AAUW Community Action Grant

April 2, 2014 – Joanne Treistman

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) awarded a highly competitive grant to our local AAUW branch in San Juan.  The project, entitled “Domestic Violence: Healing Through Writing” has been directed by Project Director Joanne Treistman and other members of the group over the past 7 months.  An award winning author and poetess has been visiting three of our local shelters for 2 hours at a time over 12 weeks.  Each visit is related to a method of writing, including prose and poetry.  Adventurous and meaningful exercises such as writing as a group with each member contributing to the story, have taken the participants on journeys together.  Each person shares their work as they wish and anonymous versions of their work are published at the woman’s request on the Internet site Letras Vivas .  Or click here to read some samples.

Over 60 women so far have been involved in this project here on the Island.  They expressed interest, but also trepidation, on their first evaluations, but ended the process with unanimously positive comments for the program and as one woman stated: Que siempre la creatividad sea sanadora y gracias a las personas que lo hacen posible.

Each week our consultant was met with comments such as “I have always been too busy to think , but now I think everyday, what will I write; I will teach my children to write like this”.  Their thanks have been appreciated by our members.

A presentation including examples of their writing was the topic at a recent meeting of the AAUW San Juan.  All AAUW San Juan meetings are open to the public.  For current information about AAUW San Juan “Like” us on Facebook or sign up for our newsletters.

April 15, 2013 – Joanne Treistman

Today is not always considered a great day, but for AAUW San Juan it is the day we received the following information from the AAUW national office:

Your project has been selected to receive a 2013 AAUW Community Action Grant.  We are confident that your work will benefit women and girls in your community and we are pleased to provide this support.
We are thrilled!!!
Some history:  In January, Patricia Schaefer and I submitted a grant request to the Community Action Grant site.  With assistance from Jo Taylor and Mary Anne Maldonado, we requested $5,500 for a one year project titled: Domestic Violence: Healing Through Writing.  Joanne Treistman is the Project Director, Patricia, the consultant and Joanne Marti has offered to be the fiduciary officer.  Funding covers only the consultant fee, travel and materials and refreshments.  The three local shelters: Casa Protegida Julia de Burgos (San Juan), Hogar Ruth (Alta Vega), Casa de la Bondad (Humaco) .
This project was a result of ongoing discussions in our local branch about helping women in Puerto Rico who were abused.  Patricia had explained a program she had developed using expressive writing to allow the writer to say and express how they felt or react to a picture and write words or expressions.  As a published poet and writer, she had experienced this and seen others open up and react to this technique.  Of course, I looked through the literature for studies of writing as a means of healing for victims of many types of trauma.  I found a meta analysis of twenty years of studies showing positive outcomes for women in physical and emotional health1 using this method.  Our hope is that once the shelters see how this program works, that it can become part of the routine for domestic abuse shelter across the island.  Further funding may come from the Department of Justice or their own funds.
This was a lengthy process for the shelters to provide information and agree to cooperate with our project. The shelters are donating space and staff to interact with our consultant.  She in turn brings them notebooks, pens, and other materials to spark the writing.  Refreshments will always be served at each weekly 2 hours session.  While maintaining privacy, the workshops are discussed with staff social workers as needed.  The women understand that any problems or concerns will be shared.  They also may share there work, or not as they wish.  A blog is set up if they wish to share their work there as well.

Participants will be asked to evaluate their experiences at the beginning, middle and end of the 2 week workshops.  This feedback is vital to making any changes needed as the workshops progress and before the second semester of workshops.

We are very proud to be a part of the Community Action Grants and hope we can ask members to lend a hand if needed, or advice as many of you have already.

We will be sending information to local media about the project without disclosing vital information about locations or residents.  This will give AAUW San Juan a face in the community.