Day Twenty Eight: Joy Fisher Williams (Arlington, MA)
I was honored to be invited by a colleague to write a blog post for the Dressember empowerment campaign and against human exploitation as my own experiences have shown me the impact we can have when we come together for good.
As a 20-year resident of the Boston area and a native Midwesterner, I’m one who has established a new home and a new “family” some 1,000 miles away from my parents and siblings. This was only possible through the great friendships and rich support network that has risen up around my husband, children, and me over time.
I realize such a network—or preferably, a large-scale embrace—is not something readily available to the disenfranchised. Women who are raped or beaten often suffer in the privacy of their own dormitories or homes, in the guilt and shame that tells them surely, they played a role and no one will believe them if they report the abuse. Children are the most vulnerable. They depend on parents and caretakers, and when those people cannot offer stability, their day to day is whittled down to one basic necessity: SURVIVE.
I’ve been surprised by how far a little bit of intent goes in making an impact on those we cannot easily track or reach directly through our giving. For example, my Boston network has led me to a wonderful organization called Transition House, a domestic violence agency whose emergency shelter, short and long-term housing program, and community outreach program have touched more than 12,000 women, children, and men since its founding in the 1970s.
It was the conversation initiated by a fellow daycare mom that led me to a lunch with the director of the organization, and another intentionally small, local fundraising event I later organized for Transition House with the same daycare mom that led to an opportunity for my friend in human resources to offer resume writing and job interview training to the clients at the shelter. That event was held at my favorite area boutique, whose staff not only had some pressing queries of their own about domestic violence but also offered a possible solution for their overstock DRESSES: could they pass them along to Transition House clients?
And dresses take us to Dressember, and to the matter at hand…
Did you know that only 15% of charitable donations go to those living in or with poverty, homelessness, illness, and/or abusive situations? (This is according to a Congressional Budget Office study detailed in this article.) With 1 in 4 women experiencing intimate partner violence at some time in their lives—not to mention the millions affected globally by human trafficking—we can do more.
In our efforts to be intentional, it can be hard to know where to start. I might suggest the following:
- Start small, think local: do you know an organization or someone involved in an organization doing good in your community? Reach out to them! Perhaps you can fill a gap in their volunteer base with your unique skill set (in my case, it was marketing).
- Leverage your network(s): once you find a role, reach out to your friends, colleagues, and church or club members and bring them in to learn more about your organization. Cultivate your donor base by showing—not just telling—them about the work you’re doing and inviting them to participate.
- Expand your circle and your reach: can your organization do more? Can your network do more to have an impact at a regional, national, or global level? Don’t be content to limit yourself to the local once you recognize the global possibilities!
For what it’s worth, I’m somewhere in between steps 2 and 3. And while I prepare to make the leap, I am enthusiastic about the effect a whole lot of intention can have!
My Boston family—shown in this picture with me in a dress purchased at that favorite local boutique—reminds me that home is less a place and more a feeling. That feeling is safety, security. For those trapped in the cycles of violence, poverty and human trafficking my hope is first for a way out, and ultimately for safety and security. May my intention be a reflection of that hope.
Joy Fisher Williams, Arlington, MA
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