Celebration nights are one way the Awaken staff honors their community. On April 20th, 2018, I had the privilege of experiencing one of these events first-hand.
As 5:30 approached, guests began to arrive one by one. I started to notice familiar faces, some mentors some clients, and some volunteers. I sat down and observed smiles and squeals as I watched a volunteer connect with a client and share memories of Easter dinner. As everyone began to settle in, I was asked by a client if I could hold her infant baby. I felt honored to be asked, and held her beautiful baby girl in my arms. I became so intrigued by her tiny little toes and fingers, and her gleaming smile. She snuggled with me and we stared at each other as we sat in the big comfy green chair by the television. She tried to close her eyes to sleep, but I could tell that just like me, she didn’t want to miss out on any of the excitement.
Eventually we all joined one another to form a circle in the living room area. I looked at all the faces united together, some young and some old. We had a new survivor join us whom I had never met, she was tall and full life. She gleamed as people welcomed her to the community and introduced themselves. She was assigned the job of lighting the candle that set on the glass table. This is a tradition that we begin every celebration night with, recognizing the survivors that are not yet home. Following this, another client read a passage out of the book, Find Your Way Home, an anthology compiled of powerful pieces written by survivors. She fought back tears as she read the words; we all felt how connected she was to herself and her emotions in that moment. I teared up too as I held her baby girl. I felt empowered to just be in her presence.
We concluded with closing statements and passed out cards. One card recognized a client’s birthday, while another recognized a new job and another celebrating three months of sobriety. We then made the transition to dinner. An Awaken volunteer brought us delicious sliced steak, bread rolls and an Asian fusion salad to eat, as we all connected over what has happened since we last met. Some of us mingled in the kitchen near the food, and some mingled in the living area. Laughter and story-telling filled the space. I observed as a survivor and a case manager had a staring contest and fought back giggles as they tried to both keep from blinking.
One mentor states:
“I’m a new mentor. It’s an amazing time to come together and celebrate the uniqueness of everyone”
While one survivor said,
“This is a reminder that I’m not alone. Awaken is a foundation where I was able to rebuild my life.
A woman came in to offer free massages. I had seen her at previous celebration nights before. The clients and volunteers waited eagerly for their turns.
The celebration ended with delicious orange flavored cupcake topped with tangerines, donated by another volunteer. Cupcakes are the way we end celebration nights.
Leaving Awaken that night I felt extremely touched to be welcomed into such a such a sacred space filled with women with such unity and love.
By Vanessa Dunn – Awaken Intern
This May, Vanessa is studying abroad in South Africa with Sierra Nevada College. However, she is looking forward to June’s celebration event and to reconnecting with her friends at Awaken!