What happens when you turn something deeply personal, something that can be a source of shame and brokenness, outward? What happens when you bring what was buried up to the surface?
The answers can be found on the wrists of Transition House’s Youth Action Corps.
The project is called aWEARness, and was launched through the Youth Venture initiative of United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. United Way Youth Venture provides funding and mentorship for groups of local students to embark on a social entrepreneurship endeavor.
The aWEARness project consists of two parts: bracelets and a community blog. The bracelets, designed and crafted by the Youth Action Corps members, come in a variety of colors, which represent different types of abuse. Each bracelet includes a note card with stats, definitions and a link to the blog, which offers youth a chance to post stories and dialogue about dating violence and access resources.
“We wanted to get people, most specifically youth, more aware of and informed about dating violence,” said Zohar Fuller, Youth Action Corps Program Coordinator for Transition House. Transition house is a United Way partner agency based in Cambridge, which provides shelter, transition and youth prevention education. “In addition, we wanted to provide an opportunity for conversation and support for survivors of abuse.”
The bracelet idea was a completely youth-driven idea, as the team knew that bracelets were a trendy accessory and could draw interest and inquiries from the public. Fuller is, however, quick to clarify that the purpose of the bracelets isn’t to “out” survivors of abuse. They were intended to be worn by anyone–an ally, a friend of a survivor or survivors themselves.
“There is strong stigma around survivors of abuse,” says Fuller. “Wearing something like this, which is so public, can help reduce that stigma and instead show the strength and empowerment of survivors. This is about making people aware of what types of abuse exist and starting the conversation.”
Before the bracelets became a reality, the youth had to secure their funding. This required a special pitch presentation to a panel of United Way Youth Venture volunteers. They had to outline their project, break down their budget and articulate their vision.
“Upon hearing that we received the funding, the youth became more excited, full of energy, and more driven,” says Fuller. “They immediately were more goal-oriented and wanted to reach what they had set out to accomplish.”
So now the bracelets are in the wild and for the aWEARness team it’s the first step in a much bigger campaign—a campaign of strength and solidarity, of pride and paradigm shifts.
Change has to start somewhere. Why not from someone’s wrist?