Building Power with Survivors: 2021 in Review

Our focus increasingly lies in finding ways to bring our services closer to survivors. In doing so, we’re building a more inclusive network of survivors who are healing and intervening; creating survivor-led programming; and organizing with the community to prevent violence. Dive into how we build connection, intracommunity trust, safety, and independence:

This year, Sakhi advocates focused on building with survivors. Together, we built connection, intracommunity trust, skills, economic freedom, safety and independence through interventions such as:

  • Our trauma-informed Sakhi Solidarity Grants;
  • Responsive training and programming, as demonstrated through the restructuring of our Food Justice Program and the development of our ESL and digital and financial literacy classes;
  • The inclusion of significant rental assistance funding within our Housing Program, which helps survivors leave abusive situations without existential fears of lacking shelter or stability;
  • A robust youth mental health counseling program that multiplies the impact of our Youth Program through individual and group sessions;
  • The expansion of our helpline into a volunteer program, led by Sakhi’s new Helpline and Volunteer Manager

Working in a remote setting has been a battle between recharging our energies and settling into new boundaries. As a team, we are exploring what it has meant to shift work that we never could have imagined as anything but in-person, to a virtual setting. We have found both new challenges and possibilities in the process. In reflecting on the past year of virtual adjustments, we sat down with our colleagues to dive into their year, and discuss what made 2021 a memorable year for them.

Memorable Moments

“Each time a client calls to share a happy personal news or to casually check in on me, it reaffirms my faith that we are in this together. We are partners in this fight against gender based violence and the relationships that we have built have the power to change the culture of the world.”

– Shilpy Chatterjee, Sakhi Anti-Violence Program Manager

“Now we are thinking about [this survivor’s] future–her long-term goals. That was not even in the back of her mind when we first met. Now she is thinking about what apartment she wants to live in, as she awaits a housing voucher. She is thinking about what pre-K to send her infant to. Learning English and how to commute around new york. Building a vision for herself and power over her future. At first, being alone was overwhelming.

These things could be possible. What does advocacy mean, for us and for our clients? I see this as a big success and a motivation.”

– Shubhekchya Malla, Sakhi Anti-Violence Program Advocate

“So many of the folks that I have been working with persevered. There is still work that we are doing together, as there is more to be done, always, but the progress, motivation, and sheer desire to be better, is what kept them going. We have a check-in protocol to track progress and symptoms, and seeing symptoms drop was amazing. This was their work. I was just here to witness and listen.”

– Rachana Parekh, Sakhi Mental Health Counselor

In Survivor’s Words

“When people think of domestic violence, they often think of women and children. As a man, I couldn’t have imagined that this would happen to me too. I had the most traumatic experience while living with my ex-wife and step-son; as an Indian immigrant, I was treated as a slave in their house. For a while, I felt ashamed to even mention the abuse I endured to my friends and family, and even considered suicide. I finally chose to speak to my doctor about my situation, and she referred me to counseling services and a local domestic violence agency.

Once I moved to New York, I began receiving services from Sakhi. Today, I am a VAWA petitioner and feel fully supported by Sakhi on all fronts. Without this kind of support, I may have ended up hopeless and homeless. I urge all the individuals and corporations with the means to donate as much they can to help victims and survivors of domestic violence. Please reach out for help if you need it. Everyone deserves a safe and happy life.”

– Karan Saluja

“As a survivor and a mother, I want to build a better future for myself and my children. When I first reached out to Sakhi, my husband abducted three of my children and left me and my newborn behind with overdue rent and no financial resources. I had been enduring years of physical and emotional abuse from my husband and in-laws, and faced language barriers and isolation.

With Sakhi’s case planning and referrals, I’ve moved to a safe shelter and my attorney has filed a request in family court to require my husband to return my children back to the U.S. from Pakistan. Although I have yet to be reunited with my kids, I am working with Sakhi to ensure that I can provide a stable living situation and consistent education once they are back in my custody. As I work toward that goal, I hope to learn English and gain more independence. I’ve recently even started learning more about New York City and even commuted around for the first time!”

– S.N.