A place where you can “Live Without Fear”

After the first three days of education and exploring / working in the shelter, we got to experience a bit of the development part of Haven. The team split up into three groups: Resource Room (continuing organizing work of the past few days – see previous blog posts), organizing the development closet, and creating folders. The development closet is a large walk in closet that holds everything from pins and bracelets to stationary to champagne flutes. This was a huge undertaking, so all of us were to end up here once our assigned tasks were done. I was on the 4-person folder team, in which we were assembling folders for the upcoming gala, which is one of Haven’s largest fundraiser. Although putting fliers and business cards into promotional folders does not sound like a great time, I really enjoyed this part of service since it is similar to what I used to do as a volunteer when I was younger and so I got flooded with a ton of great memories.

After lunch we got to focus on more gala planning, which were even more nostalgic, by making calls to previous donors and cutting out birds to be used as decorations. Although this seems both daunting and tedious, it actually became quite a fun time. I always believed that someone on the phone isn’t he acexactly who they are in real life. Whether you sound more confident or a bit more restrained, phone conversations are never identical to talking in person. It was so interesting to see how this group of people, most of which I barely knew a week ago, conversed over the phone. It was even more interesting when I realized they are calling Michigan donors, who are used to a different accent, on behalf of Haven about an even we were just introduced to. I’m not sure if people had an extra cup of coffee throughout the day or if we were all just a bit tired, but the amount of laughing over phone calls and cutting out paper birds was  but hysterical in of itself. 

Our last part of the day was a part both the group and the Haven clients where very excited about – Pizza Party! Initially we were supposed to take all of the school-age kids bowling but the coordinator of the child programming had a medical emergency. [I need to note how impressed and inspired I am by this coordinator. She is solely in charge of all of the kids activities, possibly simultaneously looking after 15-20 kids of a range of ages, all by herself. In days prior we asked about staffing and she said ideally it would be a 3-person team but the job is very demanding and most people can’t handle it for a long period of time.] Instead of going bowling with pizza, we stayed at the shelter and had pizza in the common room with some board games. This was absolutely one of the highlights of my trip as I got to sit down with families and just talk with them. They weren’t clients (which I need to note that I love that Haven says clients and not survivors/victims/families) and I was a volunteer, we were just people playing board games and eating pizza. One of the families I got to talk to were baking cakes and it turns out that the daughter really loves baking and wants to be a chef when she grows up, and I couldn’t help but think about how when I was her age those were my aspirations as well, but our lives took such vastly different paths. During this time I also got to see how the clients interacted, not just with us but also with each other. All week we had heard about the shelter and how child care wasn’t provided and the moms worked something out among themselves. During this dinner you could tell that moms were looking out for all of the children like they were their own. If a child was misbehaving, any mom would take care of it. When icing was all over a girl’s face, the closest person would grab a napkin and clean it up. The dynamic in the shelter was more of a family dynamic than anything, with all of the clients looking out for the rest of the Haven community. While board games  were being played and cupcakes were eaten, one of the moms announced that there were therapy dogs to play with! This was definitely a highlight not only for the clients but also for our group. Watching a baby crawl towards a dog 10x its size was absolutely adorable, but the kids were also so happy to be able to run around and play with the pups.

Unfortunately, due to an incoming snowstorm, we had to cut our trip a day short and today was our last day at Haven. Although I am excited to have more time on campus to do work, it is very bittersweet (emphasis on bitter) because I truly enjoyed volunteering and learning about all aspects of the field and organization. During our debriefing session, I was looking at the Haven slogan which is “Live Without Fear”. Although I had thought this was a great saying all week, it was in this moment I realized how much it truly meant. We had just spent the afternoon with families who had left so much behind out of fear, who wanted a new life where they could live freely. Although Haven is a 30-day shelter, for some it is the first time where they can truly live without some of the fears they used to face just by going home every day. Although programs and shelters cannot completely make their clients fear nothing, they are helping them become more fearless and hopeful in a brighter future.


A personal education & bonfire!

I signed on for this trip because, obviously, I have a passion and a stake in this cause, but also because of my personal desensitization towards the topic. It’s difficult to constantly have the same conversation in every class you take, every event you go to, every news piece you read. The constant cycle of outrage – enlightenment – motivation for action – discouragement from all the resistance diminishes in weight for me with every time it’s repeated. Heavy academic involvement, especially (I’m an A&S major, which means I talk about gender roles on a daily basis), both burns me out and induces me to talk about issues in abstract, theoretical terms that sometimes make me feel more nihilistic than motivated. So far, I think being on this trip has done a good deal of things to reduce this desensitization of mine.

First of all, kudos to Haven for being extraordinary. Waseh’s probably really lucky in his choice of shelter to go to – Haven has a new, big facility with many different kinds of services for victim of domestic violence and sexual assault, with prevention education on top of it, and through exposure to the shelter itself, we are able to see many different facets of solution. This ranges from emergency response to rape examination, counseling, legal advice, child care, crisis call, etc. In addition to all of these, they went to great length to ensure that we have education on top of volunteering, and talking to people doing actual social work, who are way more overexposed to this issue, really puts my privilege into perspective for me.

Another thing that I appreciate about this trip is the collective knowledge that my peers and Amy bring to the table. We have varying levels of exposure to the topic among people on our trip – ranging from knowing very little to having worked at a rape crisis hotline, and I found myself gaining a lot from everyone – either reinforcing things I already knew, challenging me to confront new notions, or informing me of alternative approach. I could especially see this during reflection last night, when we broke out into small groups and discuss different scenarios of sexual assault/ domestic violence and how we, as bystanders, could react. I value the input of Amy and Kaitlin, who have been in the field and could inform us of the ethical standards and guidelines among experts, as well as of everyone else who contribute on perspectives of friends and kin. There are definitely rooms for more contention, but I think we walked away more equipped to handle personal situations.

Last but not least: Bonfire! (Credit: Rachel!)

MythBusters: An unclear path towards prevention

The day began, bright and early, at Haven’s shelter for domestic and sexual violence, and the staff there quickly introduced us to a place that for many people is considered a home or “safe haven”. The education sessions so far have been insightful and piqued the interests of many peers on the trip. A myriad of information was thrown at us about power and control, gender norms, consent, etc., and all of it revealed how sexual assault is not as black and white as many perceive it to be. It’s not simply about explaining to men how to treat women properly, and it’s not simply about showing women how to protect themselves at all times. In a perfect world, everyone would be taught about these issues from a young age and they would learn to foster these ideas on prevention throughout their lives in order to form a safe and sexually aware community. Unfortunately, in the real world, most people are not introduced to these topics until it’s relevant to their lives.

The rest of the day was riddled with tasks helping around the shelter which ranged from cleaning playrooms to sorting resource rooms. However, the most fulfilling part of the day is seeing all the children in the shelter. They all seem so cheerful and bright, despite the situations they’ve been involved in. This also begs the question of what can be done to prevent this from happening. How can we prevent people from having to go through this pain?

The day ended with daily reflections, and today’s session included a documentary called Invisible War. It was frustrating to hear about the many accounts of sexual assault in the army, but it was even more frustrating to know how little help these people receive. My peers were focused on this topic and branched off of it for over an hour. It’s still unclear as to how prevention should truly be implemented especially with the lack of funding and lack of care in public education. All I can say is that I am thankful for Haven’s efforts to try and educate others on topics that are often overlooked, and I simply cannot wait to bring all of it back to share with the community. Stay tuned for more about our adventures at Haven!

You can’t sell your brother at the garage sale

Although still snowing outside, the Mythbusters team started their day with coffee and were able to get right into the work at HAVEN. The first half of the day was spent in creating a library system for the resource books available for the people living and working at HAVEN. And being the skillman/kirby library trained worker that I am, me and Emma got right into it. Organizing the books by the category ranging from “Sexual Assault” or “Divorce” to “Therapeutic Methods”. All the while we were both shocked and amused by some of the books, such as for a children’s book entitled “You can’t sell your brother at the garage sale”.

For the other half, before continuing with the library, two amazing educators who work in the community outreach programs, came and talked to us more about what they do, how they do it and why they do it. They target K-12 and then further university and professional level as well. But the idea of making the programs they do (K-12) systemic and sustainable had me falling head over heels for them!! It was exactly the type of solution I had hoped to see being implemented and here were people I could talk to about it! We learned more about primary vs secondary and tertiary programming while giving us things to think about while planning for reorientation. Which is what we did later at night!

After watching half of “The Invisible War”, a documentary on sexual assault in the US military, and then reflections, we broached the topic of reorientation and what we can do to stand out and make people remember our education and actions.

Shout out to Amy for being the best!


Day One at Haven

Today was our first day at Haven! Haven is Oakland County’s “comprehensive program for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault”. This morning we met with two employees at Haven for an education session.

During education we learned about Haven’s different programs, including: the Crisis and Support Hotline, Counseling, Shelter, Advocacy, Prevention, and Educational Programming. We also explored the complexities of domestic violence and sexual assault through Haven’s empowerment model. Throughout this education session, members of the Mythbuster’s Team were able to ask questions and engage in a productive dialogue. This education session was extremely important, as it allowed the team to learn more about Haven’s individual efforts and how these issues affect everyone. Further, because of the spectrum of knowledge on our team, the education program was very helpful at contextualizing the whole week and providing the group with a jumping point for further reflection.

After our morning education session, our group broke out into different teams and assisted the shelter in various tasks. Tasks included sorting donations, preparing food for later meals, organizing bookshelves, and stocking priority items (such as detergent and diapers).

After our day at Haven we came back for our first reflection. To start off reflection we watched a Ted X talk by Scott Louis on the topic of talking to individuals who have experienced trauma. This talk reinforced the lessons we were taught at Haven: to defer to the individual, to not write someone’s narrative, to recognize the victim is the expert, and to understand that you’re role is to provide emotional support and other resources.

We look forward to learning more these next few days!

-Kaitlin & Emma

Mythbusters: Detroit Culture Day

The Mythbusters team had a very successful culture day and we got to explore different faces of Detroit, Michigan. The first stop was the Henry Ford museum of American Innovation. We were able to visit exhibits which explored the technological advancements related to energy, automotive, and aviation developments. We were able to even walk into a fascinating housing concept, called the Dymaxion which was coveted by thousands, but never successfully went into production. It was circular and weighed only 4 tons, once suspended from the ground it had amazing environmental benefits as opposed to a normal house which would weigh hundreds of tons. Only one family lived in this home, and its owner was an original designer. They found it to be technologically ahead of the time. Another interesting attraction in the museum was the Montgomery Bus that Rosa Parks rode. We were able to see the very spot where she sat and refused to give up her seat when more white passengers boarded. We learned about the popular misconceptions behind this story, which ignited the spark of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. We also discussed President Obama’s visit to this notable historic exhibit and the impact of both figures on African American history. He sat on the seat parallel as not to overshadow her legacy.

We also visited the riverside where we walked along the Detroit River and saw a view of Canada. Next, we visited the Heidelberg Project in Detroit. This was fascinating as it gave us the opportunity to drive through the streets of Detroit and to learn about experiences by talking with locals. This art project encompassed an entire residential street, and included thousands of items of reclaimed garbage. We chatted with one of the people who inspired the art and he discussed his experiences in returning to Detroit, and the struggles of the neighborhood which have persistsed since the 1970s.

Stay tuned to learn about our work with Haven!