Reflecting on My Moxie

Libby interned at Sanctuary for  Families this summer.

10 Duke students in New York City.

9 females. 1 male. 3 Duke staff.

2 months.

6 nonprofit internships.

8 reflection dinners. 7 seminars discussing readings about feminism.

1 final presentation.

The Moxie Project in a nutshell, right? …Hardly.

The project is called the “Moxie” Project. Moxie, meaning spunk, daring, boldness. I feel like there had to be something extra special about this DukeEngage project, or else the name of the project would be a let down. And there was something special about it.

Before this project started I was familiar with service and partnership. I had been on several missions trips to Mississippi, Washington D.C., Mexico, and Haiti. I had taken  classes about poverty and how to approach a solution in an ethical way. I have always had a heart for helping others. My faith was the foundation that drove that, and my character and personality sustained it. I came into the program extremely excited and up for a challenge.

I absolutely loved my internship at Sanctuary for Families, which provides a comprehensive approach to help fight domestic violence and sex trafficking. Preparing for the project back at Duke, I had wanted to be more directly involved with the community I was serving, but once I got to Sanctuary, I learned that I could find my niche in a development department and still have an impact on a certain community. I learned that it takes a lot more to run a nonprofit than I thought. Developed nonprofits like Sanctuary for Families need boards of directors, development and financial staff, clinical and legal staff, administrative staff, and people to take care of the facility and delegate how the donations are organized and distributed. As much as I believe I work well with people directly, I had to surrender this desire of mine to fill in where the organization needed me. I reflected a lot about who I was coming into this space and what privileges I had that needed to be surrendered in order for me to show up as someone who could help contribute to Sanctuary’s mission. They valued my input and new suggestions, but I knew I needed to come in with an empty cup, ready to be filled with knowledge about domestic violence and all its repercussions. I didn’t want to bring any biases or misconceptions about domestic violence or how nonprofits operate. I was humble.

My internship at Sanctuary really turned into a relationship between me and my supervisors. I learned that working for a nonprofit didn’t have to be work work work from 9am to 5pm only stopping to eat lunch to escape the sad, depressing world we live in. In fact, the office I worked in was a positive, happy atmosphere where people would pop their heads into other’s offices to ask how each others’ weekends were. Working to stop an issue that is heart breaking like domestic violence does not mean one has to throw themselves into a grueling, depressing battle. Don’t get me wrong, there were several days where I was discouraged about the news I was reading about women who had the courage to leave their batterers and work for a better life and then ended up being found and killed by their batterers…and there was a day when I saw the documentary “Very Young Girls” about girls who struggle to leave the life of prostitution and I needed to get out of the office for a while. But there was a balance between the gravitational reality of domestic violence and the aura of positivity in the office that encouraged and inspired me keep fighting without losing hope.

One aspect that I loved about Sanctuary for Families’ approach to the domestic violence issue is that it was holistic, attacking the problem from every angle. I tend (dare I say like?) to bash our society for putting a bandaid on things instead of treating the source of the problem. We like to say here, take this pill to get rid of your symptoms without looking at what is causing the problem in the first place. Sanctuary addresses this by not only helping domestic abuse victims leave their batterers, but also by counseling them and teaching them how to be independent and training them to have the skills they need to find an adequate job and not fall back into abusive relationships. They also do a lot of advocacy by going into the community to train the police and people in the judicial system how to recognize domestic violence and how to deal with it. I think if other nonprofits do not have the resources to attack the problems they address comprehensively, then it would be a great idea to team up with other nonprofits- to work together.

This summer definitely consolidated a lot of my views of feminism and women’s rights. I am proud to say I am a feminist, and I know I want to deconstruct the stigma of feminism on Duke’s campus through my own example. You can argue with people as much as you want, with those words going in one ear and out the other, but (forgive me for the cliche) actions speak louder than words. I want to fight for the equal treatment and rights of all women, because as far as I’m concerned, until they get those rights, I don’t have those rights either.

I am really looking forward to the capstone course that my peers and I will take this fall. I want more time to unpack and process everything that I experienced this summer, and I am so happy I get to do this with the 9 other students who were with me in New York. We get to continue our march together as Moxies– exploring, debating, questioning, and living what feminism means to us and how we fit into its role in our community.

We have vigor, verve, pep, courage, aggressiveness, nerve, skill, and know-how. This is The Moxie Project… and it isn’t finished yet 🙂

1 thought on “Reflecting on My Moxie

  1. I like your reflections about the pragmatics of non profit work, and the importance of maintaining a positive attitude and nurturing relationships in the face of depressing realities. If you can sustain this latter point, your “moxie” will continue to evolve and flourish.

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