By Tara Sarath
Faiza and Aruna, two long-time and much-valued interns here at Sakhi, have completed their internships in the Domestic Violence Program (and then some) and we are already beginning to miss their extraordinary presence around the office. Graciously, and true to their commitment to Sakhi, despite being in the midst of sorting out last minute wrap ups, they reprise for us their “Sakhi experience.” The vote was unanimous among Faiza and Aruna: nobody parties like Sakhi!
Looking back, Aruna describes the contrast of the last two major Sakhi party events as being compelling–mingling with the glittering crowd in the Prince George Ballroom at our 20th Anniversary Gala, contrasted with the more humble but more heartfelt annual Eid and Diwali party for long-time and new Sakhis who have sought services.
What makes all Sakhi events special is that, like the day-to-day mechanics of Sakhi, interns have a hand in virtually all the goings-on at the organization. No one can deny that it was a hectic year at Sakhi, and that all hands were on deck often in many places at once! Faiza acknowledges that the challenges of working in such a demanding environment have helped her to decide what her future legal career should look like. And both Sakhis agree that Sakhi would be a good place for the field placements of other MSW students precisely because of the challenges. Some interns in other positions do not have a chance to meet clients let alone advise or counsel them. “Anyone who is thinking of doing human rights policy work should work in a direct service organization,” Faiza declares, as Aruna nods. Both Sakhis affirm the need for exposure to the actual needs of South Asian women, as opposed to the media-constructed notions of domestic violence presented by such shows as Law and Order SVU.
In their own experience, Aruna and Faiza found that South Asian domestic violence is contextualized by culture. Aruna points out that interns as students may have an academic understanding of violence, but it is only through working with women that one better understands the scope. And one fact overlooked is that most women tend to suffer financially. She adds that “I also realized how few South Asian Women’s organizations are out there”. In their estimation, the majority of support that Sakhi provides for survivors of domestic violence can be measured in the physical safe meeting space that we provide and our openness to women to simply visit with their children. Sadly, this is one of the few spaces that survivors will venture leaving their homes to visit. The need for service providers cannot be overemphasized.
The experiences that Faiza and Aruna take away from Sakhi go beyond the prosaic. They find themselves looking for signs of abuse and each agreed that they see the warning signs in every day interactions. Faiza states, “I just learned so much about…life (Aruna and Faiza chime the last word in unison)…and myself.” She emphasizes with her hands the breadth and scope of her experience.
So to what greener fields do they take this experience and run? Faiza will soon be pursing a legal degree and Aruna will continue her Masters-level school work. They promise us that they will be back. We certainly hope they will as they have so many ideas informed by their time here. Their visions include additional programs and ideas that they would like to Sakhi consider as it strengthens and expands its work. We know that they will always be committed to Sakhi and we are glad that they are in the social services field, taking with them and applying what they learned during their tenure with us.
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