The Belles of Saint Mary’s College are working together to ease the emotional burden that survivors of sexual assault experience by collecting clothes for them through the organization Belle’s Closet.Belle’s Closet was created in Fall 2014 by Brandyn Blosser, Saint Mary’s College social work professor and 2003 alumna, to provide clothes to sexual assault survivors whose clothes were collected as a part of hospital exams. The donations provide the survivor an alternative to clothing from the lost and found or paper scrubs.“Many survivors share they feel ‘dirty’ after a rape and have no desire for additional attention,” Blosser said. “Wearing paper scrubs will definitely cause people to stare and not knowing if the donated clothing you are putting on is clean can cause even more anguish for a survivor.”Blosser said that the idea for this project came to her when she witnessed a hospital employee offering to buy clothes for a rape survivor.“My hope is survivors will know they are not alone and our community cares,” Blosser said. “A pair of new sweat pants may not seem significant to some. However, when every choice has been taken from you and you have been violated in the worst imaginable sense, new sweatpants and t-shirt are a start to feeling clean again.”Belle’s Closet not only meets community members’ needs but creates an opportunity for students in Blosser’s course Sexuality, Intimacy, and Relationships (SW341) to engage, the social work professor said. Blosser said that the organization requires students to be a part of project development and exposes them to different kinds of relationships, she said.“They receive an in depth presentation from the Special Victim’s Unit related to rape, sexual assault and domestic violence that will only help assist them to be stronger professionals when in each student’s prospective career,” said Blosser.The students involved in Belle’s Closet deliver donations of new clothing articles such as sweatpants or sweatshirts to the St. Joseph Regional Medical Center to subsequently be distributed to survivors in need. Senior Morgan Carroll took Blosser’s class last fall and said those involved in Belle’s Closet plan to reach out to larger companies for donations and holding community-wide clothing drives to help re-clothe survivors everywhere.“Providing new clothing to victims of sexual assault signifies a fresh start and gives them hope for the future,” Carroll said. “At a time when they may feel helpless and robbed of their dignity, we want to show them that they are still being cared for, that they really do matter.”Saint Mary’s senior Elizabeth Maloney said when Blosser presented the idea of Belle’s Closet to the class that her classmates were interested in right away and looked forward to getting involved.“The project means a great deal,” Maloney said. “You know, you hear of a sexual assault and you keep parroting on to others that one shouldn’t attack another person, or rape another person, but that doesn’t help the current situation, that may only influence the future. With Belle’s Closet, my classmates and I are actively helping the current victims.“I’m glad to be working behind the scenes to end a great social injustice.”Blosser said that she hopes to ignite students into action — especially when it involves a horrible situation such as sexual assault or rape.“Each of us can choose to accept the uncomfortable and gut wrenching realities of the world by saying there is nothing to be done or we can choose to fight for positive change by doing something regardless of how small,” said Blosser.
Four Saint Mary’s seniors, Caylin McCallick, Elizabeth Quaye, Yaqi Song and Ngoc “Ruby” Truong gave presentations Tuesday evening reflecting on their experiences with the Intercultural Leadership Program. The Intercultural Leadership Program (ILP) is a two to three year program that aims to cultivate the participants’ “leadership potential to make a difference in the world,” according to the ILP website.“The ILP helped me realize what kind of leader I am, but also recognize the leader in others and to help encourage others to do what they are interested in and to give them the confidence,” Quaye said. There are six proficiency areas the program aims to develop. Although there are some experiences required of all participants, the students’ achievement of the proficiency areas differed. “Particularly the leadership aspect of intercultural leadership I think developed for me a lot with my involvement with ROTC [Reserve Officers’ Training Corps] at Notre Dame,” McCallick said. In conjunction with her involvement with ROTC, McCallick took courses in military leadership that inspired her to partake in the ILP.“That was what really sparked my interest in studying intercultural awareness, because a lot of what we learned in our classes was about how to interact with various cultures around the world,” she said.For Truong, the idea of finding her inner leader was a major takeaway of ILP.“I believe that in every single person, there are leadership skills inside,” she said. “It’s not about nature, it’s about nurture. How you can awaken that leadership, and make that leader inside awake.”Another proficiency area the students engaged with was diversity. “I was inspired by ILP to become more involved in the community both on campus and off campus,” McCallick said. “So I attempted to engage in as many inclusive, diverse and supportive groups and projects as possible.”Truong found her engagement with diversity through her Introduction to Intercultural Leadership course. “By joining that course, I got a chance to I learned so much about the different cultures here,” she said.A requirement of the ILP is a study abroad experience; for Song and Truong, that came during their time at Saint Mary’s. Song and Truong are international students from China and Vietnam, respectively.“As an international student, one of my top priorities here is just to promote my culture,” Song said. “I feel a responsibility to make it more accessible to people.”Quaye spent her Spring 2016 semester in Morocco, and found that her study abroad experience — combined with her studies of American culture — cultivated her engagement with diversity.“I was really able to see the wealth of diversity within cultures, even our own,” Quaye said.Song’s experience with participating in the areas of dialogue and creating inclusive communities lead her to become more at ease speaking about different issues regarding diversity.“I think maybe this campus has not been very much exposed to diversity,” she said. “But after joining this program, I’m more comfortable talking about it.”The last aim of this program is to make a difference. McCallick began her work with this goal when deciding upon her course of study and career path. “I felt like I couldn’t understand how my career was going to collide with my social justice concerns,” she said. “And then I realized that making a difference in the world doesn’t have to be in waves. It can be in small pieces. Small actions can really have an effect on people in a profound way. Even if you can’t change the world in large ways, sometimes you can connect with people in small ways and that makes a difference.”Tags: Diveristy, ROTC, Saint Mary’s Center of Women’s Intercultural Leadership
Show Closed This production ended its run on Feb. 14, 2016 Related Shows Allegiance View Comments We now know the company that will join George Takei in boldly going to Broadway! Complete casting has been announced for Allegiance, co-starring Lea Salonga and Telly Leung. The production will begin performances on October 6 at the Longacre Theatre. Opening night is set for November 8.Joining the previously reported Takei, Salonga, Leung and Katie Rose Clarke will be Michael K. Lee as Frankie Suzuki, Christopheren Nomura as Tatsuo Kimura and Greg Watanabe as Mike Masaoka.The ensemble will include Aaron J. Albano, Belinda Allyn, Marcus Choi, Janelle Dote, Dan Horn, Owen Johnston, Darren Lee, Manna Nichols, Autumn Ogawa, Rumi Oyama, Momoko Sugai, Cary Tedder, Elena Wang, Scott Watanabe and Scott Wise.Directed by Stafford Arima and based on Takei’s childhood experience in a Japanese-American interment camp, Allegiance features music and lyrics by Jay Kuo and a book by Marc Acito. A story of family, love and patriotism set during World War II and beyond, the show follows veteran Sam Otsuka and his sister Kei as they find themselves torn between loyalty to their family and allegiance to their country.