Monday, January 14, 2013

IMPACT Graduates Change the World One Person at a Time

What we experience in IMPACT class changes graduates in powerful yet intangible ways. The things we learn about ourselves become part of our daily lives and the transformation is gradual. It’s perceptible, but hard to pinpoint.
Some women want the sense of safety to travel solo. Others are sick of being pushed around at work. Others find they can’t effectively keep their sense of self with family. Some have been subjected to emotional and physical violence, and are looking for a way to heal. We have dug to the bottom of ourselves and have assembled all we could salvage. We’re not sure what shape to give what we’ve found. How do we materialize a new life, a new voice, and new perspectives?
 “Let’s start there,” says IMPACT ‘s philosophy. “Start where you are. What’s solid for you right now? Then build on your strengths.” When I returned to Chicago from living overseas a few years, I looked at all the ways I could make a difference in my community. How could I draw it in around me, in a way that’s true to me and to my beliefs? How could I put down roots again while being more enmeshed with people who would support me and also challenge me? IMPACT fundamentally provides a sense of openness and acceptance to each individual.
Many volunteers and instructors involved with IMPACT have either a formal or an intuitive understanding of social work concepts. This shows in IMPACT’s strength-based perspective, and how IMPACT helps people empower themselves. IMPACT isn’t social work per se, but there are many correlations. We espouse the method of non-violent communication, where we focus on how a statement is perceived rather than its possible intent and rebuttal. We strive to practice service leadership in assisting one another get our work done to benefit IMPACT’s mission.
The Core Program embodies everything a social-work group should be. Instructors build a space for each voice to be heard. In it, we connect to one another without expectations other than we will root for one another. We encourage one another when our courage or our stamina flag. We celebrate one another at the end of each fight, and at the end of the Core Program. Then we venture back into the world and into our own lives, to carry on the message of non-violence through containment.
Whether a macro-, big-picture person or a one-on-one, act-local person, IMPACT changes our thinking. To be given the space to experiment, to stretch, to wrestle with major issues from the past, or even to have a voice and be more assertive and feel less fear and go where we want – every woman is affected in one way or another by taking these classes, and spreads the change around her.
Submitted by AC Racette

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