By Karen Dandurant Fosters Daily Democrat
A lotus flower symbolizes rebirth, and now a flower mural created by domestic violence survivors adorns the Strafford County Family Justice Center.
The Lotus Flower Project is intended to raise awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault. In a partnership with Haven, a plan was created for the lotus flower mural.
Amanda Vachon, who became director of the Family Justice Center in March 2020, said the Lotus project stems from the domestic violence aspect of their work.
“In the late ’90s, we became the hub of a statewide hub and spoke project, much as is done with substance abuse treatment,” Vachon said. “Pre-pandemic, we formed partnerships (spokes) with Haven, with law enforcement and New Hampshire Legal Assistance. The model is a way of building relationships to make it easier for survivors to navigate the system. It can be a lot for them to cope with in a very volatile time for them.”
Vachon said students at Spaulding High School cut wooden “petals” and one was given to each survivor who volunteered to participate.
“Each painted their petal and we gathered them all back here and assembled them,” said Vachon. “We assembled the Lotus and it will now grace the entryway to the center (150 Wakefield Street). “To us, the lotus symbolizes rejuvenation, overcoming challenges.”
The Lotus was unveiled during a ceremony last week. The justice center’s partners, and local dignitaries were invited, as well as survivors.
One of the guests was Latonya Wallace, who runs a survivor project serving southern Maine and New Hampshire called Purseverance 207. She collects gently used purses, filling them with supplies a woman might need if she has to leave her home suddenly because of domestic violence. The bags contain toiletries, snacks and other useful items. She surpassed the distribution of 500 purses at the event.
“When I think about hitting this milestone of 500 purses delivered it empowers me,” said Wallace. “All of the organizations involved for the Lotus in Bloom event shared with heart. They are not only dedicated to women within our communities but to our New Hampshire residents as a whole.”
Wallace said collaborations like the one with Strafford County Family Justice Center and Haven make it possible for Purseverance 207 to continue empowering women one purse at a time.
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“It’s a beautiful thing when organizations work together toward a common goal, to help our community members gain access to the tools and resources needed during their time of transition,” she said.
Debra Altschiller of Haven said the mission of Purseverance 207 is “to empower transitioning women who are living in homeless shelters, recovery centers, domestic violence shelters, or any place that is helping women, lost in the darkness, find their way into their light by giving them a purse filled with encouragement, necessities, and something tangible, that is theirs and theirs only.”