Sakhis Dialogue on Faith and Violence

Sakhi held its bimonthly meeting with volunteers on October 22nd, providing an opportunity for them to become better acquainted with a key facet of our work, the Faith-Based Initiative (FBI), and also to express their opinions on how to enhance their own contributions to Sakhi’s core aim of ending domestic violence.

Sakhi Domestic Violence Program Advocate Fatma Zahra delivered a presentation on Sakhi’s ongoing Faith-Based Initiative, explaining the origins and history of the program, including survey results and focus group responses. Fatma pointed to an important challenge in the faith community: although 76% survivors said they found strength from faith, only 10% had said they confided in the leaders of their religious communities about the abuse they were experiencing.

Fatma linked this background with her current work in the Richmond Hill community, where she runs weekly support groups with survivors to discuss faith and domestic violence. Sakhi is also co-sponsoring a ten-session Arts & Empowerment workshop for women in the Richmond Hill community that will explore these themes.

Volunteers were impressed with the breadth and depth of Sakhi’s FBI work and keenly asked questions about how to get more involved in our programming. “I appreciate the way Sakhi deals with its volunteers,” one said. “It’s a testament to the way you incorporate us.”

Santushi Kuruppu, Sakhi’s Volunteer Coordination intern, presented her compilation of volunteer and intern hours at Sakhi, noting that volunteers had donated an impressive 515 hours and interns contributed an astounding 1,573 hours of their time to the organization from July to October 2008.

Executive Director Purvi Shah praised the volunteers for their commitment, observing, “Especially as resources shrink in this economy and community demand increases, Sakhi could not have such profound reach and results without the intense support of our community and volunteers.”

Several volunteers noted that while they greatly enjoyed accompanying and supporting survivors, they also wanted to learn more about the outcomes and status of the women they had bonded with. “When you spend the day with somebody, it becomes much more than just one day,” one volunteer explained.

Purvi acknowledged the profound impact involvement at Sakhi has. “Volunteering to end violence is a life-changing experience — as we say, ‘Once a Sakhi, always a Sakhi.'”

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