October marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month and to bring attention to this important issue, we caught up with Carol Minchew, a volunteer with Sojourner Center, a Phoenix-based domestic violence shelter founded in 1977. “Sojourner Center has been at the forefront of providing outstanding services to victims, their children, and recently, their pets, fleeing the trauma of both physical and verbal/mental abuse,” she says. Retired from a successful interior design career that spanned 40 years, Minchew is the mother of two grown children and four “amazing” grandchildren and has been married to her second husband, Weldon, for 48 years.
Q: Why did you become involved with Sojourner Center?
A: When I arrived in the Valley in the late ‘60s, there was no such place or even a word for domestic violence. Members of the clergy, mental health professionals and attorneys did not understand how to help women fleeing this type of abuse. I know, because I sought such help as a young mother of two small children.
Q: Tell me about the volunteer work you do there.
A: Volunteering at Sojourner has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Many years ago, after getting to know the participants and their children, I realized that while physical, safety and mental health needs were being met, the victims were still seeking a sense of peace for their souls—a way to heal the Spirit part of the Mind, Body, Spirit trilogy which I found, for me, provided closure from the trauma of abuse. To this end, I facilitate a weekly, 2-hour class that teaches the victims how to move from a domestic violence survivor to one who succeeds and flourishes by taking back the control and responsibility for their own lives. I developed a workbook using the house as a metaphor for the woman’s Body, Mind and Spirit. The participants learn how to remodel their interior selves using basic principles of design to find the inner power that has been within them since birth. The women learn to meditate and to re-discover personal strengths, while acknowledging their weaknesses.
Q: As a domestic violence survivor yourself, what is it like to help women who have had similar experiences?
A: Every story is unique. Every woman is unique, but they are beautiful because of this. We do not focus on their stories of abuse—we focus on finding the authentic self that was lost in their story of abuse. I try to help them find the keys to the healing of their metaphorical house—to give them a back passageway that was closed to me at the time I sought healing. Because of the wonderful response I have had with my classes, I have expanded the workbook into an illustrated book that will soon be published and will hopefully reach survivors, their friends and families, who do not have the benefit of receiving help from a domestic violence shelter.
Q: Do you have a meaningful volunteer moment that stands out?
A: Yes. I had a young mother with an infant who returned to her alcoholic abuser after only a month in shelter, only to return a year later with her child now a toddler. She had kept her workbook and rejoined my class with an entirely different attitude—wanting to learn how to take on responsibility for herself and her child. After exploring her strengths and passions, she found a vocational school where she could express her love for animals. She became a veterinary tech and I felt like very proud mama!
Q: What can others do to help women at the Sojourner Center?
A: There are many opportunities to help, from using your personal skills in computers or office basics, to reading to the children, or giving yoga classes, etc. Of course, in today’s climate, funding is scarce among all social service programs, so donating not only time but money can make a huge difference in funding programs for these victims. We also have an outstanding donation center where survivors can select clothing, as well as, personal and household items with dignity, by using vouchers earned while in shelter. Donations are always welcome!
For more information, visit sojournercenter.com.
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