Shawanda's Journey With DeeCilla
As we transition from Women's History Month to Child Abuse Prevention and Sexual Assualt Awareness and Prevention Month, we have given our founder Shawanda the opportunity to share her amazing story. From personal struggles of abuse in her past, to consistent achievements to include the launch of DeeCilla, she has quite the story to tell and thoughts to share. From this Q+A, we are able to gain more insight on her journey and what drove her to create the wonderful success that we call DeeCilla Comfort Center.
It was Shawanda’s personal journey with abuse that pushed her to develop and launch DeeCilla. Though she considers herself very outgoing, she did experience identity issues in the past, particularly when she was told she wouldn’t advance due to her past abuse. Shawanda is a survivor, but she was looked at as a victim and was told she wouldn't amount to much despite even her early achievements as a martial arts competitor in her youth. However, she was as young as 15 when she realized she wasn’t going to live by stereotypes put on her and decided she would help others do the same. Shawanda’s deepest desire is to help people identify themselves for who they actually are, and not as their struggles.
Shawanda works with the Deecilla team to prevent survivors from losing themselves. She aims to bring a sense of community amongst survivors, other nonprofits, churches, etc. in order to offer individual resources to those who need it. DeeCilla’s financial coaching program helps women identify their issues with money management and how to fix them. Additional programs assist with handling stress, anxiety, and overcoming trauma. DeeCilla also offers transitional housing for single women and kids for as long they need to take advantage of opportunities to work on themselves.
The DeeCilla strategy can essentially be broken down into three categories; educate, encourage, and empower. DeeCilla ``educates” by breaking down one’s trauma to identify the roots to the fullest extent. During this process, survivors learn to define normalized abusive behavior. Next comes “encouragement,” in which DeeCilla offers tools for budgeting and helping survivors identify their personal goals and expand their horizons. Finally, DeeCilla “empowers” by compiling everything and demonstrating how to use what was learned to build one’s own recovery plan. From this, survivors are able to develop exit plans for once they leave DeeCilla’s residential programs.
For Shawanda, it’s not so much about the destination, but the journey to helping survivors get there. She thoroughly enjoys helping others identify their own challenges and being a part of success stories. Additionally, Shawanda is exceptionally proud of the vast recovery of survivors and her role in helping them grow into themselves. Helping survivors take ownership of their identities is one of her greatest successes because it marks the beginning of their story, and no one can take that away from them.
Doing what she does, Shawanda hears a lot of negativity towards survivors. People may often refer to survivors as “those people” and this is the kind of stuff she has to push back on. In addition to the recovery work she does with survivors, Shawanda also unfortunately has to address the negative and harmful assumptions made about them. Survivors come from every background which is why she highlights it is important to exercise empathy rather than sympathy. Shawanda stresses the fact that people should not be pitied because of their past because this rhetoric only sets them back more than anything else. Stereotypes and the negative rhetoric is one of the toughest things to overcome as a survivor and it is often difficult to break through being seen as “weak.” This is partially why it is so difficult for survivors to open up and build trust in order to receive the help they need.
Shawanda wants to make sure that DeeCilla is not an additional barrier to recovery for survivors. She wishes to be conscious of what causes stereotypes and work to avoid it. Shawanda acknowledges that meeting new people can have barriers because of your own individual background altering your perception. She advises it’s best for us all to work against this to see people for who they really are and not through your own personal lens. Judgement from religious backgrounds for instance certainly has the capacity to be harmful, and this is something religious persons must be mindful of.
In a nutshell, Shawanda hopes to be able to connect with communities more and be a place of refuge for those in need. Even though some nonprofits can feel like they are at competition, this is not what Shawada wants for DeeCilla when it comes to social change. She highlights it is important for nonprofits to collaborate and for people to treat each other with the utmost respect. As a woman who founded a nonprofit, Shawanda recognizes this can come with barriers as well, as she is often treated as though she is not educated, regardless of the fact that this couldn't be further from the truth. She wishes to urge others to genuinely listen and offer to people the things they genuinely need or are asking for, rather than resources you are assuming they need.
From the woman herself, “The most exhausting thing you can be is not yourself.” Shawanda believes it abusive to oneself to not be themselves, so it is important to work toward individual liberation. Shawanda advises one of the best ways to be free is to ask for help when needed, and to not be ashamed should you need to do so. She urges survivors and people in general to have grace and be kinder to themselves, especially as women. She identifies women in particular because she notices they tend to give so much to others before tending to their own needs, as she has experienced herself. It is important we come together to form a community who listens, respects, and acts accordingly to help others.
We hope we’ve provided a successful piece for you to get to know our founder to a better degree. As you know, DeeCilla is a nonprofit so we have a small budget and we do not take any government funding. Unfortunately, a transitional home we were working to raise money for has been sold and now people will be displaced. It will be greatly appreciated if you can donate any contribution possible to help fund and alleviate this situation. Feel free to browse out site links to do so, thank you!
Meet The Author
Emily Falcon is a Cuban-American student studying pre-med at Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, FL. She is also an undergraduate Research Assistant for Gulf War Illness clinical trials at NSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine.