Sunday, September 12, 2010

Changing Hurt to Hope

One of the things that fell to the wayside when I was struggling with my own depression was reaching out and helping others. It took all I had, day to day, just to deal with my own life. But when things began to lighten, one of the first resolutions I made was to get re-involved in some way, because I missed that sense of giving back in a tangible way.

When I lived in the Bay Area, I worked as a volunteer in the field of domestic violence prevention, and also did rape crisis hot line work. I did a number of things: wrote letters, accompanied women to court, trained other volunteers. But what I enjoyed most was giving talks to groups in the community about domestic violence, educating people and raising awareness.

A couple of months ago, I contacted the YWCA in Sonoma County to ask about volunteering. The outreach team was newly formed, and while brainstorming ideas for the upcoming Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, I came up with the notion of combining my passion for social justice with my passion for words - the result is "Changing Hurt to Hope: Writers Speak Out Against Domestic Violence."

We have solicited poetry, "flash" fiction (1000 words or less) and memoir from writers in the county on domestic violence. On three nights in October, the writers will read their words at public events, and a representative from the YWCA will give a brief talk on domestic violence, and the services provided by the Y. The events are set for Oct. 8 in Sebastopol at the Center for the Arts, on Oct. 15 at the Arts Council of Sonoma County in Santa Rosa, and on Oct. 22 at the Cloverdale Arts Alliance First Street Gallery.

It has been a challenging and fun project. A team of three volunteers, working with the YWCA's volunteer coordinator Donata Bohanec, has been meeting at least every other week since mid-July, writing up press releases, setting writing guidelines, securing locations for the events, making plans. I have also been coordinating submissions, and so have been in contact with writers. It feels wonderful to be doing something that matters, even though it is a little terrifying, because there's always the chance that it will flop - we didn't have much planning time, because we got a late start, so we've been playing catch up.

In the meantime, I am working on my own submission. Because I am a writer, for one. And secondly, I am a survivor of domestic violence, which is one of the reasons that this issue resonates for me at my very core.

For more information, go to the YWCA's website at this address. (FYI - if any of you are considering writing an entry, I have extended the deadline to Oct. 1. Just send me an email and let me know that an entry is on its way.

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