Penny Appeal USA’s DV Shelter: Empowering Lives

The Residents Reunited Dinner that took place on February 10th at Penny Appeal USA’s DV Shelter in North Carolina embodies empowerment through shared experiences, mutual support, and a commitment to nurturing resilience among former and current residents alike.

Did you know that 1 in 3 women has experienced domestic violence in their lifetime?

Since we opened our doors, our Muslim-led Domestic Violence Shelter has remained at full capacity, providing survivors and their children the warmth and safety of a home. Many women who have entered our shelter doors have faced domestic violence, and have summoned the strength to escape and have decided that they deserve a safe space.

Our shelter in North Carolina is a safe space where women from all walks of life, regardless of their faith or background, find solace and the strength to heal. The shelter offers more than just physical safety; it provides an emotional refuge where women can rebuild their lives and reclaim their sense of self. Here, women find the support, resources, and empathy they need to break free from the shadows of their past and step into the light of their future.

Penny Appeal USA believes in the resilience of survivors. We understand that healing is a journey, and we provide a nurturing environment where survivors are encouraged to rediscover their strength and self-worth, at their own pace. Our Domestic Violence shelter provides counseling, legal assistance, job training, and access to education – tools that empower survivors to craft new beginnings and break free from the chains of abuse.

As part of our Domestic Violence programming in North Carolina, Sa’idah Sudan, our Domestic Violence Shelter lead, recently organized a Residents Reunited Dinner on February 10, 2024 for former shelter residents to connect with current ones, advocates, and their community. We sat down with her to learn more about the recent event and how Penny Appeal USA’s DV shelter is transforming lives every day. 

What is the Residents Reunited Dinner and how did you organize it?

We call residents to see if they want to come back and have dinner with us, the advocates that they know, and to meet the new residents that are here. We just sit down and we just enjoy our company. We learn about what former residents are doing, and what they’re doing now? Sometimes they share that they bought a car, or have a new job, and are making strides. The former residents also talk to the residents that are there now, just kind of letting them know, you know, if you do this, this might be easier for you and that kind of help. We try to have this event once a year.  

We had a former resident who had a very, very hard time. But we helped get her into transitional housing, which is an extra 18 months for her to really get it together. She has a good job now, and she has a brand new car and she’s fixed herself up and she’s really doing well.

Amazing. When was she at the shelter?

Not even a year ago. She was at the shelter for about four to five months.

How was she supported while she was there?

One way was that she was going through therapy. We have our therapist and social workers on staff. I also did some counseling with her. We helped her get back and forth to work with bus cards. It was funny because when I opened the door, she said it was like when she first came. She just grabbed me and held me. She wouldn’t let go for a while.

That’s amazing.

She burst out crying as he’s riding down the street, because that was a hill he had to walk up to get on the bus to try to go to work and all that kind of stuff. So she said it really, really hit. You know, it hit home that she’s doing a lot better. She says, “I’m here at the shelter, but I’m not here to stay.”

That’s powerful. 

At the event, we also received donations to give out jackets that say different things like “Unstoppable” or “Advocate” across the back. For anyone that didn’t get a jacket, we provided a donation of five domestic violence baskets. They had slippers, bathrobes, a journal, little things that make them feel good. 

That’s the heart of it right there, right? We want to empower anyone at the shelter to feel confident that they will make it through.

Yes, they talk about it with each other. We even have one young lady that is on our staff that came through our shelter two years ago. She too has a job. She has a good job, she has a new car, she’s doing Uber and we hired her. It lets them know that you can do it. It lets them know that it’s okay that you’re here. It lets them know that we’re here with you. And that ties into everything that we do during the day, giving them kind words, giving them structure, and allowing them to think for themselves when they’re not normally able to do that.

That is so inspiring. What would you say is the biggest takeaway for attendees, and for you, from this event?

For me, the biggest takeaway for me is to watch, to be able to sit back and watch the work that we do and how we pour love into them, and they’re able to grow. So that’s a big takeaway. We’re able to sit back and say, wow, she got it. She did it. She’s doing it.

Thank you to Saidah and the team at Penny Appeal USA’s DV Shelter for providing a safe space for women to find comfort, resolve, and inspiration.