Nervous to take the step into the professional world with an internship required to complete my English degree at Mount Mercy University, I came to the Catherine McAuley Center hoping to be able to use my passion of helping others through writing. Through my internship in the Development and Communications Department at CMC, I have been able to expand my passion for writing in a professional setting. I have also seen firsthand the impact the Center’s programs have on adult learners and women who are overcoming past trauma.
Having a loved one who has participated in other supportive living programs throughout the State of Iowa, the Transitional Housing Program caught my attention right away. The Transitional Housing Program offers a chance of a brighter future for women overcoming trauma, homelessness, and in some cases, substance abuse. The Center provides the women with a safe place to live while they take the necessary steps to overcome their personal obstacles, and offers classes for women to take to help build their life skills and to recover from trauma. While meeting with the Housing staff, I learned about a resident writing group that is offered to help the women with their writing skills and aid the recovery process. My own belief in the power of words to transform lives drove me to participate in the group.
In my first visit to the writing group, I was fortunate enough to witness how the power of words can move women to greatness. To start off the class, we were told to write instructions of how we wake up and get ready for our days. While we began to write our answers, one of the women began talking to me, and in response, another woman whispered with a light in her eyes, “SHH!! This is my favorite time of the week.” The passion in the swift flick of her wrist forming words moved us to silence, and we too began to write.
A few minutes later, the women were asked if they wanted to share what they wrote. After one woman shared, the one who hushed us began to read her passage. Powerfully, she told us how she wakes up every morning, and how she has to overcome her personal obstacles every time her alarm goes off. She told us of her strength and power as a woman with the eloquence of Maya Angelou. Through the power of her words, she shared that despite her struggle of waking up with the knowledge of her past overwhelming her—she still thanks God for giving her another day to live, and she counts each day as a blessing. She gave me the strength to wake up every morning believing that life is worth living. Not only did writing help her in her daily struggle, it gave her the time and the tools to inspire others in the room to do the same.
Words are powerful. The writing group is giving these women the stepping stone to strengthen themselves through the empowerment of writing. Just like Maya Angelou wrote, “Up from the past that’s rooted in pain / I rise.” In just one hour per week, these women are rising up and defeating their limitations through the power of writing.
By Abby Herb, Development and Communications Intern