Volunteer Marianna Houston creates theater and the arts workshops at domestic violence shelter Willow House to show survivors how they can use the arts to help themselves heal.
Marianna Houston always wanted to pursue a career that combined both the arts and social justice. “I’ve always loved theater, acting and writing, ” Marianna explains. “But I also realized that I could use the arts to make a difference in the world.”
Marianna retired from the Theater Development Fund where she was the Education Director. Now Marianna dedicates her time to helping victims of abuse heal through art as a volunteer at Willow House, one of our eight domestic violence shelters. She’s using her passion for working in theater and the arts to run workshops that help residents express emotions through creativity.
Marianna’s Journey to Helping Victims of Abuse
Marianna heard about Safe Horizon through a friend and began volunteering in Safe Horizon’s training department where our diverse staff learn different skills to prepare them for working with victims of violence. Marianna worked with our Senior Director of Program Training, Elizabeth Speck, to teach our program staff how they could use the arts to help their clients heal. One of the shelter directors who attended these trainings recommended that Marianna facilitate workshops at Willow House.
Workshops that Inspire Hope
Marianna facilitates several workshops for residents including: writing a group poem where each participant contributes a line to create a whole poem, writing a letter to any person alive or dead, and describing what someone in a photo is thinking. “The workshops give the survivors options they didn’t know they had for working through and processing problems, for communicating, for being noticed and for being proud that they have a talent for writing, ” Marianna explains. “Several survivors mentioned that because of the workshop they’ve continued writing.”
How Marianna is Inspired by the Work She Does
“Volunteering at Willow House gives me a keener understanding of and appreciation for the journey a domestic violence survivor is on, ” Marianna says.”Their stories are tragic and heartbreaking, but I see such strength and resolve to create a new and better chapter in their lives.” She is now going to school to become a licensed clinical social worker.
Marianna also supports our #PutTheNailinIt campaign to end domestic violence. The campaign involves donating to Safe Horizon, painting your left ring fingernail purple and sharing a photo of the purple fingernail on social media using hashtag #PutTheNailinIt. Marianna explains why it’s important to create this simple outward show of support;“Painting your nail purple can give a victim of domestic violence a sense that they are not alone. It could inspire them to believe in themselves and encourage them to get help.”