On Tuesday, September 11, 2018, we hosted our second annual Helping Women Find Their Voice event at Shirlington’s Busboys and Poets. The event was moderated by Read.Think.Act’s, Catherine Read, an advocate for social justice reform and close friend to Guest House. More than 80 current and former residents, volunteers, and members of the community came together to learn more about the difficulties post-incarcerated women face and the hardships many of them endured prior to their incarceration. After the welcome and a fun activity, we were able to hear from those who have been directly affected by the criminal justice system. The stories were deeply moving, the poems were powerful, the women’s strength and determination was remarkable, and we all left feeling inspired.
Formerly incarcerated women face a variety of challenges ranging from trauma, addiction, discrimination, unemployment, and homelessness. For example, the U.S. Department of Justice found that nearly 50% of all incarcerated females experienced some kind of physical or sexual abuse in their lifetime. Our panelists bravely shared stories about their own abuse, struggles with addiction, and feelings of hopelessness. They discussed how difficult their journey to sobriety and recovery was and how untreated mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, caused them to lose their sense of self-worth.
However, their stories did not stop there. The panelists and poets talked about their time at Friends of Guest House and how for the first time in their life they were given the opportunity to “rebuild, re-identify, and recreate” themselves. At Guest House, they were able to develop new hobbies, such as knitting, learn proper coping mechanisms, get their mental health needs met, and regain their sense of self-worth. The panelists talked about the impact the Workforce and Life Development program had on them and how being surrounded by people who believed in them, cared for them, and respected them made all the difference to their success. These changes did not come overnight, but those who had a mindset for change learned skills that stayed with them forever.
Our executive director, Kari Galloway, ended the night be reminding those in attendance of Friends of Guest House’s Call to Actions. Here’s how you can help:
- HIRE a graduate of the program or connect us with someone in your network who can. Contact Keba: firstname.lastname@example.org
- We take this show on the road! Our Speakers Bureau can come to you—your next social gathering, religious organization, civic association, etc. Contact Terry: email@example.com
We thank everyone who donated and came out to support the panelists, poets, and Friends of Guest House. We could not do it without you. It was inspiring to see so many members of our community come together to support the cause and be reminded that your past does not define your future. A special thank you to Images for Good for capturing many of the evening’s moments through your wonderful photos.
Couldn’t make the event, but still want to donate? Click the link below!
Listen to some of our residents share their poetry here!