At the Big Lottery Fund, we love to fund projects which draw their strength and inspiration from the people they help. Shelter, which received £10,000 of National Lottery money last year, is just such a project.
Run by Bounce Culture in Derry/Londonderry, Shelter supports women who have overcome domestic and sexual abuse to take part in a series of workshops to build self-esteem and confidence, and teach skills around personal motivation and stress management.
Mirenda Rosenberg is one of the project’s facilitators – as well as being a freelance radio presenter, a performance coach, and a powerhouse soul singer! Originally from Washington DC, this talented woman moved to Ireland in 2005 and wowed audiences from one end of the island to the other.
Mirenda’s work with Shelter is informed by her own deeply personal experiences of domestic violence. Having first-hand experience of life in an abusive relationship, Mirenda has understands what life has been like for the women she works with.
“I think the fact that I have survived an abusive relationship allows the women at the group to relate to me more. It wasn’t as if I was a person coming to the group with no knowledge and trying to tell them how to sort out their lives,” she explained.
“I suffered abuse in a former long term relationship. It was comprised of control as well as psychological and emotional abuse.
“I was quite isolated and literally not able to leave the house unless it was to go and do some shopping and things like that.”
As a tutor with Shelter, Mirenda has listened to the stories of participants who have suffered physical, mental and emotional abuse at the hands of husbands, partners or family members. Because of her own experience, Mirenda can speak from a position of strength and joy after leaving her abuser. Her life is a testament to the women at Shelter that you can escape the pain and be joyful as you become yourself again.
“Sometimes I forget myself how far I’ve come and what it has taken to get here until I hear someone speaking and telling their story. So I think the ladies I work with appreciate where I am now and there is a future,” Mirenda explained.
“I firmly believe I am in a place of healing and a place of hope because I am over everything and I no longer have emotional ties to my abuse any more. I remember what it feels like but it no longer steers the course of my life.
“When you are in the midst of abuse you can’t see that there is light at the end of the tunnel, you feel that you are going to be in that pain forever and healing from abuse is a very long road.”
Leaving an abusive relationship is never easy. Some women struggle with emotional difficulties as a result of their abuse which can make life hard even after leaving their abuser.
“The work that Bounce Culture‘s Shelter project does is vital. Some of the things we teach these women are critical. When you think about someone who has been abused you forget that when they are healing that it’s not just not a matter of convincing them that they aren’t in the situation any more and they are safe.
“There are fundamental emotional and interpersonal skills and emotional needs that they don’t have and we need to help them fill them. At the Shelter project we teach them how to establish boundaries and teach them how to manage things like stress. We have to help them learn to build up these skills and to relate to themselves and how to relate to other people.
“Hopefully we can help them learn to develop communication, foster solidarity and help combat feelings of isolation and ultimately being part of the project will have a positive impact on their lives and they will see that there is a way forward.”
Mirenda’s experience gives her a unique insight into the lives of the women she works with at Shelter. Thanks to the generosity of National Lottery players, Shelter is able to support women through their own personal journeys of growth and healing.
If you have been affected by Mirenda’s story or are suffering in any way from abuse there are a number of resources available to help you such as Women’s Aid – www.womensaidni.org.
The 24/7 Domestic Violence Helpline is open to anyone who is affected by domestic abuse regardless of gender. Calls are free from all phones including mobiles. Tel: 0808 802 1414
or text “Support” to 07797 805 839 Email email@example.com
There is also a National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline. Tel: 0800 999 5428 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Support through an online chat is also available. See the Galop website for more details: http://www.galop.org.uk/domesticabuse/