Shoe project at David and Margaret Youth and Family Services in La Verne, California.
“Wait for the other shoe to drop.”
“If the shoe were on the other foot…”
“Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.”
The survivors of trauma, the women and girls who reside and recover at David and Margaret Youth and Family Services, a national mission institution, understand the importance of a new pair of shoes and a second chance at life. For the past two years, the United Methodist Women Brighter Future for Children and Youth grant has supported the survivors of trafficking and abuse at this institution, helping them walk a path towards healing.
When United Methodist Women executive Susie Johnson, Washington Office of Public Policy, visited the David and Margaret campus in La Verne, California, she met some of the young women who shared a unique craft project to describe their journey. The young women had bought and decorated a new pair of shoes. “Some bought sneakers and some bought dress up elegant heels. They wrote a message on each shoe -- one message about their past and one message about their future,” Ms. Johnson said. For example on one sneaker, symbolizing her past, one teen wrote, “isolation, alcohol, stupidity” and on the other shoe, representing her future, she wrote, “wisdom, optimism, intellect.”
David and Margaret Youth and Family Services
David and Margaret has provided a home, a safe sanctuary for women and girls, since 1910. Through a variety of programs, a homey campus, on-site classes and recreation activities, the young women who are most at risk begin to find their way out of situations of abuse and violence and towards independence and healing.
“Our David and Margaret personifies the aims of our Human Trafficking Initiative and the purpose of United Methodist Women -- to upend the unjust to create new realities so trafficking survivors live as whole persons. Our funding supports facilitated transformation, both personal for survivors and communal, because of the institution's policy and advocacy.”
Ms. Johnson calls the Shoe Project, “a particularly poignant example of the therapeutic support enabled by our grant. I knew our United Methodist Women members would be so grateful to have their resources create the space for survivors to connect body wisdom and personal agency, inner knowing and the visual arts. Choosing and decorating new shoes with messages of faith and hope, symbolic expressions of new steps, new lives, and moving forward. And for me, it was as though United Methodist Women were walking side by the side with each survivor.”
The Brighter Future for Children and Youth grant is a supplementary giving opportunity, beyond our mission giving, in which 100 percent of the gift goes directly to the partner. Brighter Future has supported the anti-trafficking initiatives at David and Margaret for the past two years, each year providing the home with a grant of ten thousand dollars. The Brighter Future funds supported My Life, My Choice, a program to raise awareness and reduce the risk of the sexual exploitation of children and the Ending the Game program, a therapeutic program, which helped children and teens who have been trafficked heal from and end the psychological manipulation of abuse.
The young women and girls who live at and attend David and Margaret Family Services know the joy of a new pair of shoes, one foot in the past and one in the future, firmly rooted in the present.
"My site visit to David and Margaret Family Services showcased the compelling stories of young women and girls coping with trauma of the past and courageously moving toward healing,” Ms. Johnson said.
To learn more about the Brighter Future for Children and Youth grant, and to donate, visit www.unitedmethodistwomen.org/donate/brighter-future
Mary Beth Coudal is interim managing editor of response magazine.