NELCWIT Reflects on Almost 50 Years of Service
NELCWIT (New England Learning Center for Women In Transition) is based in Franklin County.
Freedom from gender-based violence is one of the Women’s Fund strategic pillars for advancing gender and racial equity in our region. To us, that means to promote safety from gender-based sexual violence, toxic relationships, and power dynamics to ensure bodily security and autonomy.
We are proud of the committee members who participated in this year’s trust-based philanthropy process to award funds for the crucial healing and recovery work throughout the four counties of Western Massachusetts.
How is your organization making a difference for women and girls in Western Massachusetts?
NELCWIT (New England Learning Center for Women In Transition) has served survivors of domestic and/or sexual violence for close to 50 years. NELCWIT’s services help survivors reclaim their lives and their self-determination.
Providing services from a trauma-informed perspective enables our staff to “walk beside” our clients as they work through their circumstances, set their goals, and decide what will be most helpful for them. At the same time, our staff members advocate for the client’s basic needs—safety, shelter, food, transportation, etc. We also have SafePlan advocates who serve clients in the courts—an experience that can be traumatic in itself, especially when someone does not know the procedures.
How is your organization working toward meeting the goals of our freedom from gender-based sexual violence, harassment, and abuse pillar?
While we need to continue to support survivors through their day-to-day challenges, we also need to support their power to fight back against a system that often fails to name domestic and sexual violence as wrong.
For decades, NELCWIT has worked to end sexual and domestic abuse locally, while striving to create a world free from violence. We understand that the origins and manifestations of violence are interconnected and that our commitment to anti-violence work requires an equal, active determination to end systemic oppression.
That is why dismantling racism is a key part of NELCWIT’s mission to work within the community to build safety, justice, and dignity for all.
What is happening in the world, your region, or your city today that is creating the greatest challenges for women and girls?
In the past, NELCWIT has approached anti-racism primarily as an internal practice. However, as a broad-based movement against racism gained strength in the past two years—locally, around the country, and worldwide—we realized we had an opportunity to galvanize support for racial justice. We developed a new goal: to build alliances focused on dismantling institutional racism in our community.
What solutions does your team or organization recommend to address this?
Anti-racism is critical to providing services that empower all survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Anti-racist organizing also supports our long-term goal to shift NELCWIT’s approach beyond solely providing services, toward also removing conditions of injustice that perpetuate abuse and violence.
Earlier this year, we began to contact other nonprofit organizations working in Franklin County and the North Quabbin area, to initiate and support the development of a broadly based anti-racism coalition. The result is a new Coalition for Racial Justice: a collaboration of more than 20 groups and organizations that now come together monthly around the vital work of dismantling systemic racism in the Franklin County/North Quabbin region. Members include other social service providers, as well as businesses, grassroots community groups, and faith organizations.
The coalition is divided into committees focused on two priority areas for action: transforming law enforcement, and identifying and removing barriers (e.g. in housing and educational systems) that prevent people of color from being welcomed and supported as members of our communities. With this new coalition, NELCWIT is moving toward becoming a more social justice-oriented organization that embraces social services as an important component of social change. We are excited to be working within our community toward the vision of a world free from oppression and violence.
Including donations, what can our audience do now to help your organization’s mission?
As Jane Doe, Inc has written, “Everyone knows someone.” If you or someone you know could benefit from our services, please have them contact our 24/7 hotline at 413-772-0806 or toll-free at 888-249-0806.
If you are a member of an agency or organization in Franklin County and interested in learning more about or joining the Coalition for Racial Justice, please contact Juan Carlos Aguilar, Co-Executive Director for NELCWIT Programs.
And of course, donations help us to quickly meet the ever-changing needs of survivors.