30 YEARS OF ADVOCACY: A JOURNEY WITH REWA’S DV PROGRAM DIRECTOR

With over 30 years of unwavering service at ReWA, Carlin Yoophum has been at the forefront of advocating for the rights and well-being of those facing domestic violence (DV). Her leadership and commitment have been instrumental in providing crucial support, resources, and a safe haven for countless DV survivors in our community. Today, we delve into her inspiring journey, the challenges and triumphs she has witnessed, and her vision for a future where every woman can live free from fear and violence.

1. What initially drew you to work at ReWA and/or the Domestic Violence (DV) program?

Response: I saw the job posting for a Bilingual/Bicultural DV Advocate at ReWA and did some research on what the job required. Being from the communities we serve and speaking the language, I thought I would be a good fit. I love working with people and making a tangible difference in their lives. I never imagined I would stay with one agency for so long, but this job is incredibly rewarding. ReWA is a fantastic place to work, and it has become a significant part of my life.

2. What position did you initially hold, and what factors led to your promotion(s) and current position?

Response: I started as a Bilingual/Bicultural DV Advocate in the DV Program. When our former DV Program Director left, I was asked to step in as an interim director while still working as a DV Advocate. After about six months, they went through a search and interview process but couldn’t find an outside candidate with the right background and expertise. I went through the interview process as well and was ultimately offered the position of DV Program Director.

3. How do you ensure that ReWA’s services for domestic violence survivors remain culturally sensitive and responsive to the diverse needs of refugee and immigrant populations?

Response: ReWA’s DV Program is unique and well-known in the community for providing culturally and linguistically appropriate services. Our staff can provide services in 24 languages and dialects. ReWA is proactive in advocating for refugee and immigrant communities to gain access to equitable and culturally competent services. These resources for survivors of domestic violence are limited and scarce within culturally specific communities.

4. What strategies have you found most effective in fostering empowerment and resilience among survivors of domestic violence within refugee and immigrant communities?

Response: Empowering clients to be self-sufficient is crucial. When clients gain knowledge and understanding of their situation and their rights in this country, they are better equipped to make decisions that ensure their safety and well-being. Providing the right tools and support helps them thrive even in difficult times.

5. How do you approach the experience, training, and development of staff and volunteers to ensure they are equipped to provide high-quality support to refugee and immigrant survivors of domestic violence?

Response: We hire individuals from the communities we serve. This work is challenging as it involves crisis intervention and trauma. We look for candidates with educational credentials, but more importantly, we seek those who are good listeners, empathetic, patient, and willing to advocate on behalf of our clients. These qualities are essential for serving our communities effectively. Our dedicated staff at the DV Program possess these qualities and are committed to their work.

6. Over your 30-year tenure, what significant changes have you observed in the landscape of domestic violence awareness and intervention within refugee and immigrant communities?

Response: I’ve seen significant growth and expansion in domestic violence work. There are now laws protecting those impacted by intimate partner violence. King County has built a strong network of DV advocates, prosecutors, law enforcement, and treatment providers. ReWA’s outreach and prevention efforts have raised awareness and educated the community about domestic violence. Additionally, ReWA advocates for more funding and equitable services for our communities.

7. Can you share some key milestones or achievements that you and your team have accomplished over your tenure?

Response: In 2023, ReWA’s Domestic Violence Program won the Classy Awards for our impact in ending gender-based violence within refugee and immigrant communities. In 2007, we received the “Moving Mountains Award” from the Office of Crime Victims Advocacy for providing culturally relevant services in multiple languages.

8. Is there a client story you would like to share, particularly one that inspires hope?

Response: Many years ago, I helped a client who fled from her abusive husband. He had threatened her life, and after her son called the police, he was arrested. She sought help from her family and friends but was ostracized. With nowhere else to turn, she came to ReWA. We supported her throughout her journey. One day, she returned to ReWA and said, “Thank you for believing in me when everyone else turned their back on me.” Her words were a powerful reminder of the impact we can have.

9. Please use this space to add anything else you would like to share!

Response: Working in this field for over 30 years, I have seen ReWA grow from a small grassroots agency to a community-based organization. Reflecting on our journey, I am proud of the work we do and the dedicated staff who make ReWA a beacon of light and hope for our communities.