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Irvine, CA, 92614
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Blog

Filtering by Tag: Academy

Sustainable Recovery and Self-Love

Lindsey Malcolm

As a community, we’re working towards extricating the trenchant remnants of abuse, neglect, subjugation, and psychological torment that mar our participants’ lives, even after rescue. We’re fighting for healing, for self-love and trust, for faith and peace of mind, and for protection against the recurring waves of terror and psychosomatic tolls that trauma can induce. Recovery from trauma is fundamental for sustainable freedom from trafficking, reintegration to society, health and wellbeing, finding fulfillment, and obtaining self-efficacy. 

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At iSanctuary, we tailor trauma-informed programming to the specific issues that our participants are dealing with. It’s vital for us to make space for our participants to speak and give insight into their feelings, thoughts, and experiences with iSanctuary. In order to create effective aftercare resources, we need to know what each woman needs to disengage from the long-lasting repercussions of her trauma.

Recently, we asked the iSanctuary artisans how they know they are loved. Do they believe that a pathway to self-love could be a link in the journey of recovery? If they discuss the authentic connotations and experiences that inform their notions of love and self-worth, what emerges? How would they articulate their feelings of belonging, worthiness, beauty, and purpose?

These are their words.

“I am loved because… my friends and family celebrate me and support me in many things.” –Sujata

“I am cherished because… I have a happy community that cares for me, gives peace, and protects each other.” –Anandi

“I am treasured because… my friends and my boyfriend treat me really well and love me so much. They check in and ask me how I am doing all the time, so I know they care.” –Priya

“I am beautiful because God made different faces for everyone, and I know He made my face and looks after me.” –Vrinda

“I am radiant because I have strength. When I was at the beach with my friends, in my fancy clothes, laughing together, I knew I was radiant and I knew I was strong. My friends support me and I felt the shining kind of beauty.” –Pari

The resonant current in these snippet stories of rebuilding self-love, finding a route to healing, and overcoming trauma is the transformative power of community. Their words illustrate the significance of friends, family, and supportive spaces that foster resilience and affection and spirited individuality. Our infectiously affectionate community enables healing through shared work, collective goals, compassionate listening, profound friendship, and support. This unity precipitates liberation from the after-effects of trauma. In all of our customary, day-to-day rituals—sharing curries and roti at lunch, teasing each other in Hindi and English, lingering in rapt conversations, energizing one another through collaborative design, and triumphantly embracing when any person succeeds in a task of any size—the value of community is evident. In our humble, hectic, bustling, witty, sensitive, dogged, beautiful studio, jewelry means freedom.

Victories & Challenges

Lindsey Malcolm

Since we featured the voices of our Mumbai staff to give you a peek into the inner workings of our India office, we wanted you to hear from the young women we serve. We sat down with the students and artisans participating in iSanctuary programs to talk about their biggest challenges and achievements right now. The following is a glimpse into the hearts and minds of our brilliant participants! 

Aditi

Challenge: It is a hard challenge for me to accomplish my project in three hours since the Academy has started.  And I had some work and was thinking, “when it will get finished?”

Victory: But finally I got finished those projects so that is my victory. So I will call it a victory and a challenge.

Sanyugita

Challenge: Production is hard because new models have come and that gives me difficulty because I have to learn new designs. Otherwise, everything in work is fine.

Victory: I’m always on time for school. I’m happy that I never miss class because we have to come early in the morning. And at first I was thinking, “Oh my god, I have to get up early” but it never gives me difficulty. I’m proud to never miss class.

Gamani

Challenge: My challenge is to finish a lot in one week. I am just trying to finish everything.

Victory: I like to work hard and there is a lot to do so I am happy.

 Divya

Challenge: It’s hard for me today because of the new models (new jewelry designs). So this is a lot of pressure for work.

Victory: I’m lucky to have work to do, because lots of people don’t have jobs, so I’m very thankful for that. Every time I feel down about work, I say “don’t be sad,” because you have lots of things to do in your future.

 

Like the stories of the staff, our participants show common themes in their descriptions of challenges, as well as shared themes in their narratives of celebrations. Our community thrives on the collectivity of hardships; we help each other get through tough times through empathy, mentorship, laughter, listening, creating safe moments to talk, and building spaces for growth and learning.

And while we prosper in the collective resilience against shared battles, we also grow from our differences—the unique nuances that disrupt the temptation of complacency, push us to see another perspective, and humble us in the wake of victories and challenges we might not have acknowledged. The mélange of voices and experiences push us to challenge assumptions and strengthen us in the lessons we learn from each other. Our individual experiences compel each of us to face variant challenges, but the beauty of the iSanctuary community is that no matter our differences, we rise up together.

Updates from the Field

Lindsey Malcolm

Here’s a little window into the goings-on of our India office! These are the compiled articulations of our staff’s current obstacles and little triumphs this week—in their own words—to give you a closer illustration of day-to-day life in iSanctuary Mumbai.

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From our program director, Alyson:

Challenge: Keeping participants consistently focused and engaged is a challenge. Our educational environment is unlike any that most of them have experienced before, and it's difficult to orient to using parts of their minds that have not been encouraged in the past. 

This week I'm experimenting with a few strategic changes to our class plans in order to engage students better and accelerate their development of critical skills and mindsets.  

Victory: “Joining the Academy has clearly enhanced confidence, along with a sense of self- direction and responsibility, in a number of our participants. Two in particular impressed me this week by proactively asking our teacher for make-up work to catch up when they were ill and missed a class!”

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From our new jewelry designer, Collyn:

Challenge: “I am still learning how to create an environment that fosters motivation. Right now I am focusing on connecting with each participant on a deeper level, but that process takes time.

Victory: “Making the first model of a jewelry design can often be a slow and frustrating process.  I am incredibly proud of how hard everyone has been working to create our Spring and Summer 2017 designs.  It's going to be such a beautiful collection.”

From our Academy teacher, Pritish:

Challenge: “I fell sick at the start of the week. I have almost recovered. I am learning how to deal with the frequent change in weather.

Victory: “The assessment tracker is complete. I am looking forward to using the data to guide the instruction.”

From our social worker, Shalem:

Challenge: “With varied levels of comprehension it becomes challenging at times to communicate and ensure each and every student is understanding the points. But the use of visual aides, discussions and quizzes has helped in communicating the themes.” 

Victory: “The theme for last week and the week ahead was on decision making, which includes understanding how the brain senses and responds resulting in decisions at all times. The students were struggling to comprehend that the brain makes decisions at all times, but as we continued to remain focused, the doubts and queries were clarified using visual representations and group discussions. The students have started to appreciate the fact that the brain makes decisions at all things even though we're are not aware about it.”  

From our communications associate, Kate:

Challenge: Working in this sector is incredibly rewarding but, at times, emotionally trying. Learning about how to take care of myself while engaging deeply with the tough issues that we tackle at iSanctuary has proven to be a trying feat.

Victory: My personal celebration for the week entails a project I’ve been working on for several weeks—creating visual aides for the classroom. I am so excited that weeks of brainstorming and designing the visual aides have finally come to fruition! A series of educational and motivation-themed posters are finally printed and hanging in the classroom for our students to use. 

From our founder, Stephanie:

Victory: “A mini victory was watching the Academy math lesson take place upstairs in the workshop. It was so fun to see math taught in a way that relates to the students’ real lives. I wish I had been taught math like this when I was in school!” 

Challenge: “Getting one of the many Christmas shipments out without our production manager! It was tough but I am so proud of the way everyone worked so hard, partnered up to complete big goals, took on extra responsibility and challenged themselves. I think several participants surprised themselves at what they accomplished!”

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 Because of the girth of obstacles we confront—ranging from the serious societal inequities threatening the safety of our participants to the quotidian infrastructural challenges of running a social organization in Mumbai—it is vital for us to reflect on the pressing areas where we can improve our work, while acknowledging and giving thanks for our successes. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we are immensely grateful for all of the staff’s and participants’ accomplishments this week!

Building The Academy

Lindsey Malcolm

Each morning, young women gather around a big table in our airy aqua-colored classroom. Large windows frame the table on two sides, bequeathing gracious views of the railroad and adjacent flooded salt flats that glint placidly under the languid Monsoon mist. The teacher begins the day with a check-in, reflection, and mindfulness exercise, in which students follow the flow of their breathing, get in touch with the present moment, and gather a peacefulness and focus to prepare for a day of conscientiousness and creativity. And from that moment, opportunities abound.

At iSanctuary, we know that school is a powerful defense against human trafficking, revictimization, intergenerational abuse, and poverty. We’ve developed The Academy so that the survivors we serve can arm themselves with education, gaining skills for upward mobility and economic autonomy, while strengthening their sense of self, purpose, worth, direction, and fulfillment.

 Few resources like The Academy currently exist for survivors of human trafficking in the rainy, marigold-speckled streets of Mumbai. After rescue, many survivors go to safe houses where they are out of immediate danger. But with resources stretched to serve an enormous population of survivors, education and vocational training programs are limited and crowded. At iSanctuary, we are establishing this missing resource. This was not a simple achievement. We know that a one-size fits all approach cannot affect the sustainable change that iSanctuary aims to create. So we committed ourselves to doing it right. Through meticulous quantitative assessments, interviews, and focus groups, we gauged participants’ current interests, knowledge, abilities, and mental state to construct an individualized program. We also asked participants about their priorities and hopes for their futures and for programs offered at iSanctuary. The information we collected helps us to identify appropriate learning resources, track individual participant progress, and contribute to program monitoring and evaluation. After examining the information gathered from our participants, in conjunction with best practices in the field and consultations with educational experts, we ascertained our specific programmatic and organizational needs. Our staff then developed curricula, policies, and benchmarks for The Academy.

To prepare for the launch of The Academy, we gradually introduced more class time in a variety of areas (self- defense, geography, English, goal-setting, health, and yoga, to name a few) to ease our participants into the transition and get excited about learning. This gave us an opportunity to observe their learning styles and make necessary adjustments to our plans. We will continue to develop and improve the efficacy of our learning environment through observation, assessments, and feedback.

After a rigorous hiring process, we welcomed a new teacher, social worker, and administrator to our team. From their first days on the job they have been hard at work developing and revising lesson plans while building a connection with our participants. Their training and expertise, as well as their sensitivity to participants’ needs, shared language, and common cultural upbringing position our new staff members to effectively and thoughtfully engage the students, identify and address their needs, and help iSanctuary achieve our long-term goals. Eventually we will bring on an additional teacher and social worker to ensure that we meet the widely varied needs of our participants.

With our new Academy, iSanctuary aims to provide resources for survivors to pursue their academic dreams and to obtain access to diverse jobs, higher salaries, and greater defense against future poverty and violence. Breaking down barriers to education—the hurdles both large and small that preclude girls from attending school—allows our participants to gain entry into an array of previously unattainable opportunities, safeguard their freedom, and realize their dreams.

By Kate Poor, Communication Liaison & Alyson Emory Holsclaw, Program Developer

Finding Power Through Education

Lindsey Malcolm

 
 

The iSanctuary Academy broke ground one month ago. Before the first day of class, we earnestly anticipated opening the doors—exhilarated at the prospect of introducing our meticulously hewn, cutting edge program, but also a smidge nervous about jumping into unexplored territory. Today, we already see the budding successes in the growing interests and capacities of the young women enrolled in the learning community. Our students arrive promptly at 8:30 every morning—some bouncy and ready to go, some still sleepy and stirring gradually through the infectious energy of their classmates. In the past four weeks, we’ve seen shier girls begin speaking out more in class, and watched apprehensive students willingly ask questions, offer responses, and engage in intellectual exercises. Garnering a committed base of eager learners, who arrive each day with completed homework and a motivated attitude perhaps appears a small milestone. But right now, we are celebrating these small victories. These are the signifiers that girls whose educations have been cruelly interrupted can have a second chance. These fledgling successes demonstrate that our students are learning every day life skills—habits that people without histories of trauma might take for granted, such as arriving on time, consistently completing assignments, and taking initiative—that will propel them forward in their education and social experiences. The daily attendance and engagement of our young women in the classroom show us that they are willing to confront challenges and committed to improving their lives through education. 

At iSanctuary, we believe that education equips students with the tools to understand perspectives and experiences beyond their own and to advance their communities. Many studies indicate that access to education diminishes poverty, reduces gender-based violence, and lowers risk of enslavement. Based on an ardent faith in the power of education to act as catalyst for change, we have spent the last year researching, planning, designing, evaluating, and (just recently) launching The Academy—an educational space built for and by the specific needs of our iSanctuary community.

Most of the survivors at iSanctuary have not completed elementary school. Traffickers who forced our participants into bondage and families who did not see the value in educating girls put an early and unjust end to many survivors’ educations. In hopes of fortifying the scope, diversity, and sustainability of the possibilities in our participants’ futures, The Academy intends to give our participants another chance at the education they were denied. Through a varied curriculum of basic math, science, social studies, computers, English, Hindi, writing, health, life skills, and financial planning classes, participants in The Academy can now fill in the gaps in their education, while developing their academic interests, personal strengths, and professional skills. Our objective is to prepare participants for independent lives by developing critical thinking, decision-making, emotional wellness, community building, creativity, and leadership.

In 2013, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan proclaimed, “Education is the key to eliminating gender inequality, to reducing poverty, to creating a sustainable planet, to preventing needless deaths and illness, and to fostering peace.” As we foster an empowering and supportive environments for the girls to explore their curiosities and dreams, together, we push towards a more peaceful and enfranchised future.

By Kate Poor, Communication Liaison & Alyson Emory Holsclaw, Program Developer