TWI recognized for service to refugees

Staff of The Women’s Initiative and the International Rescue Committee at the award ceremony in July. The IRC cited the impact of the work of TWI therapist Joanna Ajex, MA, second from left, who provides counseling to refugees at the IRC office in Charlottesville each week.

Staff of The Women’s Initiative and the International Rescue Committee at the award ceremony in July. The IRC cited the impact of the work of TWI therapist Joanna Ajex, MA, second from left, who provides counseling to refugees at the IRC office in Charlottesville each week.

The Women’s Initiative has been named the 2019 “Service Partner of the Year” for its work with refugees in the state of Virginia.

The award was given by the Virginia Refugee Resettlement Network “for outstanding contributions in the field of refugee mental health.”

In its nomination of The Women’s Initiative for the award, the Charlottesville office of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) cited the impact of the work of Joanna Ajex, MA, MD (Russia), TWI therapist and education coordinator, who provides individual counseling to refugees at the IRC office every week.

Dr. Ajex and The Women’s Initiative ... help refugees at a crucial moment in their lives.
— International Rescue Committee

“She is adept in working with interpreters and clients from diverse backgrounds,” the Charlottesville IRC staff wrote. “Having her as a resource allows our clients to access mental health services in a timely and efficient manner. Whereas psychiatry providers focus primarily on medication, and other psychological services are often restrictive in their availability, costs, and language capacity, Dr. Ajex and The Women's Initiative circumvent these challenges to help refugees at a crucial moment in their lives.

“These appointments, free of charge for IRC clients, greatly reduce the barriers to care that refugee and immigrant families typically experience. Long waits for appointments, difficulty with scheduling and transportation, unfamiliar locations and limited access to interpretation as well as a general mistrust of mental health care regularly prevent individuals from accessing help. TWI's contribution and commitment have mitigated these barriers significantly.”

The IRC also noted its collaboration with TWI and VCU on a psychoeducational program that increases understanding of the mental health impact of resettlement on refugees. The program, called Trauma-Informed Cross-Cultural Psychoeducation (TICCP), empowers leaders of refugee and immigrant communities to build awareness about stress, trauma and culture. Ajex co-leads the program with Ingrid Ramos, LPC.

“The Women’s Initiative has demonstrated exemplary vision and leadership in the field of mental health for a number of years, and has generously contributed their services to the refugee community through our partnership,” the IRC wrote.

Yoga offerings help women heal

YOGA-lotus-shutterstock_1227113218-purchased.jpg

Yoga at The Women’s Initiative helps women restore a feeling of safety in their bodies.

Increasing research testifies to the healing power of yoga and other mindfulness practices. Bessel Van Der Kolk, a professor of psychiatry at Boston University Medical School and a leading researcher in traumatic stress, has found that frequent yoga practice over extended periods of time helps decrease symptoms of PTSD and depression in women.

The Women’s Initiative offers new yoga classes each season. Examples include Chair Yoga; Gentle Yoga for Mindfulness; and Yoga for Women of Color in partnership with Common Ground Healing Arts. Click here to see our current yoga and other mind-body offerings.

Yoga and mindfulness practices can help us befriend our bodies and their sensations, release muscular tension instilled not just by everyday stress but by traumatic histories, and use our breath to regulate our nervous systems—all processes that trauma is apt to disrupt.

Mind-body programming at TWI is free and open to all women and all bodies.Though any community yoga or mindfulness class can help one to heal, our trauma-sensitive program is unique in that it puts particular emphasis on cultivating physical and emotional safety. In TWI mind-body classes, all "instructions" are really invitations: a participant is as free to exit a pose or a movement or the room as she is to enter it. And this invitation is itself part of the healing, enabling a sense of physical and emotional agency that the traumatized body may have forgotten.

This article is adapted from our Winter 2018 Newsletter.

Understanding the impact of childhood trauma

Recommended reading: "What Do Asthma, Heart Disease and Cancer Have in Common? Maybe Childhood Trauma," from NPR.

Read this report and learn about the severity and prevalence of childhood trauma, also known as toxic stress. This public health issue affects so many in our community, including many of our clients.

That's why we are bringing greater awareness of all the ways to heal trauma—including therapy, movement, groups and education.

Chair Yoga promotes strength & healing

Join us on Wednesday mornings for Chair Yoga, a gentle and therapeutic offering that promotes strength, flexibility, healing and mindful attention.

Chair Yoga is a part of our expanded Mind-Body Program to meet the holistic needs of women who have experienced trauma.

Increasing research testifies to the healing power of yoga and other mindfulness practices. Bessel Van Der Kolk, a professor of psychiatry at Boston University Medical School and a leading researcher in traumatic stress, has found that frequent yoga practice over extended periods of time helps decrease symptoms of PTSD and depression in women.

Yoga and mindfulness practices can help us befriend our bodies and their sensations, release muscular tension instilled not just by everyday stress but by traumatic histories, and use our breath to regulate our nervous systems—all processes that trauma is apt to disrupt.

Katharine Scott Gilliam teaches Chair Yoga at The Women's Initiative, which is free and open to all women and all bodies. The class meets every Wednesday at our main office, 1101 East High Street, from 11:15 am-12:15 pm.

 

 

Katharine Scott Gilliam teaches Chair Yoga at The Women's Initiative.

Katharine Scott Gilliam teaches Chair Yoga at The Women's Initiative.

Trauma-informed care discussion draws 700 attendees

IMG_1733.jpg

The Greater Charlottesville community came together Tuesday morning to commit to addressing trauma as a major public-health issue. 

Theresa Caldwell, left, and Dr. Allison Sampson-Jackson.

Theresa Caldwell, left, and Dr. Allison Sampson-Jackson.

Dr. Allison Sampson-Jackson and Theresa Caldwell lead a conversation entitled “Trauma: How it affects you and every member of our community” at the Paramount. More than 700 people were in attendance.  

IMG_1746.jpg

The Women’s Initiative was a co-host of the event in partnership with Adiuvans, the Greater Charlottesville Trauma-Informed Community Network, ReadyKids, Piedmont CASA, the Community Mental Health and Wellness Coalition and the Early Education Task Force.

Toxic trauma is the result of prolonged or multiple exposures to adverse childhood experiences, abbreviated ACEs, such as physical, sexual and emotional abuse. A landmark study in the 1990s established that these experiences are common and can impact many aspects of physical and mental health, even leading to early death. Additional research is also connecting multigenerational trauma and historical oppression of minority communities to negative health outcomes.

Theresa Caldwell, left, and TWI Board Member Beverly Adams, PhD.

Theresa Caldwell, left, and TWI Board Member Beverly Adams, PhD.

A recent study, for example, found that 61% of mental health conditions that caused a disruption in work or other activities for 14 days or more were related to ACES.

“People are dying, going to jail, suffering...we have to be able to talk about it,” Sampson-Jackson said.

Sampson-Jackson and Caldwell also stressed that resilience—the ability to bounce back from difficult experiences—can be built and nurtured in individuals, families and communities.

The Women’s Initiative is committed to being a leader in trauma-informed care in Central Virginia. TWI Executive Director Elizabeth Irvin, LCSW, is on the steering committee of the Greater Charlottesville Trauma-Informed Community Network and is co-chair of the Community Mental Health and Wellness Coalition. And, as a part of our 2016-2020 Strategic Plan, The Women’s Initiative is creating a comprehensive trauma program to bring greater awareness of all the ways to heal trauma—including therapy, movement, groups and education.

To learn more or become involved in the Greater Charlottesville Trauma-Informed Community Network, email Trauma@PCASA.org and include your name in the body of the email.

Growing our Mind-Body Program to heal trauma

We're growing our Mind-Body Program to help heal trauma through movement.

Trauma-informed yoga, dance and other movement styles help release muscular tension stored in our bodies because of both everyday stress and histories of trauma. These practices also enable us to use breath to regulate our nervous system, a process which trauma often disrupts. 

All of these offerings are free and open to all women and all bodies, and no experience is required.

Check out our latest mind-body offerings...

Additionally, The Women's Initiative will be hosting a special Holiday Breathe & Move event, with yoga as well as origami paper-crane-making.

Call (434) 872-0047 to reserve your spot, and check out the Facebook event!