In “Cristina’s” words: My past does not define me

“Cristina” shares how our Economic Empowerment Program is helping her move beyond her past and rebuild her life.

The following speech was delivered by “Cristina,” a survivor and graduate of Sanctuary’s Economic Empowerment Program (EEP), during the January 2021 graduation. Of the 43 graduates, three were selected by class vote to share their thoughts and experiences with the audience.

Read “Cristina’s” speech: 

My name is “Cristina,” and 7 years ago I made a mistake that would deeply impact my life. As a result, I ended up in prison. I found myself hopeless and in despair.

A month before being released and coming home, my lawyer reached out to me and told me about Sanctuary for Families and the Economic Empowerment Program. Learning about EEP was the beginning of me becoming my best self. In the past, all I felt was isolation – now, I feel ready to jump in and take on what the world has to offer me.

During the program, it felt good to wake up every morning and be a part of this community. I have truly learned in my time with EEP that while we all make mistakes in life, my past does not define me – who I was in the past is not who I am today. I sit before you with eyes opened to the importance of career development, and in possession of the knowledge of how to succeed in my career. Between the Microsoft Office certifications and interview preparation I have received as a participant, I’ve built up a confidence that I never imagined achieving.

None of this would have been possible without the support of this program and this organization – the computers, books, and materials provided guaranteed that I could finish the program without having to worry about the struggles that life often brings.

I have many people to thank – first, I give thanks to Kate and Allison for telling me about Sanctuary. Thank you to my children, family, and friends for never giving up on me. Thank you to Angelo J. Rivera, for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this amazing program. Thank you to Sarah – every time I wanted to give up, she continued to push me. Lastly, thanks to Jill Hopfield for always being there for me at every turn.

With EEP, I gained a new family that I know will always be there for me, no matter what I am going through. I have a team in Sanctuary for Families that gives me hope for my better tomorrow.

All names have been changed to protect the privacy of our clients.

In “Desirae’s” words: A reason to keep going

“Desirae” shares why participating in our Economic Empowerment Program was the silver lining of 2020 for her.

The following speech was delivered by “Desirae,” a survivor and graduate of Sanctuary’s Economic Empowerment Program (EEP), during the January 2021 graduation. Of the 43 graduates, three were selected by class vote to share their thoughts and experiences with the audience.

Read “Desirae’s” speech: 

Good evening, everyone. As we gather this evening to celebrate our graduation, I want to thank the man who started the Economic Empowerment Program from scratch, Angelo J. Rivera. His laying the foundation for this program was amazing, but Angelo would not stop there. He then gathered magnificent people to run it. The EEP team serves the purpose of the program so gracefully – with competence and professionalism, this team has managed to tailor a curriculum that fits the needs of all of us despite the diversity of our members. I don’t know how you all did that, but it is mind-blowing, and it is beautiful that we all received this opportunity. We have benefited so much that we looked forward to coming back again and again to training, day in and day out. Additionally, the training and the Microsoft Office Specialist certifications I now hold are complete game-changers for my job search. That added value to my resume gave me the confidence to aspire for companies I would have only dreamed of working for in the past.

Furthermore, this team showed us that this is not just a “job” for them. They proved on many occasions that there is passion in their approach to this work. This makes a big difference. Many people and organizations want to help, but for one reason or the other, they fail to find the right people to carry their mission forward. Thank you to the EEP team for giving me so much to be thankful for, without taking anything away from me. Thank you for caring.

Someone said that if 2020 was a TV show, it should have been canceled. I ask that we don’t cancel 2020. I understand that the pandemic sucks, the restrictions suck. Many people lost their loved ones to COVID-19, and life, as we are used to, is no longer available. We all are sorrowful for that. But beyond all the despair, I look at the bright side. While the world was asked to exercise social distance, I met and connected with more people than ever before. I was able to go to school and boost my qualifications. All that happened in the comfort of our own homes. I want to thank Sanctuary and all of its partners that made this possible.

To my fellow EEP members, I want to say congratulations. Look at where we are – look at what we have done! Sharing this wonderful journey with you has been an honor and a great privilege for me. Thank you for sharing your stories and thank you for making our community a safe space for everyone. This has meant so much. As we move forward to the next step, let’s not forget that while we don’t know when and what type of recovery the country’s economy will have, one thing that is sure is that we are now commodities for when that recovery comes. We should celebrate our achievements. We had 1,000 reasons to give up, and Sanctuary gave us one reason to keep going. What we acquired in this program is ours – ain’t nobody gonna take it away from us. I love you, and God bless!

All names have been changed to protect the privacy of our clients.

In “Laura’s” words: Looking forward to a future of better possibilities

“Laura” shares how our Economic Empowerment Program helped her rebuild her confidence and rediscover her sense of self.

The following speech was delivered by “Laura,” a survivor and graduate of Sanctuary’s Economic Empowerment Program (EEP), during the January 2021 graduation. Of the 43 graduates, three were selected by class vote to share their thoughts and experiences with the audience.

Read “Laura’s” speech: 

Thanks to the Economic Empowerment Program I feel hopeful again, looking forward to a future of better possibilities. A vision I could have not conceived back in September 2020, when I had little strength to go on. The person I love the most in this world is my daughter “Isabel,” who is graduating with us today. The joy I feel for this major accomplishment is magnified because the program has changed her life too. Domestic violence affects our children deeply. I know now that we are finally on a good path to safety and stability — to rise above the ashes and aim for opportunities to maximize our potential. I am grateful to all of our teachers and mentors.

I would like to thank all the compassionate staff of this program, the volunteers, and board members of this organization, supporting women to overcome the devastating tsunami-like consequences of abuse.

I would like to congratulate all my classmates for the courage we demonstrated by studying hard, regardless of the emotional pain we were facing. We created a safe virtual community reminding one another, we are strong, intelligent, and deserving. It is my hope that we remain connected. Based on my experience, I know today that crisis intervention and related services are the immediate goals and steps of the survivor’s journey. It is important to note that programs like this one are also effective in helping us with our long-term objectives of continued safety while learning skills to be financially free and economically stable.

The EEP curriculum provides the full spectrum: it offers technology and hard skills training while preparing clients to be career-ready. It also includes amazing classes to remind us of our birthrights of equality and freedom — that WE CAN stand against our oppressors and that we are not alone. It helped me to look deeper into who I am, my identity, social justice, and the important role we as individuals play within the context of community. I received a well-rounded education from EEP. The program restored my love for literature, reading, civics, philosophy — and most importantly the belief that I CAN and that I am capable.

I stand here today convinced that together we can create a world of freedom from gender violence; because we count, we are smart and powerful women. We did it! And, EEP helped make that possible. As we move onward, I wish for all of us a world of better tomorrows. Thank you again to everyone for being part of this journey!

All names have been changed to protect the privacy of our clients.

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Make Your Birthday Even More Meaningful: Create a Facebook Fundraiser

Survivors of abuse have felt the effects of this pandemic more than most. Invite your friends to support them in honor of your special day.

This year, “donate” your birthday in support of survivors by starting a Facebook Fundraiser. 

Create my facebook fundraiser

The unprecedented public health and economic crisis have disproportionately impacted our clients—low-income survivors of gender violence, more than 90% women of color and immigrants, and their vulnerable children. As New York State’s largest service provider and advocate for victims of abuse, Sanctuary’s services are perhaps more important now than ever before.

With Facebook, you can create a Birthday Fundraiser to get your friends and family involved in our mission to end gender-based violence. It’s an easy and effective way to get the word out about our work and help ensure we continue to be there for families in these times of greater need.

Create a Facebook Fundraiser

Start a fundraiser

  1. Click here to create your own Facebook fundraiser.
  2. Click ‘Select Nonprofit’ and search for Sanctuary for Families. You’ll know it’s us by our logo!
  3. Set your goal and tell your friends why you’re supporting Sanctuary or why supporting survivors of abuse is important to you.
  4. Start sharing your fundraiser and thanking your friends and family for their support! (We’ll make sure to thank them, as well.)

100% of donations made through Facebook go to the nonprofit organization; which means every dollar goes to our cause.

Sanctuary for Families is dedicated to the safety, healing, and self-determination of victims of domestic violence and related forms of gender violence. Through comprehensive services for our clients and their children, and through outreach, education, and advocacy, we strive to create a world in which freedom from gender violence is a basic human right.

From all of us at Sanctuary, thank you for standing with survivors. 

If you have any questions about setting up your Facebook Birthday Fundraiser, please contact Genoveva Eguiguren at

Click here to learn about other ways to donate and support our work.