LifeWay Network’s Welcoming and Inspiring New Growth as Sisters (WINGS) Restorative Community Mentorship Program, has been in full swing these past few months! The aim of the program is to help survivors lower their trauma symptoms and increase coping skills, self-sufficiency and empowerment within the context of a safe community. Each week, participants gather for a meal with WINGS staff and parish volunteers. There has been quite a variety of food (Italian, Cuban and Indian to name a few) and it’s all been delicious! It’s been a healing experience for all who attend these dinners to share and hear personal stories of strength, courage and perseverance. The participants have also been working on business soft skills, such as facilitation, negotiation, advocacy and public speaking. Through discussions and exercises, our women have been able to practice these valuable skills that will help them achieve their employment and life goals. As the program has progressed, we’ve seen our participants learn to use their voice, gain confidence and start sharing their stories in ways that are meaningful to them.
In addition to personal growth, WINGS participants also expand their network of support by building community with one another, mentors and parish volunteers. For example, on Valentine’s Day, the parish decorated for the holiday and their family ministry made beautiful placemats for our women. Some of our women are studying to take the GED, so one of our fabulous mentors offered to host a math study group to help them as they prepare! One of our participants went back to school, and we have been able to offer support. We were able to celebrate one of our participants passing her food safety exam! Our WINGS community is with our women on every step of their journey of healing.
On March 7th a group of 10 people, including WINGS participants, their families, mentors and LifeWay staff, visited the Statue of Liberty. The trip was funded by DVF Studio. For many who attended, it was their first time there! Our group spent time in the Statue of Liberty museum, experienced the awesome views on the pedestal of the statue and enjoyed lunch together. Though it was cold and windy, the day was filled with lots of laughter and warm memories!
Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 outbreak, the remainder of the sessions and graduation have been postponed. When we hold graduation, we plan to have it catered by some of the WINGS participants, giving them an opportunity to showcase their culinary skills! Each woman will be given the opportunity to share her story by giving a business or advocacy “pitch.” We are really looking forward to celebrating the hard work and commitment of our participants!
We’re already looking ahead to our next WINGS cohort, set to start in the fall. If you’re interested in ways to partner with us, please email Maressa Jaikumar, WINGS Program Coordinator, email@example.com. We’re accepting donations of gift cards for office supplies/program materials and food items for our dinners. You may also volunteer to be a mentor or dinner volunteer.
By Maressa Jaikumar, WINGS Program Coordinator