Well over a year ago, my REACH colleagues and I accepted the reality that we would be doing our work remotely “for a while.” That ‘while’ has turned into 15 months… and counting. As we approach the end of our fiscal year, I reread the emails we’ve exchanged over these months. I look at REACH’s social media. I scroll through texts and page through the notebooks I have filled. All along – and still today – I see truly amazing dedication, compassion, integrity, and humanity. We have also faced loss and pain and sadness in our own lives and in the lives of the people and communities we serve, as well as all around us. Creating space for change is our work – and indeed our work has changed over these many months – something we knew would be true. Some of those changes have increased access for survivors, pushed us into new modalities, created new relationships, and opened up opportunities. We asked our colleagues to offer some reflections, and a member of each program shared their thoughts on their experience of this very unusual time.
Hillel, Grants Manager
I’m not wild about working at home. Oh, don’t get me wrong. There is certainly something appealing about rolling right out of bed and being at the office, and wearing sweats all day increases my creativity. But the trade-off is that I don’t see my wonderful and talented colleagues passing in the hall or grabbing lunch in the kitchen. I don’t get to hear in passing about their current projects, challenges, and accomplishments. I don’t hear the buzz of survivors and their children coming into the office for meetings. By definition, REACH is all about relationships, and Zoom is no substitute for sharing stories and snacks in person. I look forward to breathing the same air as the amazing cast and crew of REACH Beyond Domestic Violence.
Katiana, Shelter Advocate
I started at REACH in the beginning of April and although my interviews were in person, by my start date the organization switched to working remote. This was unfortunate because in part, I chose to apply for the position because I missed working in a residential setting and the constant “go, go, go” energy it can entail. My advocacy started exclusively via the phone and I did not meet clients in person for several months. We were able to slowly start bringing back guests from the hotel to the shelter when numbers dropped in early fall, but by the end of the season, COVID numbers spiked again and we returned to housing our shelter guests in a hotel. Since our clients are staying in the hotel for a prolonged period of time, I would visit weekly to complete any advocacy that cannot be done in person and ensure that the property was intact. The scariest part of this time was actually getting COVID and the fear that you never know how long you’ve had it or who you could’ve transmitted it to when asymptomatic. Plus, getting COVID for Christmas was not exactly how I intended on spending the holidays. Although, I understand and respect all the precautions taken by the agency to keep us safe, it saddens me that I have not really had the opportunity to enjoy the constant hustle and bustle that is the residential field. I truly miss being surrounded by people and the day-to-day chaos I have learned to love about residential.
Lauren, Community Engagement Specialist
Engaging communities this past year has been… different. I normally spend much of my time in coffee shops, getting to know local community members and finding how their interests and passions overlap with the mission of REACH. I’ve still found ways to support our community, but it’s not been without challenges. It’s tough to build relationships through a screen. And yet, groups I’m actively supporting in my role like the Sudbury-Wayland-Lincoln Domestic Violence Roundtable, have seen some of the highest attendance and engagement in years. I think perhaps this year has allowed us to redefine what engagement looks like. I’m so curious to see how my work and the needs of the community will continue to be redefined as we move into these next phases.
Pam, Community Advocate
Three weeks after starting as a community advocate at REACH, the office was closed due to COVID and we began working remotely. Navigating my role and building rapport with clients took on a new meaning. As all systems were affected by shut downs, our team pulled together and maintained a closeness to help survivors and ourselves to take our services to the next level when survivors have needed us most. We continue to provide services for survivors, which has presented challenges, but we have managed to keep at it and have successfully implemented two cycles of online support groups, one of which I co-facilitate, which has been an amazing experience. No challenge has been too much for this team! We love what we do and I am so happy to be able to be a part of this special group who is dedicated, regardless of circumstances, to providing the best we can for our survivors every day.
Together, the REACH team is seeking to define our next chapter. We are committed to our ongoing racial equity work, to our advocacy with immigrant survivors and communities, to our efforts to empower family, friends and neighbors – always lifting the voices of survivors. We want to reclaim the connection and energy we created in our workspaces, while holding onto the lessons learned and the silver linings we found amidst the difficulties.
As we close this chapter and start planning for the year ahead, we hope that you will stand by us as partners in ending domestic violence. We are all in this together, and together, we can create a community that is safer, more inclusive, and supportive of all. Please continue this journey with us and make a fiscal year end gift today.