Finding Healing Through Joy & Community

As the community begins to slowly open up after a difficult pandemic of more than two years, Abby’s House has slowly been offering more programs and opportunities for residents, guests, and Women’s Center members to come together. Lucelia DeJesus brings her guitar and a few songs to the monthly Open Mic event in the Annette Rafferty Women’s Empowerment Center. Residents and guests attend to share their talents, connect with each other, and enjoy beautiful music from Lucelia and other women.

Residents and guests share their experiences in a safe space, where they can talk about women’s issues with an audience that understands. One resident (pictured left) sang, “If I Were a Boy” by Beyonce, and introduced the song by discussing the difficulties many women face in society.

Some residents have truly begun coming out of their shell, as they enjoy sharing one of their talents with their fellow residents and guests at Abby’s House. Women feel empowered as they share their voices. Through Open Mic, women have also shared their challenges, expressing in a song or poem what they may not yet be able to put into words. Sharing a trauma, a burden, or a joyful moment with peers who have similar lived experiences helps women to heal. A resident recently sang The Beatles, Blackbird, and brought a smile and maybe even a tear to many in the audience.

“Blackbird singing in the dead of night / Take these broken wings and learn to fly / All your life / You were only waiting for this moment to arise.”

Not only sharing their singing voices, women often share poetry that speaks to them. The first Open Mic event at Abby’s House, a resident shared a poem she recited each morning as she got ready, empowering herself to start the day’s journey (pictured right).

At Abby’s House, staff regularly discuss the importance of joy in the lives of the women and children we serve. These joyful moments help women find healing, bringing to mind the values of Abby’s House. Women’s Self Determination, “We believe that women can name and change the injustice that exists in the lives of women. We encourage women to be leaders and decision-makers. Abby’s House helps women to recognize their own inner strengths, opportunities and abilities to lead self-directed lives.”

The Women’s Center has been a place to find healing since the very beginning. In one of the first Abby’s House e-Newsletters that was sent to supporters, the center was highlighted.

From Abby’s House E-Newsletter, Early 2000’s

Women’s Center

The Women’s Center is a place where women gather to enjoy many activities, such as crafts, educational programs, and cultural activities in the outside community.

The Women’s Center is a place of safety where we can all come and enjoy each other’s company in a supportive environment and not feel so alone.

The Women’s Center is a caring and loving place where we are not judged, but are accepted just as we are.

~ Mission statement created by members in 2002

The Women’s Center is a drop-in homelessness prevention program for women who are current or former shelter guests or residents of Abby’s House. The program combines educational and social activities that enhance the health and reduce the isolation of women living in poverty. In addition, advocacy services are provided to address specific concerns, connecting women with a wide variety of vital community resources. The Women’s Center serves over one hundred women annually.

Women’s Center staff and volunteers consistently affirm the humanity of women who are most often marginalized and invisible in our society. Women’s Center members are seen, their voices are heard and, together, their spirits are healed.

The community aspect of the Center is eloquently captured in the following poem, written by a Women’s Center member who is also a former emergency shelter guest:

Reading Poetry at the Women’s Center

crinkle of light reflects
the sound of women laughing
the sound of a poem being read

pink walls
a chair scoots back –
we speak, we talk, we are

Darleen Gadt, from her book, Weaving,
privately published in 2003

Events such as Open Mic help women to identify their challenges, find their strengths, and move forward, more energized and empowered. Today, just like years ago, residents find healing in the Women’s Center. A resident recently wrote a poem, part of a Poetry Competition held for residents and guests, which sums up the journeys of many women and children who have walked through the doors of Abby’s House over the years:

By Rae

When I say I am brave,
I mean I have tended to my own wounds,
Healed my own spirit.
I have built a garden out of the dust and rubble,
And somehow,
Against all odds,
I have begun to bloom.
Like a lone sunflower towering above a field,
I have arisen from the ground and emerged,
Beautiful and radiant and unapologetic.

The greatest thing I have ever achieved,
Is remaining soft,
When every trauma,
Every trial,
Every tear,
Has desperately tried to harden me.
Softness is a gift I have chosen to give myself.
I hold it in my arms when the storms shake my soul,
And rejoice when a rainbow emerges again.
And a rainbow always does.