"The eyes are the windows to the soul."
Although William Shakespeare may have written these immortal words many years ago, they still resonate with me today through my years of volunteering and board membership, as I remember...
The relief in a survivor's eyes when she knew for the first time in a long time that she would be able to sleep safely in a bed in the emergency shelter.
The reverence in an employee's eyes as they led a counseling session for a group of survivors knowing that their words and actions would empower them on their journey to freedom.
The joy in a little boy's eyes as he dropped his possessions and ran to hug my therapy dog, Freddie, as he and his family entered the shelter after leaving the hospital, having escaped their abuser.
The confidence in a survivor's eyes as she told her story to legislators in Harrisburg during an advocacy day for domestic violence organizations across the state.
The pride in a volunteer's eyes as she moved into her own secured apartment furnished with second-hand furniture, but with first-hand determination to make this her home.
The honor in a board member's eyes as they read the DVCCC mission statement at the beginning of each board meeting.
You would think that as a board member and volunteer at a domestic violence center, I would most often see the fear in people's eyes. However, when someone steps through the doors of DVCCC, they are empowered to reclaim their lives, their happiness, and the dignity that every human deserves. Throughout its 45 years of service to the community, DVCCC has assisted over 40,000 people who have sought services to reclaim their strength, power, and courage.
How does this happen? In a word, resiliency.
Resiliency is the ability to recover from or adjust easily to adversity or change. With the root of domestic violence based on power, I see "adjusting easily" as a relative phrase. I prefer the psychologist's definition of resiliency as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress...As much as resilience involves "bouncing back" from these difficult experiences, it can also involve profound personal growth.
Process of adapting. Profound personal growth. Yes, this is the resiliency that shines through the organization and the community we serve.
The resiliency to move your family into an emergency shelter, leaving what may have been familiar, albeit destructive.
The resiliency to serve DVCCC as an employee, volunteer, or board member, taking on a charge that is often socially uncomfortable.
The resiliency to be a survivor and bring your own experiences to work as a staff member, board member, or volunteer, staying the course on your journey to freedom as you help others on their own.
The resiliency to be an organization that emerged during a time when domestic violence remained largely unrecognized and virtually ignored in the legal, medical, and social spheres. Domestic violence has evolved from a "private family matter" to a global discussion that has been amplified today as "a pandemic within the pandemic."
Empowering survivors and advocating for change in our society for 45 years has been a daunting task, but one that DVCCC and its supporters have passionately embraced on behalf of each person whose eyes tell the story of domestic violence, but whose soul embraces the transformation ahead through their own resilient spirit.
Lara Dushkewich is a Board Member and Direct Volunteer at the Domestic Violence Center of Chester County. She has over 20 years of non-profit volunteer and leadership experience with a focus on empowering and inspiring individuals to find their own voice and best self. She has a BS in Business Management, a Masters in Leadership Development, and Project Management Professional certification. She serves as the lead of the Board’s Personnel Committee and Adopt-a-Family program leadership team as well as partner to Freddie, TDIAOV, THDX, CGC, who provides joy and support at the center as a certified therapy dog.