Vancouver, British Columbia - The SA Foundation
This summer, I spent eight weeks in Vancouver, British Columbia working with The SA Foundation, a non-profit that helps women who have been sexually exploited and are in recovery to treat their trauma and overcome substance addictions. My main project while I was there was writing a comprehensive parenting curriculum designed specifically for these young, single mothers. One focus of the curriculum is how to manage their child’s difficult behaviors because many of them have been diagnosed with FASD(Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder), ASD(Autism Spectrum Disorder), ADHD(Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), and ODD(Oppositional Defiant Disorder). The curriculum emphasizes restorative care and gives tips for how to improve attachment, parenting style and discipline techniques as well as conversation strategies for discussing loneliness, bullying, sex, and talking to their children about their recovery.
While the creation of the curriculum was the end goal of my summer project, I left SA with more lessons learned, smaller projects completed, and personal growth than I could have imagined. One thing that I learned early on during my time at SA, was that every day was unpredictable. While my normal daily routine was arriving early in the morning to get set up for the day and get debriefed by staff, participating in the morning devotions and discussions, working on the curriculum, and helping with classes when needed, it rarely went that way. This instability not only allowed me to complete many fun side projects, like teaching the computer class every week, writing a relapse prevention packet, reorganizing the women’s classroom, and editing current curriculums, but it also led to some of the deepest, best conversations that I had while I was there. The women in the program and I talked about things ranging from Satanism to long distance dating to body positivity to politics to personality types to philosophy to slam poetry, and much more. These topics may seem ridiculous and random but this is one way I reciprocated vulnerability and built trust with the women. Being in such proximity to the women both physically and emotionally—I saw them every day and was present during some of their toughest moments and biggest breakthroughs—allowed me to witness their remarkable resilience, hear their stories, and advocate for their rights and recovery.
SA started teaching the parenting curriculum at the beginning of August, so I am looking forward to hearing their feedback from it. One shared concern among scholars who have completed their summer project is whether or not their work is actually beneficial to the partner organization. Knowing that they have already implemented the curriculum gives me hope that it is sustainable and can be updated when needed to continue to serve the women at SA for a long time. I am forever grateful for this experience because it’s given me insight into my future endeavors and allowed me to build relationships that have inspired, encouraged, and taught me.
Unfortunately, while I do have a few great pictures with the staff and women in the program, I signed a contract with The SA Foundation that I would not share or publish any of them due to privacy concerns. So, here is one of many beautiful pictures I took of Vancouver.