ASHA’s volunteer Advocates provide information that empowers women to make their own decisions towards living a life free of abuse. Clients can discuss their options and decisions with an advocate without the fear of criticism or shame. Advocates do not give professional legal or mental health advice, they merely facilitate. All interaction is in total confidence and advocates sign a confidentiality agreement.
On another, very vital level, Advocates provide a range of support services.
What Advocates do for Clients
- Help with transportation – bus tokens, taxi fare etc
- Translation of documents
- Court accompaniment to obtain protection orders, child support, etc.
- Assistance to relocate clients and their children to shelters/apartments
- Assistance with child care arrangements
- Assistance and referrals for locating and obtaining employment
- Referrals for immigration & other legal counseling
- Referrals for psychological counseling
- Telephone cards for domestic and international calls
- Life-skills instruction: how to use public transportation, budgeting etc.
- Educational assistance – tuition fees, donated computers, etc.
- Clothing assistance – emergency winter clothes, school uniforms, etc.
- Assistance with fees for medical care
Profile of a Volunteer Advocate
ASHA received a wonderful thank you recently from a client who secured a divorce after two years of trauma. Since then she has found an excellent job and bought a house where she is happily living with her five year old son. The heartfelt thank you was really for Monica Kadam, our client advocate of three years.
Monica is one of those amazing women who feel deeply, work rationally, inspire confidence and bring about change. She managed to restore our client’s self esteem to a level where the client could stand on her own feet and optimize her own potential. It was not easy for Monica. She had to be on call most of the time to discuss an incredible range of problems and issues the client faced from time to time. Ranging from child’s education to banking procedures, from doctor checkups to court visits, Monica had to be patient, objective, analytical while being compassionate and supportive. Maintaining a fine balance is exceedingly hard in situations of domestic violence which stoke a variety of strong subjective responses even from experienced volunteers.
Monica has learnt to cope in the course of handling several challenging DV cases. She is quite sure that this is what she wants to do in her life, though initially there were doubts: “I was always interested in volunteer work from my high school days. I did not get to do much when I was in India. I heard about ASHA, but was not sure if it was the right choice for me. In the beginning I was kind of scared to deal with DV cases. I got over that fear after my first case. It is a nice feeling to know that I could make some difference in someone's life and how our support can help them to get to a stage where they can be independent.”
Though Monica has a full time job and a busy family life she still finds it possible to balance all spheres. Interestingly, her family encourages her to get deeper into volunteering, particularly her daughter, since Monica finds the work so gratifying.
Not all advocacy cases work out positively though, and there can be a deep sense of frustration and self doubt - did you do everything that was possible? Like other experienced volunteers, Monica converts a troubled advocacy into a self training exercise, analyzing the social, psychological and other aspects of the case. There’s always something new to be learnt.
And there’s a lot that can be taught. Compassionately, gently, the Monica way, to make a damaged person walk strong and independent again.
*Name changed to protect identity