How one woman went from middle class mom, to addict, prison, and Executive Director of Dinami House in Cleveland, Ohio - a home for women leaving prison.
MiddleWay had an incredible opportunity today. A local judge invited us to talk to her probation officers about our programs and the many ways in which we're out here on the front lines working with women involved in the justice system.
We had a great start. The judge was welcoming. Six probation officers gathered around the really big conference table...did I mention we met in a courtroom? I began telling them with great enthusiasm about our programs, classes, job training, and the endless potential of the women we serve and mentor.
Then they had some questions for me. The questions were relevant, probing, and insightful. Only problem was: I didn't have the answers.
It wasn't until later - much later - while reflecting on the meeting that I realized the most important people were not at the table. We should have had - we needed - those we mentor: the women working hard to build new lives for themselves and their children. Women know what type of support they need to create new lives - not to survive - but to THRIVE!
So, we're walking more slowly into this phase of growth. And we're applying a tool from the Gospel of Mark in which Jesus learns that 5000+ people are hungry and need food. As disciples name several methods of getting the job done, including telling the crowd to disperse and find their own food (a problem due to where they were gathered: namely, in the desert), Jesus asks them, 'What do we have to work with?' When the disciples don't know, he commands, "Go and see."
So, MiddleWay is "going and seeing" which for us means asking the women we serve, "What do you want us to do for you?"
We're asking and we're listening. After four years of pro-bono service to NE Ohio women with endless potential but few opportunities, we are listening carefully to learn from the collected wisdom of the women we serve. They know their strengths, and they will teach us where we can be of help. We are eager to sit, talk, laugh, get uncomfortable, get comfortable again, and then get to it.
Filled with hope, on a wing and a prayer, we're taking the next step.
#Teamwork #Recovery #Treatment #Women #Recovery #Reentry
All they wanted was a pair of rounded scissors. I had two pairs in my bag, but I couldn’t bring them out. Those are the rules. No scissors; no sharp objects. We were gathered with women rebuilding their lives. They came from residential treatment facilities, homeless shelters, halfway houses - to join us for a Recovery Retreat facilitated by MiddleWay.
The women love expressive arts and sometimes that's creating a "vision board". Our theme this day was "I want my life to look like..." Each woman created a collage which represented their lives post-treatment, post-homelessness, post acute addiction. This is an inexpensive but potent therapy. The women spent time using art supplies to engage in 'play therapy' to represent their deepest desires, working with color pencils, chalk, clippings, crayons, and glue sticks - such simple things - to build a picture of their best lives.
Working with homeless, abused, and extremely poor women allows us to witness how they take the slimmest opportunities and transform them into such big life changes: from dropout to high school graduate, from unemployed to employee, from addict to woman in recovery, from surviving to thriving. And they do it all on a shoestring, a hope, a 'vision-board' of their future, and a hand reaching out to grab theirs.
We stand in awe.
The women who come to Recovery Retreats remind us of the words of Father Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries in LA, the largest gang-intervention program in the United States. Fr. Greg says, "May we stand in awe at the weight of the burden carried by the poor, instead of criticizing the way they carry it."
We stand in awe today, marveling at the resiliency of the women who are creating lives they want to live in side by side with women from across the county with hope and torn paper.