At Bluegrass Domestic Violence Program we want to help facilitate opportunities for engagement and empowerment.  As part of our relationship with Grow Appalachia we have created a pilot program within our farm programming at BDVP.  Over the last several weeks we have incorporated a stipend program into our gardening project. We wanted to see if offering a small stipend to our clients would encourage participation and draw them into garden work.  Many victims enter shelter without any source of income so, a little bit of pocket money can make a big difference as they are getting on their feet. We also feel that the stipend opportunity can create avenues for some clients to adjust to shelter life by taking part in BDVP community work.

We typically have a pretty good amount of  involvement in farm activities.  Our families are usually pretty excited about the produce, the flowers, the honey.  They may try to come and help in the garden when they can but, they are surviving and they are trying to figure out their next step.  For some, the garden easily provides a healing space. Others  however, see it for the hard work that it is and can be a bit wary of jumping right in.   We have seen that active participation in the farm and associated activities creates a really positive atmosphere at our facility.  We want to develop this and so we decided to look at different ways to encourage participation through an empowerment model.  I mean, let’s face it, our clients do not come to shelter to learn how to farm.  They come here because they are victims of intimate partner violence.  We cannot expect them to be totally gung-ho about pulling weeds and shoveling compost.  Honestly, we really aren’t here to have any expectations around their choices.  We are simply here to create a safe space and to make resources available for them.  We hope that our programming can promote opportunities for healing and growth in their lives, but, it is not our job to assume that it can or that it will. 

That being said, we are seeing some AMAZING participation in our garden and projects associated with the stipend program!  It has been so cool to watch these women get involved and really find some ownership in our farm.  These ladies have been timely, enthusiastic, and incredibly hard-working so far.  In fact, as I write this post, there are three lovely ladies in the garden, weeding and mulching!  Part of me is a little sad that I am not out there with them but a much bigger part of me is SO proud that they are rocking this!!!!  I see this is as empowerment! 

Participants in the program are asked to work 9 hours per week.  We schedule with each client individually at the beginning of the week to work around their schedules and other support groups they are interested in attending.  So far we have had three ladies involved with the stipend program and a new client to begin next week. 

One of our women participated in the program for one week before she relocated to another state to be with her family.  She stated that, “working on the farm made me proud of the way it looked when I was done.  It made me feel like I accomplished something.  Coming out of a domestic violence situation, I felt down on myself and working on the farm made me happy, strong, made be me feel better and I liked it.”
I am so grateful that BDVP can offer a little monetary incentive (through Grow Appalachia) to value these women’s hard work and productivity!