Rebekah Damitz, a junior psychology major at UW-Eau Claire, is completing her 30 hours of service-learning through Bolton Refuge House in downtown Eau Claire.
After learning about the project through the service-learning website, Rebekah knew it was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up. In addition to her major in psychology, Rebekah is simultaneously working towards certificates in women’s studies and child welfare. As the overall mission of Bolton Refuge House is to create a, “safe space through programs and services for all persons impacted by domestic violence and sexual assault,” her project with Bolton Refuge House forges together a unique mixture of her fields of study.
The main focus of her project is kindness for children in crisis. Twice a week, Rebekah spends time at Bolton Refuge House engaging with children while their mothers attend group therapy. While there, she facilitates miscellaneous activities with the children, such as board games, reading, and playing with toys. Rebekah explained that she and her fellow volunteers, “act as mentors and advocates for children who have experienced and/or witnessed domestic abuse or sexual violence, especially among their mothers.”
On the importance of her time spent with the children, Rebekah noted, “These children are often the victims of abuse, or have witnessed abuse, and it is important that they have a space to simply be kids.”
For Rebekah, she doesn’t view her experience at Bolton Refuge House as simply a graduation requirement or career experience; her connection to the project and the children she mentors runs much deeper than that. Time spent on her project has been extremely eye-opening on important social and economic levels, which Rebekah realizes is hard for some students to understand.
“This project has reminded me that domestic abuse and sexual violence impact families everywhere. As students, it can be easy to forget that there are other families and individuals living in Eau Claire; we’re stuck in our bubble.”
Not only has Rebekah witnessed this lack of awareness in Eau Claire, but in her hometown of Milwaukee as well. “This mindset resembles the town that I grew up in near Milwaukee, because it is thought of as an upper-middle class city. I’ve heard of how things common in low-income communities don’t happen in our town, including domestic and sexual violence. This is inherently false, and I don’t want to be naive enough to believe it.”
Having the opportunity to break out of her college student comfort zone and coming to cultural realizations isn’t the only important aspect of her project, however. Rebekah noted that the feeling that comes with making a difference in the lives of children is unlike any other, and it has transformed her into a more humble individual. “It humbles me that I’ve formed connections with many children through this program and have contributed to a safe place for them to play, learn, interact, and just be kids.”
Rebekah’s story emphasizes just one of the many amazing and selfless projects that we, as Blugolds, are doing in our community every single day. Her commitment to and support of victims of domestic and sexual violence are admirable, and part of a much larger societal awakening recently unfolding in this country.