Professional Development for Refuge Guests

Recently, I had a conversation with a male acquaintance who asked me what I do.  I told him that I work for a non-profit organization that helps women who have left the sex industry.  He said, “Women don’t need help.  They already rule the world.”  Too true, I thought.  We do rule the world.  Then I remembered the women for whom I work; women who have yet to realize and use their super powers.  I believe that we are all born with super powers – just look at Proverbs 3:10-31.  I believe the key, though, is learning that we possess these strengths, this potential.  Then we have to learn how to use our powers equitably and for good.  This is the purpose of the Refuge’s “life skills” curriculum focused on professional development.  It is this part of the curriculum that the Refuge teaches women the skills necessary to rule the world. Many of the women at the Refuge have told me that they have never had a job in which they wore clothes.  Many women tell me that they tried to leave the industry but were not qualified for work that paid a living wage because they did not have a high school diploma or the skills required.  Therefore, our life skills program includes a section about professional development that focuses on skill development and preparing women for employment in the modern marketplace.

The most basic purpose of professional development is to provide instruction and opportunities so women can leave the Refuge with the skills necessary to be prepared for and competitive in the job market.  The women develop strong typing skills and learn to use Microsoft Office by completing a basic tutorial and assignments that require the women to use Excel to create spreadsheets, Word to draft documents, PowerPoint to give presentations, and Publisher to design print media.  We conduct seminars on resumes, interviews, dressing and grooming, work place decorum, etiquette, manners, work/life balance, and career management.

Professional development also includes an assessment of the needs and goals of each woman.  My goals vary depending on the needs of each woman and the time each woman spends with the Refuge.  For example, if a woman does not have a high school diploma, we arrange for her to prepare for and take the GED test.   If a woman is interested in taking college level classes, we arrange for her to take classes online or on campus.  Currently, a woman residing with us is interested in making and rehabilitating furniture, so I am researching opportunities for her to shadow someone.  To identify personal goals and needs, I complete an evaluation when a woman arrives at the Refuge.  Then I develop a work plan that includes the activities all residents must complete plus individualized goals.  Success is measured by how many goals a woman achieves in her work plan.

The women we serve have experienced exploitation and violence.  They come to us believing that they do not have value.  They come to us looking for a place to heal and mend their hearts.  We meet them with open arms and offer them a loving, safe, supportive environment where they can rebuild their souls.  We challenge them to believe that they are so much more than they think they are.  We challenge them to believe that God has a plan for each of them – a plan for good.  We challenge them to give their worries, grief, and insecurities to God.  Then we prepare them to pursue their educational and professional opportunities, and, yes, to rule the world.

Healing can take a lifetime but hopefully you can find a place in which you feel safe and empowered enough to begin managing your recovery with the support of people who love you and a strong faith in God’s healing power.  In this place, you can begin your journey towards a self-sustainable life with stable employment, safe housing, reliable transportation and healthy relationships.  I call this place the sweet spot, and my goal is for the women to find it for themselves.  I want women to see and embrace their potential, and to appreciate the fruits of their labor.  This is what a woman’s life long mission becomes and I love to watch it unfold.  But I also love the moments in the middle of the program when a woman looks at me with big, exasperated eyes and asks me what the point of all of this work is.  I know that I am helping her learn how to use her super powers, so I cannot help but to smile a little when I say, “the point is to achieve world domination.”

Cannon-Marie Milby

Refuge for Women

Life Skills Development