For my year of post-graduate service, I work at Rose House, non-secure placement, a rehabilitative home for adjudicated girls ages 13 to 17. The goal of our program is to meet the criminogenic needs of our residents through trauma-informed wrap around services that include but are not limited to therapy, substance abuse treatment, vocational support, and experiential exposure. Currently, in my role as the Good Shepherd Volunteer, I develop the treatment-centered schedule of activities for the residents.
My residents are incredibly intelligent and strong; they are able to overcome any obstacle or challenge that is thrown their way. One of their greatest strengths lies in their ability to advocate for themselves and their peers. They constantly ensure their needs are being met. That probably explains why the themes of the 62nd United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UN CSW) felt so familiar.
The UN CSW is an annual 2 week conference where NGO representatives, advocates, and politicians gather to discuss the global issues impacting women. There are workshops, panels, presentations, and advocacy events where attendees discuss critical issues, exchange ideas, and learn from each other’s work. I had the honor of attending this year’s conference, which focused on the status of rural women. I heard testimonies about women advocating for their rights in their own communities. For example, I listened to the story of the first pregnant woman to survive the Zika virus. Her doctors and her community all believed she and her baby were destined for death. However, by keeping faith in her recovery and by building kinship with her fellow patients, she and her baby survived. She nurtured herself by relating to others impacted by the same deadly virus she contracted; through love and support she survived. She accomplished what no one believed possible.
Hearing her story, I could not help but reflect on the similarities between her and my residents. Just as she refused to give up on herself, so too do my residents continue to fight for themselves. Just as she found strength in kinship, so too do my residents build bonds with their peers, counselors, and mentors in order to facilitate their own growth. Just as she defied the odds, so too do my residents overcome the assumptions placed on to them because of their past. Just as she lifted up her fellow patients, so too do my residents advocate for the needs of themselves and their peers. I sat in awe of the strength. The strength of the Zika survivor, the strength in the millions of rural women who refuse to give up, the strength of my residents.
This awe-inspiring connection reminded me of the indomitability of the human spirit. It gave me reassurance that even when the world struggles for justice, resiliency and survival will win out. If we continue to fight with love for ourselves and others we too can accomplish the impossible, we too can achieve a more equitable and just world. I hope as I continue on my path I can draw from the strength of my sisters and continue to persist, resist, and inspire positive change. ¡Si se puede!
Written by, Amore Alvarenga Rose House Non-Secure Placement Washington Heights Community '17-'18