Igniting a Child’s Spark

Throughout 2018, all of us here at Harbor House have been inspired by the theme of light. That light within each of us that cannot be put out, no matter how dark the world around us may be. That light of hope each woman and child reclaims as they walk through our doors for safety and support from an abusive relationship.

In March, we used that theme to shine a light on the stories of some amazing, local women who encouraged each of us to look inward at the value and beauty of our own stories at our first annual Her~Story event. In June, Heather brought her story out of the darkness and into the light during our Illuminate campaign as she courageously shared her journey as a survivor of domestic abuse. In October, the Purple Porch Project encouraged the entire community to shine a purple light outside their home in support of survivors of domestic abuse. We embraced “Collective Brightness” celebrating the bright light that shines when we come together to help illuminate a way forward for others struggling through dark times during our Ultraviolet event in October.

To visually demonstrate collective brightness, our Ultraviolet event featured a giant Lite Brite with a design inspired by the kids who attend our weekly Children’s Support Group. This summer, we asked for their help with a design and they had a blast brainstorming ideas. They came up with a bunch of fun concepts including their favorite movie and video game characters, cool shapes and animals, but the design that they kept coming back to was a unicorn. It seems like unicorns are everywhere these days, from fancy coffee drinks, to clothing, makeup, and, candy. We asked six-year-old Ella, who drew a unicorn for her design, what she loved about unicorns and she said, “because unicorns are magic! And I can go on magical adventures with them!”

Just three months earlier, Ella and her little sister, Kayla, were living a very different daily routine far from a world of unicorns and rainbows. Like many families, when the girls got home from school with their mom, they would talk about their day, have a snack and enjoy some playtime together. But once 5:00 pm rolled around, the entire mood of the house changed. The girls nervously scrambled to put away every toy, tidy the kitchen and run to their bedrooms where they hid to stay out of the path of their dad. His arrival was always unpredictable. Would he come home looking for hugs or would he storm in the door yelling and throwing things because he had a bad day at work, because dinner wasn’t ready or because their toys weren’t put away? Ella and Kayla tried to stay out of his way and often times couldn’t fall asleep at night because of the yelling and fighting going on in their home.

One day the three of them came to Harbor House once their mom decided to begin their journey to find safety and peace. The first few weeks transitioning to life at Harbor House were hard on the whole family. The girls were very cautious, quiet and distant. They were so used to living in fight or flight mode when at home so they entered into new situations ‘walking on eggshells’ because that is what they had learned to do to survive. After a few meetings with our Children and Youth Advocate, Ella began to feel more comfortable. She found a place where she was able to feel safe expressing her feelings and sharing her thoughts with a trusted adult. She was assured that she was in no way responsible for the violence that took place in her home. She was learning healthy coping skills. She started working through her emotions. Her journey to healing was underway.

Ella and her sister had been at Harbor House for about two months when they had the chance to be a part of the Lite Brite design project. As the activity was explained, Ella lit up! She was so excited about her unicorn. It was clear that the unicorn has important meaning in her life, helping her to feel safe and to cope as she heals from the trauma she has experienced in her young life. We were so honored to feature Ella’s design on our giant lite brite board at Ultraviolet and she beamed with pride when she saw her unicorn in lights.

A few weeks ago, Ella, Kayla and their mom moved into their own apartment. Ella and Kayla still come to Children’s Support Group and look forward to being with their friends each week. Their mom started a new job after completing our Step Up job readiness program and she feels confident in her skills and abilities. The girls and their mother still come in for regular one-on-ones with advocates each month and their bond grows
stronger every day as they begin this new chapter of life together.

Children who are exposed to violence in the home are denied their right to a safe and stable home environment. Many are suffering silently, and with little support. These children need trusted adults to turn to for help and comfort, and services that will help them to cope with their experiences.

In 2017, Harbor House served 511 children who had experienced the challenges of domestic violence and over half of those children spent time staying in our shelter. Kids need to know that the trauma they’ve experienced does not define them. Harbor House’s Children and Youth programming helps them heal from the trauma that they have experienced so that they can live into their fullest, healthiest potential. The protective factors we promote such as feelings of well-being, knowledge of healthy relationships and supportive relationships with their protective parent, can help shield children from the adverse effects of living with domestic abuse. And thanks to support of our community, it is having an impact!

The services provided by Harbor House play an essential role in ensuring that domestic abuse doesn’t hold anyone back from living their most fulfilled life. When you make a gift to Harbor House, you ensure that kids, like Ella and Kayla, have access to the programs and services at Harbor House where they can regain their confidence and end the cycle of abuse. You ensure that women, just like their mom, have access to an advocate who will be there for her every step of the way as she is empowered to make decisions to keep herself and her family safe.

Your support shines a light of hope for survivors! It has been a dark year in our community. In the past 15 months, four women in the Fox Valley lost their lives to domestic violence. This is unprecedented, but we hold on to hope and will not waver in our efforts to support survivors and end domestic abuse in our community. Now more than ever, we need to lift each other up and shine our light.

Be a part of the larger, collective light of the Harbor House family by supporting and contributing to a safer community where everyone can thrive. Donate today to shine a light for survivors this holiday season.