for staying safer. Volunteers inform the clients about our other support services and how to access them, and provide appropriate referrals to outside agencies.

“Working on the crisis line has been an eye-opening experience. It is sometimes sobering, but always powerful to hear the survivors’ stories, and rewarding to be able to hold space for them.” – Rowan

Our children’s program was designed to offer support to the children of survivors while the parent attends support group. This both reduces a barrier to accessing support for the survivor and provides a safe and structured environment for the youth to process their own experiences around violence and to practice healthy and respectful interactions with adults and other children. During group, Marriage and Family Therapy interns and trainees and volunteers facilitate art projects designed by A Window Between Worlds. These projects offer a hands-on approach to healing that many youth and adult clients connect with.

“Volunteering with W.O.M.A.N., Inc.’s Children’s Group is a truly unique and rewarding experience.  Although I aim to make a difference in the lives of the children that come to the group, at the end of the day, it is the children who have made an impact on me–their strength, courage, and sweet personalities are ones I will never forget.” – Jaymie

Volunteers working in the outreach area help to field requests for presentations and facilitate workshops for community members on topics like domestic violence, healthy relationships, consent, and how to support friends and family who are in violent relationships. They also attend community events (such as Pride or Carnaval) in order to raise awareness about domestic violence and our services, and help to promote our events in the community.

“Working for the Outreach team for W.O.M.A.N., Inc. has been both an enriching and positive experience. Any group or individual we come in contact with shows nothing but support for the work that W.O.M.A.N., Inc. and agencies like ours do everyday.” – Annie

In the last few years, we have expanded our program to offer many more opportunities that speak to the diverse experiences, interests, and strengths of volunteers who join our community. Bilingual Spanish-speaking volunteers have the opportunity to work with our Latina program, providing support to monolingual Spanish-speaking survivors who are receiving case management services with us. In this area, volunteers take Spanish calls on the crisis line, provide consultations to people interested in the program, peer counseling, and safety planning. They are also trained to accompany clients to appointments with lawyers, police, and health care providers in order to relieve some of the overwhelm that comes along with navigating intimidating systems with limited English proficiency. Volunteers also work alongside our Latina Program Manager to support administrative projects, reporting, translation, presenting to Spanish-speaking community groups, and more.

“I really love volunteering for the Latina Program because it’s an opportunity for me to use my Spanish speaking, a skill I’ve had all my life, to assist a population in our community that may not have otherwise reached out for help due to language barriers.” – Monique

In addition to serving Spanish-speaking survivors, we are committed to cultivating a diverse pool of volunteers with different cultural identities and language skills. For bilingual volunteers, there is an opportunity to join our Language Support Advocates pool. Folks who participate in this area provide on-call support to the crisis line so that when a survivor calls the line or comes into the office, we increase our ability to serve them in their native language. This can make all the difference when taking the risk of reaching out to unfamiliar people or organizations for support and information.

We offer a couple of advanced opportunities to volunteers who have not only completed the Survivor Advocate training, but have also actively volunteered in a direct capacity for at least a couple of months and then complete additional training. One of these opportunities is working with survivors in-person during our ‘drop-in support hours.’ Three times a week, survivors can walk into our office for support and information about our services. Volunteers sit down and have a conversation with each individual in order to assess whether our services are the best fit for them, to offer emotional support, to work on a safety plan, and to make relevant referrals. This is how clients connect with our therapy program, Latina program case management, children’s and support groups.

“Working during consultation hours has been a great experience! It is such a huge impact; just seeing the survivor face-to-face and having them walk out of the office with a smile and a little more hope is a great feeling.” – Adilia

Sometimes, our more experienced volunteers are offered the chance to train for support group facilitation. In this role, volunteers work alongside staff or MFT interns/trainees to lead English or Spanish-speaking support groups, helping to hold the space, enforce ground rules, manage time, and ensure that each participant has the opportunity to share. Facilitators incorporate educational topics related to domestic violence, such as healthy relationships and boundaries, red flags of an abusive relationship, what to expect when leaving, etc. They also sometimes utilize art projects from A Window Between Worlds, as well as meditation and visualization, breathing techniques, and somatic practices.

“The training to facilitate support groups at W.O.M.A.N., Inc. was great–it was really comprehensive and covered a lot of ground but was interesting and engaging at the same time. The training in combination with observing support groups means that you get a really clear understanding of what the support groups are for and how they work.” – Helen

As you can see, volunteers are instrumental in increasing our capacity to directly support survivors! Within our training and programs, they have the opportunity to hone their skills as advocates, try on many different hats, and make a difference in the lives of other community members. In turn,  our team has the opportunity to learn from each individual’s experience, perspective, and creative approach to supporting survivors.

For information about our volunteer program, please email volunteercoord@womaninc.org.

Want to know more about the W.O.M.A.N., Inc. volunteer experience? Click here!

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