Through the powers of social media, I was recently connected to Ananya Dua of Cupertino, California. Ananya is the founder of an initiative called Project Her Home and from first message, I was blown away by their great work. I’m honored to share their story in this Service Spotlight.
Liz: Let’s start in true “Smile Project” fashion. What is bringing you joy right now?
Ananya: Happiness is supporting others.
Liz: Tell me about your project.
Ananya: My project is named Project Her Home (PHH). It is a think tank aimed at disrupting the cycle of abuse and homelessness among women survivors; we work to empower women through our education and advocacy efforts. The initiative has 2 main functions: matching survivors of sexual/domestic violence with resources and shelters; and, working to develop sexual violence awareness and healing curriculum professionals for use at shelters.
Liz: What is the driving force behind what you do?
Ananya: This project rose from my experiences as an advocate and youth crisis counselor at the California Youth Hotline. There, I saw violence survivors deal with 2 glaring issues: an inability to find proper resources (family support, medical, legal, financial aid, etc.) and shelter; and, an inability to support themselves emotionally after instances of violences and fully heal due to a lack of resources.
For the resource matching component, I developed the PHH application with a housing worker and a domestic violence professional. Survivors fill out a questionnaire stream and provide location. They are matched with medical, legal, and financial resources as well as nearby domestic violence and women’s homeless shelters. Shelters are often underfunded and are unable to address the past experiences of these women or cater to their emotional wellbeing. This causes them to be at danger of repeating this cycle, without accurate knowledge and awareness of their situation and options.
Thus, I worked with psychiatrists and social workers on an advisory board to develop the PHH curriculum, which focuses on healing. The curriculum features a Conversation Packet for survivors to share their experiences with loved ones. It also guides them through self care, therapy options, and ways to report. The curriculum is currently established in 33 women’s shelters across the United States, so women can benefit and work toward disrupting this vicious cycle.
Liz: What does service mean to you?
Ananya: Service to me is putting others before yourself, and doing everything in your power to help them to your best abilities. Acts of service to me don’t have to be elaborate—simple, daily acts also be considered service if they made an impact on someone's day. Service to my community is a key part of my own identity, and I aim to continue serving my community into college and beyond.
Liz: How can people get involved?
Ananya: We are always on the lookout for new members and partners. If you are interested in partnering with us, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the contact form on our website. To volunteer as a youth leader, contact us on the same form.
We are also accepting submissions for our Annual Policy and Advocacy Conference. Research abstracts can be sent to email@example.com.