Today I had the privilege of performing at a fundraiser for the Women's Crisis Services Waterloo in Cambridge.
The event took place at the home of one of the board of directors and there were about 50 guests present, most of whom ended up contributing substantial funds to the cause.
When I was asked to perform at the event a few months ago, I immediately said yes, knowing that it was a cause I would like to support/involved myself with and learn more about. I had no idea how emotional I would get during the afternoon.
When we arrived, my cajon player Sam and I set up the audio equipment and checked in with the host. Servers walked around with Hors d'oeuvre and drinks were served at a bar. I scanned the room to see a brilliant mix of men and women, most between 30-60. The movers and shakers of KW, some might say.
Once we did a little soundcheck, we went to check out the food and drink while waiting to be called up to perform. We were told that a woman was going to make formalities into the microphone and then we'd play. "Formalities"...typically thanking so and so for such and such and cracking a joke here and there to warm up the audience.
The woman stepped up to the mic. She was sweet and seemed very warm-hearted. She was a big part of the Crisis Centre. She did thank a few people and rouse some laughter from the audience, then she pulled out a piece of paper from her pocket and said she wanted to read the journal entry of a woman who had recently entered the centre and has been there for several months.
I expected what I heard next; that a woman met her boyfriend and things were going very well. She loved him and...he totally loved her. Then she had her first child and he became abusive. Yelling, beating, etc. Second child was born and she couldn't seem to escape her situation now. He threatened to kill their family dog if she tried to leave. So she stayed. Until one night the neighbours must have overheard one of their fights and called the police. Apparently the police told her that she had one way out; the Women's Crisis Centre.
Scared, but inspired by a moment of intense bravery, she packed up a bag of her things and brought her children to the centre. She's been there for a few months; terrified he is going to find her. Guilt-ridden that she left her dog in the house when she left. Worried for her children's future.
These are stories you may have heard before, too. I listened intently, expecting to be emotionally moved by what I'd just heard, to be angry, or sad.
Instead, as I stood with Sam on the stage beside this woman telling the story, I could feel the bile in my stomach begin to churn.
I realized that we were there to raise money to build a larger facility.
I can't really explain how physically affected I was by her story and the realization. Though I knew I was going to be singing in less than a minute, I had to walk across to the washroom during the end of her announcement, because I thought I was literally going to be sick. Sam came and put his hand on my shoulder as I tried to ween the nauseous feeling away with deep breaths. I heard my name. I went up to the stage and smiled like a champ.
Today over $20,000 was raised to help build the Women's Crisis Centre a new and larger facility. It is both incredibly inspiring and heartbreaking that an event like this was needed and successful.
I am so lucky to have never experienced domestic violence.
If you are interested in learning more about the WCS, http://www.wcswr.org