“It has been a privilege and an honour to learn from the bravery of the Ruhama service-users who have been through unimaginably difficult situations.”
I started volunteering for Ruhama over a year ago. I came to the information event without knowing much about the work involved. I grew up near the Mexican border with the US, so the issue of sexual violence is something that has always been in the scope of my reality and has directly affected women in my family. In my introduction to Ruhama I learned about the research and advocacy work that they do.
When I started the training I was quite moved by the conviction and fearlessness by not only the people working for Ruhama but also from long serving volunteers. It was empowering to know that there was hope. Rather than accept that things cannot change because they have always been this way, I was able to identify the ways in which I was complicit in accepting powerlessness.
At the beginning I found the training difficult mostly because I had to challenge my own feelings of helplessness. I was very humbled by the amount of knowledge and experience from the other volunteers as many of them were highly informed and knowledgeable with experience in education, law and human rights. I worried my art background could not offer anything practical to the organisation.
As I persisted with the training I met some extremely interesting, kind, and supportive women, whom I might not otherwise have met and whom I feel a strong solidarity with. The training prepared me to deal with and manage a spectrum of situations. I have also found the training valuable outside of the organisation.
I volunteered with Ruhama for almost a year providing education support. The experience has gifted me with the knowledge that kindness and time can have a profound effect on someone.
I had taken a break from volunteering as I left Ireland to travel for an extended period. When the pandemic happened, as a result of the travel ban, I remained in the US until flights resumed again. During this time, I was in contact with Ruhama and I was able to join the meetings remotely.
Initially I was disheartened because it seemed impossible that I could be of help from so far away. However, once the remote learning had been set up by Anne and Trish in the Education department it was easy enough for me to work remotely from New Mexico with a young woman in Limerick. The remote outreach has its drawbacks as there are sometimes technical issues and it is not as immediate as direct contact, but it is still invaluable that services are accessible to women who need them.
Most importantly, it has been a privilege and an honour to learn from the bravery of the Ruhama service-users who have been through unimaginably difficult situations and have remained strong.