Sharing Survival Stories Saturday
Sharing Survival Stories Saturdays
As Marchele Courtney, development administrator for Family Promise of South Palm Beach County, and a volunteer spent an evening hosting the families experiencing homelessness in their Road to Independence program, the mothers commented that they would like to hear real life testimonials from other single mothers, who had survived being homeless. If these women could hear from other mothers who had who survived the challenges of being homeless, they would gain strength and motivation from their stories and realize hope was on the horizon. When Marchele heard about the Be Well Do Well mini-grant opportunity, she jumped at the chance to submit the idea of “Sharing Survival Stories Saturday,” realizing that it would not only provide inspiration to the women, but also a learning opportunity and a therapeutic experience for the mothers who shared their stories as they helped others.
“Healing the Healers: Creating Happy Healthy Healers and a Happy Healthy Workforce” addresses who is a helper/healer and their various roles; types and causes of stress; the biology/physiology of stress; Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and their relationship to stress and well-being; COVID-19’s impact on helpers/healers; and the challenges faced by specific groups of helpers/healers, including helpers/healers of color and LGBTQ helpers/healers.
Recognizing it was important to share stories from a diverse group of women, Marchele commented, “Homelessness has a lot of different faces. The stories are so heartfelt.” Luz, originally from Columbia and a survivor of homelessness as well as cancer is now a PhD. Vida was homeless and a victim of domestic abuse after coming to the U.S. from Ghana and is now thriving while she works towards her PhD. A stepmother and daughter who were in Family Promise of South Palm Beach County’s program a few years ago shared that the daughter is now in college and working for the organization as a story of paying it forward.
“These moms, they’re not ashamed or afraid, they want to share their stories,” said Sandra Symonds, program director, who oversees the “Sharing Survival Stories Saturday.” The Be Well Do Well mini-grant supports video-recorded sessions with eight women, which are shared through Family Promise of South Palm Beach County’s YouTube channel and Facebook page and are open to anyone to view beyond the women in the program, and have been shared with other local agencies, including Adopt-A-Family, Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse (AVDA) and City House. Each story has been viewed an average of 150 times and future plans are to present the series to 20 different congregations in Family Promise of South Palm Beach County’s volunteer network. “You just never how you’re going to reach someone and touch her life.” said Sandra
For Amy, a former single, homeless mom, she was deeply touched by hearing from Shanda, a mother who lost her job and home, yet went on to become a successful business entrepreneur. “Shandra’s story was awe inspiring.” said Amy. “Just listening to her talk about cheering on herself, celebrating wins, learning from the failures, and not looking at them as losses because she learned something from them. Being grateful for what you have, instead of focusing on what you don’t have. This has been something I’ve been working on, so it’s great to hear it from others.”
“I have grown to love these women,” said Marchele. “They are amazing. We are really grateful to have the opportunity to share their stories. They really want to help other women and it has become therapy for them as well.”
The goal of ‘Sharing Survival Stories Saturday’ is to make an impact on the single mothers in our program and all the single moms or parents who may be struggling – we want to provide them encouragement, strength and hope” said Jennifer Raymond, executive director of Family Promise of South Palm Beach County.