by Liz Ligawa
Can you remember a time when you were not believed? As you think back to that time, how do you remember it impacting you? Was doubt able to sneak in and influence the credibility of your own story? Perhaps, as a response, you became a little more selective with what you shared, or at least, with whom you shared. I posed this same question to about 50 undergraduate students in a Human Diversity class where I was the guest lecturer. What we learned, as a class, of these kind of events was telling: incidents where our experiences were invalidated by doubt or unbelief began to invisibly shape how we related to others, but more significantly, we tended to wrap our truths with silence as we learned to navigate a world that had little room for our perspective.
This simple exercise I conducted with that class still resonates with me. It speaks of how one human experience can shape so many others. Although the examples shared were relatively light in nature, and were part of common childhood experiences, the impact of those incidents on the future behavior of these truth-sharers was great. I was not expecting behavioral changes to be the result of these incidents, but they were.
In our work, we speak a lot about collaboration. Our current posture toward collaboration comes from the realization that the work, and the outcomes we hope to achieve from this work, cannot happen without the collective work of many hands. In our urgency to approach the work with these many hands, however, I have observed a common forgetting (of sorts). We seem to forget that those hands are connected to people, and people function through relationships. In her book titled, Teaching Peace: A Restorative Justice Framework for Strengthening Relationships, Dr. Beverly Title alerts us to pay attention in this way. “Every relationship is valuable, no matter how insignificant it may first appear, as it is a potential window to wisdom,” (Title, 2011). Sometimes in our ambition to work, we forget that the hands are connected to people, and that it is in those people where the wisdom for the work is contained.
The Aspen Institute recently published a helpful review of community change initiatives (CCIs) over the last two decades so that the work going forward can be better informed. In their publication, the voice of relationship was also heralded as a necessary component toward change: “Comprehensive change in the most disinvested communities required effective working relationships across a multitude of community, private, and public institutions. Since poor communities had long been disconnected from outside entities, the key to sustained long-term change was to build cooperative connections,” (Kubisch, Auspos, Brown, & Dewar, 2010). In social work, we consider human relationships central to change. This is our value. So, how does this play out?
When joining the work of marginalized communities, or communities experiencing significant change, I pay attention to the role that disenfranchisement, or disconnection, has played in the life of the community. Feeling unheard is a great suffering. Not only is it difficult navigating systemic barriers that function oppressively, but it is also not the first thing that people want to talk about. Life is life, and most of us are busy just going about it. So, as I go about learning what life is like, I look for the many ways available to build the trust requisite to connect the hands to the work. Sometimes it means I show up. Sometimes it means I share. But most often, I find that trust is built on an ordinary path that many have left grown over. The path to trust is simply believing the truth that is entrusted to you. And, in the dignity of those every day moments, the work finally becomes shared, and perhaps our investments of hope fulfilled.
Elizabeth Ligawa is a recent graduate from Truett Theological Seminary, and the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, earning both her Master of Divinity, and Master of Social Work. Though her prized role is being a mother to her dear son, Elijah, Liz has a love for encouraging people to come together in ways that engender healthy communities. Her role as the Director of Community Engagement at Prosper Waco allows her the room to work in and among the many faces of her beloved Waco community. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these Aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email email@example.com for more information.
By Ashley Steenberger
“Doctors need to be more compassionate. First pregnancy I felt like I was just a statistic. I’m just going to rush you and get you out in 15 minutes. I’m not going to get paid that much anyways. It’s not about that. It’s about making me feel more comfortable in my pregnancy. Letting me know the risks and what can go wrong and what can go right.” — Patient Participant
If you’ve never heard about the Healthy Babies Coalition (HBC), we are a group of dedicated community agencies in McLennan County that provides services to mothers and babies. Our focus as a coalition is to reduce existing health disparities, improve birth outcomes of mothers and babies, and improve women’s health throughout the life cycle. Currently, we meet on the third Thursday of every month from 2-4pm.
In order to better understand the barriers to accessing women’s healthcare and decreasing preterm birth and infant mortality, the Healthy Babies Coalition partnered with the Prosper Waco Women’s Health Workgroup in 2015 to conduct eight focus groups and one interview with Waco community healthcare providers, patients (women of childbearing age) and patient support systems (men and grandmother type supports). The focus groups were implemented to gain information regarding the community’s knowledge and perception of women’s health services in the community and its relation to our birth outcomes.
We received a lot of helpful data that have informed and shaped our work as a coalition and our community to better serve the women of McLennan County. Among one of the most powerful statements we heard from the focus groups was the previously mentioned quote from a female patient: “Doctors need to be more compassionate. First pregnancy I felt like I was just a statistic. I’m just going to rush you and get you out in 15 minutes. I’m not going to get paid that much anyways. It’s not about that. It’s about making me feel more comfortable in my pregnancy. Letting me know the risks and what can go wrong and what can go right”.
It is no secret that doctors are busy- they have a schedule to stick to throughout the day and that often leaves little time to address all of your concerns. But, there are ways you can play an active role in ensuring you make the most out of the time you do get with your physician as this is also your responsibility as the patient.
Here are a few tips that can help you talk to your doctor and ensure a quality appointment time:
- Write down a list of questions and concerns before your appointment. If you have a health issue, make sure to include any symptoms you may be having, when they started, how often it happens, and if it prevents you from doing something. Tell your doctor you have this list and share it with them.
- Be honest and open. Clear communication is vital in ensuring the smartest decisions are made for your health. It will help your doctor better understand your lifestyle and the best treatment choices for you.
- Consider bringing a close friend or family member with you. They can help calm your nerves as well as help you remember the tips your provider may share with you.
- Take notes about what the doctor says, or ask a friend or family member to take notes for you. If you don’t remember what the doctor shared with you, you can easily look back to your notes for reference.
- Learn how to access your medical records so you can keep track of test results, diagnoses, treatment plans, and medications and prepare for your next appointment.
- Ask questions– especially if the information you are hearing seems confusing or unclear.
- Ask for the doctor’s contact information and his/her preferred method of communication in case you have further questions or concerns.
- Remember that nurses and pharmacists are also good sources of information and can be very helpful in your health journey.
Above all, remember that you and your doctor are a team and your relationship is a partnership. You can and should work with your provider to solve your medical problems and keep yourself healthy. Your health is important so make it a priority. Take an active role in this partnership to ensure the healthiest you!
Ashley Steenberger is a second year Master of Public Health student at Baylor University from Northwest Arkansas. Currently Ashley works with the Healthy Babies Coalition as the Healthy Texas Babies Grant Graduate Assistant at the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District and an Intern with Nurse Family Partnership Waco.
By Victoria Ette
Jordan Haynes is a 14-year-old 8th grade student at Indian Spring Middle School in Waco ISD. He was born and raised in Waco, and loves the downtown area. He says that if he could, he would spend all of his time there adventuring and partaking of the many things that there are to do downtown. He is a member of the Mighty Med Club, which is an afterschool program offered by Indian Spring Middle School. It is led by Baylor’s Multicultural Association of Pre-Health Students. Although Jordan wants to attend school at Texas A&M University and pursue a career in photography, he says that the Mighty Med Club has taught him a great deal about the realities of college life and what it takes to pursue his dreams. Jordan enjoys the mentoring relationship he has with the Pre-Health Students, and he loves to proclaim, “Baylor is bringing Waco back to life!”
“Pre-Med Club” is an after-school club that springs from Baylor University’s Multicultural Association of Pre-Health Students (MAPS) Pipeline Program. The objective of the Pipeline Program/“Pre-Med Club” is to introduce students to medicine early on in their academic careers so that they may acquire all the necessary knowledge and resources upon matriculating into high school. This will enable them to excel in a curriculum (and engage in extra-curricular activities) to best prepare them for a post-secondary education and their future careers.
The club aims to expose students to diversity in the healthcare field, introduce students to medical professionals of various backgrounds, to teach and mentor students about the medical field, and give them support in how to excel in their academic careers. We are especially excited to reach minority students, a population also reflected in the MAPS members, because we recognize the power of representation. Seeing someone like oneself reflected as a positive role model, particularly in the face of prejudice, discrimination, and underlying systemic prejudice is powerful in its effect to validate one as a human being. Exposure to successful college students and future professionals makes one’s goals seem much more obtainable. Finally, we want to instruct students about medicine in a way that is fun, interactive, relevant, and impactful.
The after-school program was launched in the Fall of 2016 at Indian Spring. Kattina Bryant, Indian Spring After School Program Manager, said that the Pre-Med club has been an opportunity for WISD students to realize there is no limit to what they can achieve. The Indian Spring students are excited about learning with a different focus. When we went to the State Capitol for the Go Red Event through the American Heart Association, students had the chance to connect the lessons learned in the club with information about preventing heart disease and stroke. The learning is relevant and the students are highly engaged.
Jordan and his friends enjoy learning about the human body and how their own bodies function. He says that he has always been curious about medicine, how it is made, and how it is distributed. Jordan’s favorite experience so far in Mighty Med Club was when Dr. Barry, a local pediatrician in Waco, came to speak to the Mighty Med Club students. He thought that it was inspiring to see a male African-American physician working in a professional field such as medicine. Jordan’s take away from Dr. Barry’s presentation is that “even though we as African-Americans are sometimes looked down upon, we are still able to rise to the top and follow our dreams.” Jordan states that Mighty Med Club has allowed him to see that even though college will be hard, he is more than capable of succeeding at the university level.
Victoria Ette is a senior at Baylor University pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Biology. Victoria has been a champion supporter of Waco ISD, and a tutor for Communities in Schools and Waco High School. She has led Service Learning projects at Cesar Chavez Middle School and initiated the Pre-Med Club at Indian Spring and Carver. She plans to attend medical school after graduation.
(During December we will be reprising some of “2017’s greatest hits” from the Act Locally Waco blog. I couldn’t possibly pick my favorites – so I used the simple (cop out?) approach of pulling up the 10 blog posts that got the most “opens” according to our Google Analytics. It is an intriguing collection that gives at least a little insight into the interests and concerns of Act Locally Waco readers. I hope this “Top 10” idea inspires you to go back and re-read your personal favorites. There have been so many terrific ones… If you would like to see the Top 10 according to Google Analytics, here’s the link: 2017 Greatest Hits. Merry Christmas! — ABT)
By Berkeley Anderson
I was involved in every possible extracurricular from mock trial to tennis. I had high grades and graduated in the top of my class. My parents demonstrated respectful and kind relationship behaviors. Despite those things, I experienced dating abuse in different forms.
Dating violence is a pattern of harmful behavior in which one partner attempts to exert power and control over the other partner. Most people immediately think of physical and sexual abuse, but dating violence also includes less visible forms of damaging behavior including verbal/emotional abuse, digital abuse, and stalking. At its most extreme dating violence may look like the death of an all-star college lacrosse player, but in others forms it can be even harder to recognize, especially for teens who are new to dating.
Complicating matters further, relationship behaviors exist along a spectrum. Healthy partners have open, respectful communication about conflicts, respect for each other and respect for boundaries. Unhealthy behaviors signal that the relationship has problems—ranging from lack of communication to incompatibility. Some examples of unhealthy behavior include texting or calling more than the other person is comfortable with, getting jealous when the other person spends time with friends or alone, and dishonest or non-existent communication.
Most relationships exhibit unhealthy behaviors at some point. They may stem from one partner’s insecurities or poor communication. Additionally, some behaviors indicate that the relationship is heading toward being abusive or is already abusive. Physical violence, for example, is never okay. But where do we draw a line with insults, teasing, or manipulation?
My relationships didn’t have all of the signs you might see on a list of warnings about abusive relationships. There was extreme jealousy—but I believed that it was partially my fault when my ex pushed a male friend after he hugged me. There was also yelling when he was angry, but again I thought that some of this was a normal response to being angry. Then there were the times that he got so upset that he harmed himself—and I thought, well, it wasn’t me, this is scary but not violence toward me. What I didn’t know at the time is that these behaviors are about power and control. They scared me, and in the long run made me averse to conflict.
Then he pushed me.
Not hard enough to really hurt me, but enough that I was scared. It was so long ago that I can remember the emotions, but not the context. All I can remember is that when I told my parents, they said he needs to seek therapy or you need to break up. When I told him, he said I’d broken his trust.
So you might ask, why didn’t other people know? Why didn’t my parents say something sooner?
The fact of the matter is that I never felt like I needed to tell someone even though it was an emotionally damaging relationship. I didn’t tell my parents because I wanted to stay with him. I only talked about the good things most of the time. And there were many good things. By the time there were more than enough unhealthy behaviors, I had redefined what a normal relationship looked like.
Which behaviors were problematic?
- Extreme jealousy
- Extreme mood swings
- Yelling when upset/getting angry over small things
- Physical violence
- Accusing a partner of “breaking confidence” about unhealthy behaviors
Many of the things on this list —and this list is not comprehensive—were not what I thought of as abusive at the time. I didn’t completely understand what I was going through. By the time there were more than enough unhealthy behaviors to define the relationship as abusive, I had redefined what a normal relationship looked like. And I was wrong. Teen dating abuse is neither healthy nor “normal.”
So why talk about this now?
February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness month. It’s a time when parents, schools, and organizations across the country learn how to talk about and prevent teen dating violence. Dating violence affects 1 out of 3 teens on average. If you haven’t experienced teen dating violence, you probably know someone who has.
How can you prevent this from happening to yourself or to teens you are close with?
- Educate yourself and others on what teen dating violence looks like.
- Learn to have those uncomfortable conversations about healthy and unhealthy relationships.
- Define your boundaries and how you want to be treated. In a healthy relationship, your partner should respect your boundaries and should respect how you want to be treated.
- If you think a friend or family member is experiencing abuse, do not judge them for staying with their partner, instead provide them with resources and options.
If you suspect your relationship is becoming abusive, trust your instincts. If you don’t want to talk to your parents or a friend you can text “Love” to 22522 or call 1-866-331-9474 to get advice from a counselor at Love Is Respect.
For more information on how to talk to teens about dating violence you can read this handout from Break the Cycle.
Berkeley Anderson has a Master’s degree in public service and degrees in physics and history. She loves slam poetry, hot sauce, and any dog she meets. She is the Teen Dating Violence Project Manager at the Family Abuse Center.