(by guest blogger Ann Taylor, Overnight Advocate)
I have been working at Renewal House for almost 15 years and I love the work. I started as a part-time overnight advocate for one or two nights a week and eventually took on the Monday-Friday position.
My story is interesting because I found out about Renewal House through a training led by then-director Joyce King at my other job. I liked Joyce and I liked what she had to say about the work. So I stayed in touch with her and eventually started working at Renewal House.
It wasn’t until after I started at Renewal House that I learned exactly what domestic violence was -- and that I, too, was a survivor of domestic violence. As I went through the training and listened to the stories of the women in our program, I could relate to what they were saying. It was as though that story, that part of myself, had been tucked away in the inner part of my spirit – and then it was able to show itself once I was in the safety of this community. Before that time, my abusive relationship was something that had just happened – and then it went away – and I had never really healed from it. When I started working at Renewal House I knew I needed to work on that, to talk about it and acknowledge it. I have had many opportunities to do that with other staff and with a counselor, and I can say that I have come to peace with it now. It was powerful to realize that I am a survivor, just like the guests here at Renewal House.
Sometimes I will share my experience with the residents here, but not always. I am careful about when it makes sense to share my story and when it doesn’t. There are times when I know it will be helpful to share the information, just so they know that I understand some of what they are going through. I know my experience is not the same as theirs, but we do have a common bond because of making it through. I know how it felt when it happened to me, and I know how important it is to have people supporting you through your healing. And I am grateful to Renewal House for being a part of my healing as well.
What I like the most about working at Renewal House are the people I get to meet and the stories I hear while they stay with us. Everyone has such intricate and complicated stories, and serving as a holding place for them and all of the pain they have suffered is meaningful to me. I also love to see the progress they make in their own healing, both for themselves and their children. That is a blessing!
I help to lead the spirituality group once a week in the shelter, and I appreciate this opportunity to give space to residents to share from their hearts. It’s a wonderful resource for them to have in addition to the domestic violence and parenting groups. It is place for them to express their joys and concerns in the context of their own faith, whatever that might be. Sometimes we sit in silence, sometimes we sing, sometimes we laugh and talk, sometimes there are tears – and all of it is healing for them as individuals and as a community of survivors. I feel lucky to have the chance to walk this journey with them.