by Leah McConnell, Greater Boston Playspace Program and Volunteer Manager, Horizons for Homeless Children
I work for Horizons for Homeless Children, a non-profit that provides programming and support for families currently experiencing homelessness. We partner with a number of family homeless shelters across the state and create child-friendly, trauma-informed Playspaces inside the shelter so that the children in these shelters have opportunities to learn, grow, and thrive. We also recruit and train volunteers who play with the children at the shelter for two hours each week.
REACH is one of the many programs to which we send volunteers, and over the past five years our partnership has continued to grow. Because REACH focuses on serving survivors of domestic violence, they require additional training for all volunteers, training that I’ve been fortunate enough to attend this fall.
When I first saw how many training sessions there were and the variety of topics we would be covering, I immediately felt overwhelmed; I was particularly nervous that after each new session I would completely forget what I had learned the week before. Instead, each session has felt like another layer being added to my own understanding of domestic violence. Likewise, each week we’ve continued to build a safe and supportive community within our training group.
We’ve learned so much during training that it’s difficult to pick a couple things I’ve learned without delving into the whole experience. I do remember one of my biggest learning moments happened on the first night. We were discussing how abuse is portrayed in the media and how that influences societal views of what abuse can look like. While I’ve always believed that physical violence isn’t the only kind of abuse, my mind was still quick to go to that place when I would hear about domestic violence cases. I had never thought critically about the fact that the media rarely, if ever, focuses on abuse that isn’t physical; this sends a strong message to the public about what is considered abuse and what is not. Just by recognizing the media’s impact on my way of thinking, I feel that I can consciously look outside of this narrative and embrace a deeper, more systemic understanding of domestic violence and abuse.
I am walking away from this training feeling knowledgeable and inspired. The work that REACH and all the REACH volunteers are doing is really challenging but so critical. REACH not only supports survivors of domestic violence, they work tirelessly to educate the public on how to be sensitive, supportive allies. I’m so grateful I was able to be a part of training this fall, and I can’t wait to see all the great work that my training group will accomplish at REACH.
REACH has additional training opportunities coming up in the month of November (evenings of 11/10 and 11/17). This is a a 6-hour version of our training that covers some of the basics about domestic violence and trauma. This is a great opportunity if you think you might want to get involved with volunteering with REACH in time for our Holiday Gift Program, or before we offer another full training in the spring. To learn more and register for this event, contact our Community Engagement Specialist Lauren at email@example.com.