This month Sakhi for South Asian Women held its annual holiday party. You may ask yourself, a holiday party in May? Yes! And we were quite glad, despite it being the start of summer, to finally gather together. No matter what time of the year it is held, given the diversity comprised at Sakhi and the South Asian community in general, our holiday events recognize various religious and ethnic holidays that are held at various times of the year. At this event, due to the season, Baisakhi, a Sikh holiday, Vesak, a Buddhist holiday, and Easter, a Christian one, were notably celebrated.
Many Sakhis were in attendance at this festive event; survivors of violence, staff, volunteers, and interns alike. The holiday party offers the opportunity for staff and survivors to interact with each other outside of the office context. As one member of our direct services team phrases it, “Our usual encounter with survivors of domestic violence is during times of crisis, stress, and sadness. At this party, however, it was very refreshing to see women dressed in their best saris and high heels, laughing and perhaps for a fleeting moment – forgetting their problems.” Another Sakhi noted similarly, “It was great to see women with colorful dresses, having lively chats with others around them, and moving around while Desi music played in the background.” Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. Survivors in particular, seemed content in sharing hugs, laughs, thoughts and conversations with others at the party.
Many of the survivors in attendance were accompanied by members of their families who have been supportive during the difficult times they have faced. “Interacting with some of the relatives of survivors that came to the party really helped give my work a different perspective,” notes one Sakhi intern. “I spoke with mothers of survivors who (perhaps remembering their own family’s struggles) generously offered their homes in case I knew of any women in need. I also spoke to daughters of survivors who had overcome the instability and uncertainty of their lives.” It is certain that for many family members of women who have survived violence, the desire to help the plights faced by other women is strong.
What was most prominent for most of us was seeing children of survivors happily running around, engaging in carefree activities. Children are many times the silent survivors of family violence. As survivors, they may not have the opportunity to enjoy an environment where they can safely enjoy being a child. Thus it was wonderful to see the innocence shine through their smiles and the games they played. Some were busy playing with balloons, crayons, and coloring books while others played musical chairs. The most exciting part for one staff member was seeing the cake-cutting ceremony that celebrated all the children’s birthdays. As we celebrated all birthdays from January to December 2010, the children seemed to be amused by the celebration of “the birthday of everybody!” It was very exciting to see their delight as we distributed gift packs to the children towards the end of the party.
The holiday party is just one of several social gathering held year-round that facilitate our sense of community as being members of one organization and of being “Sakhis.” Whether we are interns, volunteers or full time staff, we all have learned about the lack of anti-violence services for South Asian communities. Our commitment and dedication to the South Asian survivors we serve makes us all Sakhis. Sakhi events such as this one, helps us reflect on the importance of our roles as advocates in the daily work that we do with survivors. What we each took from the gathering is the significance that community support means to survivors and that support and a listening ear can go a long way toward healing.
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