Portland WRAPS arms around survivors
BY MARLYSS SCHWENGELS –
They are survivors, women who have lived through the darkest of nights, living in constant fear. For some at The Salvation Army West Women’s and Children’s Shelter, the journey toward healing is set in words, through the power of community writing.
Write Around Portland (WRAP), a nonprofit organization that offers writing workshops for low-income and isolated members of the Portland, Ore., community, has changed the lives of more than 250 people since 1998. Some are homeless youth or senior citizens. Others are HIV-infected, disabled or mentally ill. And others are survivors of domestic violence, like the women at The West.
“We were told participants felt transformed,” says Lori Moiel, volunteer coordinator at The West. “That this was the best experience the women had had since arriving at the shelter. When a woman submits a piece of writing, it’s as if she holds up a painting and waits for her audience’s interpretation. Her power is reestablished.”
Moiel tells the story of one such woman. When Carolyn M. first arrived, she thought so little of herself that she would barely look at anyone. She believed she was a “bad” writer. She believed she had nothing to say. She would withdraw and spend days alone in her room. The workshop transformed her. She now writes volumes and speaks in front of scores of people. She is but one example of WRAP’s contribution to the community. “They have given those who have been silenced a new kind of voice,” says Moiel.
WRAP has partnered with The West for the past 18 months, publishing the works of 20 women in five anthologies. Shirley H.’s poem speaks for millions of women throughout the world.
Listen to My Words
Can I tell you the terror?
Can you see my bruises?
Can I relay my pain?
Can you feel my loss?
Can I trust you not to tell?
Will you think less of me?
Listen to my words.
Try to put yourself there.
Don’t judge me or think you know better.
If you’ve never been there, just listen.
I don’t need your advice,
give me your knowledge and wisdom.
Let me make my own decision.
And pray I live long enough to make it out.
You can “listen” to the words of women like Shirley H. To purchase the $10 anthologies, write to WRAP, 917 S.W. Oak St., #220, Portland, OR 97205, or call 503-796-9224.
Their e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org