May 25, 2017
By Laura Van Zandt, Executive Director

What Laura is Thinking: On Space

I’m thinking about space. I’m sure that doesn’t come as a surprise. REACH is moving to new office space – and we are thinking about that big move a lot.  I’m actually thinking about the idea of space in a broader sense… what are our spaces and how do those spaces affect us? What happens in a space, how is it used? And what does a space represent? Is there a place for me in a certain space? What does it mean to be placed somewhere or find our own place? How does a space make us feel? Do we feel “right” in a space? Along with layouts, finishes and furnishings, these are questions we are considering as we plan our new offices. What kind of a space does REACH offer/could REACH offer? Can we create a space that is purposeful and respectful, nice and modest, open and contained, private and welcoming, calming and intentional… and within a budget?

For staff, REACH is our work space. Work should be a space where you feel respected, knowledgeable, connected, valued, supported and compensated for your efforts.  For so many people – survivors, volunteers, partners, and other community members – the REACH office is a “third space” – neither home nor work. For all of the children, youth, adults, elders who will come through the door, how will the space feel?

Most of us think of home as a space where you can relax, let down your guard, be comfortable, share joy and sorrow, share food and drink, share stories and plans – or be alone and content – a place where you can feel in control, feel authentic, feel secure. A home space should be a safe space and we know that for too many people, that is not true. An unhealthy or abusive relationship can make home a scary place – not a place of safety or calm, instead home might be a prison, a secret, a constant challenge to keep the peace. Home is a place where you walk on eggshells – watching every word and move.

In that case, work – if you have it – might be a relief; or maybe it is brutal and simply necessary. Too many jobs offer lousy compensation, disrespect, antagonism and/or fear. Where is the relief from work or home if neither space is safe, fulfilling, or respectful? Where is the space to breathe? To contemplate? To process all the input and consider options in order to make decisions?

It has been frustrating not to have a physical space that matches the emotional space we try to provide for survivors. We have found other ways to convey that respect and dignity. Maybe this is the case for your home or workplace – it’s not as big or as nice as you’d like it to be. It’s often said that what makes a house a home is not the furnishings. It’s people…it’s love…it’s memories that are created there. Countless variations of this idea grace the cover of housewarming cards. But it’s not just a greeting card sentiment; it’s a philosophy to put into action. If your physical space is less than ideal, how are you creating that space you want in your home or relationship? Are you using respect, and open communication, and healthy boundaries?

We look forward bringing our caring and determination for change with us to the new office, which we hope will also fill each of us with hope and energy for a brighter future.