Thursday, May 3, 2012

Designed to Heal - Part 2


This is a continuation of Designed to Heal - Part 1 (April 5), my conversation with JD and KM, design specialists for Amirah House. Together, their focus on aftercare and healing begins in the very windows and walls.   


In the first part of our discussion, I had asked them to describe the guiding vision for Amirah house. JD characterized it as the caring and sensitive creation of a space where the women will regain their footing, both physical and emotional, free to "begin to explore their own hearts and dreams."


Continuing the discussion, we touched on more of the specifics, and on those who will live and execute the vision - the Amirah team, the donors, room sponsors, and the women who will live at the house. 


Q: As to your design vision, how do you make that happen?
JD: Keeping the sense of home and healing top of mind, we’ve found piles of inspiration, researched elements that will lend consistency (and that are achievable, affordable, and will hold up), and right now KM and I are in the midst of developing a guide that puts all these pieces together and delivers a clear sense of the vision. From there, it’s up to the sponsors, donors, and volunteers to make it all happen! We can’t wait to see it all come together.

Q: How do you design and/or decorate spaces that serve the needs of
women escaping the trauma of human trafficking?

JD: Safety is the first measurable priority. Not only are we thinking about security from the outside world, but we also need to be making sure we aren’t enabling any self-destructive habits the women might have. All that should happen “behind the scenes.” The visible part is piling on these layers of consistency, comfort, warmth, growth, community, and life – choosing elements that are going to add to and cultivate these values.


Q: Have you encountered any particular design challenges?
JD: For me, I really struggled with trying to get a grasp – a real picture – of the women we’re preparing the space for, and I think this will be a challenge until the house is well underway and has had a few rounds of women through. It’s so hard to imagine what they’ve been through and to get into that mindset of thinking about someone who doesn’t know what “home” feels like – and in all reality, may not be 100% committed to being there and to finding their heart again. So translating that into a look and feel that’s welcoming but realistic, comforting but not stuffy, consistent but not clinical – it’s a constant balancing. 


Q: Are the women who will be living there involved in the process in any way?

JD: We won’t see their involvement for a while yet, but [ ], as the house evolves and we see women coming in, coming through, they’ll not only inspire us as we learn more about their needs and continue to develop the house around that, but they’ll also have a hand in putting all the pieces together – while we’re striving to create a place that feels like home as soon as they walk in, we’re also trying to leave room for spaces that act as sorts of blank canvases that we’re going to leave to these women to fill… room for art, pictures, their own things. 

Q: What are you most proud of so far in the project?
JD: How about excited about? I’m excited about the guide we’re developing – that it’s going to be communicating this aesthetic vision that’s meant to meet the needs of these women, and that’s it’s going to be enable our donors and sponsors to put it all together. And that we’re also trying to apply some level of foresight to it, trying to build it loose yet descriptive enough to be a template for future projects. 


Q: Tell me about your backgrounds. 

JD: I’m originally from Maine, and a year after graduating with a degree in Communications, I moved back to the North Shore, where I’ve been working as a copyeditor for the past four years. Spent some time in graphic design programs (MassArt and Taylor University), spent a summer in Colorado working at a dude ranch (cleaned lots of rooms and passed the white glove test every time!), and have a dream of operating my own B&B-type place someday. 

KM: I grew up in Southern California and moved out to Boston to attend school [ ]where I received a BA in Interior Design. I've been working as an interior designer at an architecture and design firm in Boston. 

Fun side notes...In my spare time, I like to read, go camping, and scavenge trash cans for discarded furniture which I then re-finish and re-upholster [which has basically furnished my entire apt!]. 


Q: Will you be involved with Amirah for future design projects?
JD: I would love to be! I think the beauty and the challenge of this project is that this is really the first of its kind, and I’m so so excited to build off our learnings from this home and apply them to future houses across the state and even across the country. It’s such an exciting thing that the rest of the team are doing – they’re putting so much into this! – and even as we go into this all-in, I expect we’ll find plenty of opportunities to tweak our approach for the next time. So coming at this with eyes wide open, hopes high, excited, and with an eye for the future. 

~~~
It's been a joy to share in the enthusiasm, dedication, skill, and undeniable compassion that guides and motivates Amirah's design team. Thank you JD and KM!


Peace to you,
Kathleen

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