The Catholic Charities DIGNITY Diversion program is an intensive education-based program for women who have been arrested for prostitution. The program provides the opportunity to avoid jail time and to divert women from reoffending.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Connected to Our Mission

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As a training and development specialist, Michele Bellenir works in the Catholic Charities human resource department to ensure that everyone on the team has the training and resources they need to do their job. 

One of the benefits of working for a nonprofit is knowing that the work you do is more than a job, your work makes a difference. Catholic Charities' mission is to help our community's most vulnerable and this isn’t just for the staff that works with clients--it extends to all of our staff.

Changing Lives at Work

The case managers and program team at Catholic Charities do an amazing job of helping people experiencing homelessness, serving children in foster care and the families who care for them, finding safety and providing hope for survivors of sex trafficking and domestic violence. 

Administration staff who work in human resources, finance or other areas that don’t work directly with clients can’t always see how their work impacts those in need.

Recently, Michele spent some time at the Dignity Diversion program. This program helps adults who are survivors of sex trafficking rebuild their lives. “I welcomed the opportunity to see the works of our mission firsthand,” said Michele.

Clients who go through the program participate in 36 hours of self-exploration and education, rehabilitation services, job placement assistance and more. Clients finish the program by attending an intensive week of classes then graduate from the program.

The clients who come through this program are not there by choice, this program is run in conjunction with the City of Phoenix Prosecutor’s Office. Instead of going to jail, clients are offered a chance to break the cycle of sex trafficking.

Changing Hearts and Lives

Michele observed the first and last day of this intense week of classes. “I was prepped in advance so I would know what to expect,” said Bellenir.

The classes and shared learning experience are life changing for the clients involved. “The first day, there was defensiveness, justification, and challenges. However, upon return that Friday for graduation, there was a noticeable difference in the attitude of the group. It was energetic, happy and no signs of defensiveness,” said Bellenir. “The group was laughing, exchanging phone numbers and wishing each other well. The room was filled with hope for a more enriching life.”

“On Monday morning they are a group of strangers– on Friday morning they have become a group of friends. They came thinking no one else understands – they leave knowing they are not alone,” said Cathy Bauer, program supervisor.

“At the end of graduation, I was extremely touched by the client who gave me a hug and said ‘thank you.’ It is moments like that when one is reminded how impactful a small gesture, kind words, and listening without judgement can be,” said Michele.

Michele was asked to share a few parting words of encouragement with the program graduates. She thought a quote from the film Rocky V seemed appropriate. In the film, Rocky is giving a speech about overcoming adversity to this son.

“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”

Michele often thinks back to the clients at Dignity Diversion and hopes they are doing well. “In my role, I don’t work directly with our clients but the experience left an imprint. I left with an elevated level of gratitude for the work Catholic Charities does and felt connected to our mission,” said Michele.

If you want a career that makes a difference, consider joining our Catholic Charities team!

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