by Ragni Marea Kidvai, Community Outreach Intern
Out of 403 phone calls and e-mails received by Sakhi’s Domestic Violence Program between January 1st and June 30th 2009, 122 (or more than 30%) of these requests are from Queens alone. It should come as no surprise then that Sakhi has been focusing much of its recent energy on programming and community outreach in the borough of Queens. “It is especially important for us to reach out to immigrant populations where they live. Queens, and Richmond Hill especially, have great concentrations of South Asian communities.” says Sakhi’s Operations Coordinator Shazia Mohammad.
Between September 2008 to May 2009, Sakhi has held weekly Support Groups in Richmond Hill. Starting September 2009 these support groups are being held monthly in order to do neighborhood-based work in an isolated section of New York with a large South Asian diaspora population. Open to women, this group creates the space to talk about questions of violence and faith. Often women who we serve find their strength and comfort from their religious faiths during their time of darkness. Understanding how religious organizations and communities address domestic violence can be integral to providing further support for survivors.
According to Direct Services staff member Fatma Zahra, there is a consistent group of diverse women that show up from the neighborhood. “It is a wide range of diversity in age, and not necessarily everybody is fully able-bodied, for instance. We’re in people’s neighborhoods now; it makes Sakhi more visible, approachable, and accessible. It is a space for those women who may be isolated in their neighborhoods and are therefore nervous or unable to move around. We provide a community with a community of sorts.”
Thanks to a grant to conduct neighborhood work in Queens, Sakhi has been able to reach out to the large and often neglected Indo-Caribbean community in Richmond Hill. In a recent event organized by the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development for non-profits who received their grants in Neighborhood District 12 to talk about their organizations and their work, Shazia Mohammad presented on the details of Sakhi’s work in Queens.
This event consisted of 5-10 minute presentations for an audience that consisted largely of people affiliated with Community-Based Organizations. According to Shazia, people were interested in domestic violence in a South Asian context, and were committed to changing their pre-conceived notions about the subject: “It was wonderful to see all the CBOs, taking the time out to learn about the work each of the other non-profits are doing to strengthen communities in Queens. Small & large non-profits alike shared information with each other with great enthusiasm.”
With the support of grants, such as that provided by the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development, Sakhi is able to further its programming in Queens and ensure that members of the South Asian community feel supported.