Falling on soft.

Falling on soft.

i Nov 22nd No Comments by

For those of you who were unable to attend Soulfire 2017, below is the speech your Executive Director, Tashmica Torok gave. It was meant for every community member who has invested their time, generosity and help to move the foundation along. That means, it was meant for YOU and we hope it inspires you to continue to be involved in ways that are meaningful to you. 

You can still purchase your copy of the Soulfire 2017 calendar here. You can make a donation to support holistic healing for child survivors of sexual trauma here. For more information about joining the Board of Directors, one of several volunteer committees or the new Pediatric Medical Advocacy Team, email Program Coordinator, Mandy Charping at mandy@thefirecrackerfoundation.org.


 

I was prepared to speak to you all weeks ago. I had my speech all thought out in my head. You see, I have a simple story that is relevant to the topic of sanctuary.

If you are a friend of mine, then you know that I have a little dog named Lucy. Hashtag I love Lucy. I found her one day while on my way to the video store. She was walking on a curb behind a parked car and facing oncoming traffic. I knew she was going to get hit by that car and so I asked my husband to stop so I could save her.


I scooped a little flea ridden, worm infested, skinny, shivering darling into my arms. And then she vomited in my newly leased car. We drove her around. We had her scanned for a chip. We called the humane society. We even refused to let the kids name her because we just couldn’t understand who would abandon such an incredible little being. We knew someone was going to claim her but in the end, no one did.lucy-and-me

On day six. After paying for her vet bills, I called it. Lucy was staying with us. At that point, I was willing to street fight for her. I remember speaking with my friend Esperanza about how she seemed meant for us. Esperanza told me that in Mexico, they have a saying. She said that Lucy, “fell on soft.”

Our family was the soft place she landed after falling.

Today we celebrate sanctuary in very uncertain times. We claim this space for survivors and we learn from their lessons.

Why is it important for survivors to have a team of supporters? Why is it important for them to be out in nature? Why is meditation so important? If I can answer these questions for you by sharing these stories, then maybe I can prepare you to provide sanctuary for the survivor you meet.

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And you will meet them. Most women will not leave this earth before confronting sexual violence. They will not die before experiencing sexual violence. With 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys experiencing sexual assault before they turn 18, you already know a survivor. African American women, Native American women and transgender people are at higher risk for experiencing sexual violence.

The Firecracker Foundation will always be a safe space for survivors of sexual trauma. Shout it from the roof tops! Click to Tweet.

It is more necessary now than ever before to have a community based response to child sexual abuse. Separate from state and federal funding. Inclusive and survivor-led.

We recognize the importance of safe spaces in the lives of survivors of sexual trauma. We do this with the full knowledge that this world is not safe for all survivors. Not yet.

Despite the shaking that has been going on inside my body since Tuesday. Despite my tears and my anxieties. Despite my fears for what may come in the future. Despite my personal devastation.

If you show up for survivors, I promise you that I will always show up. I will always be here.

When given the opportunity to harness your collective will, your combined investments and your healing energy, I will. I will carry it forward and place it directly into the hands of those who need it.

It is our responsibility and our privilege to do this. On really difficult days – and these have been incredibly difficult days – I remind myself that I asked for this opportunity. I had a vision and every day, through my actions, I asked to be standing here doing this work.

We have everything we need to keep fighting because we have already been doing it. You who have donated, volunteered, encouraged, attended, shared. You are here and so am I because we know that our load is about to get heavier. Tonight, you are surrounded by the Firecracker family. If you are comfortable, board members, please stand. Committee Members. Volunteers. If you have questions about how to become more involved, these are the people you need to connect with.

It’s not okay that our load is getting heavier. It’s not. And I am not trying to silver linings you. I promise you I’m not because I’ve wanted to literally punch faces for doing that this week. I’m not gonna lie.

But let me share something that has been helping me keep the faith.

Look around you. We have never had such a big crowd for Soulfire. You sensed that we needed extra hands and hearts. You felt it and you are here. You are here to make sure that the child survivors of sexual trauma in your community and their families have a safe space to heal.

Thank you for helping the Firecracker families fall on soft.

Sincerely,Tashmica Chicago

Firecracker Sig

Tashmica ‘Firecracker’ Torok
Founder & Executive Director
tashmica@thefirecrackerfoundation.org

Scholarship Announcement

i Oct 7th No Comments by

We have an important announcement.

If you’ve been thinking about contracting with The Firecracker Foundation to provide high quality, holistic healing services to child survivors of sexual trauma and their families, we’ve been thinking about you too!

Thanks to funding provided by Just Beginnings Collaborative, we are happy to announce that we will be offering fully licensed mental health practitioners and certified yoga instructors scholarship funds to apply to trauma informed trainings like TF-CBT, EMDR, Trauma Sensitive Yoga Certification and other evidence based modalities.

The Firecracker Foundation is committed to improving the quality of care for child survivors of sexual trauma in the tricounty area. That commitment means that we are willing to invest in the skills of the healers who need professional development but don’t have the financial resources to move forward with obtaining training.

In order to qualify for scholarship funds, prospective therapists and yoga instructors must be fully vetted by the Program Development Committee of The Firecracker Foundation. To be considered, please email board@thefirecrackerfoundation.org with the following attachments; resume, 3 references and completed background checks. Therapists operating a private practice or yoga instructors operating a yoga studio must provide proof of liability insurance coverage in the amount of $1M.

Priority will be given to service providers who have entered into a contractual agreement to provide high quality, consistent healing services for child survivors of sexual trauma. You can click here to view our current contracts.

Meet your Star Show Presenter for Stargazing 2016!

i Jul 20th No Comments by

We believe that it is so important to amplify the voices of all survivors. In a new twist on the Stargazing celebration, we invited a survivor to write and perform the star show attendees will get to enjoy at Abrams Planetarium tomorrow night. She has been working hard for months on researching stars, meeting with the brilliant planetarium staff and pouring her heart out for YOU.

Rachel

Rachel Berzack (L) and her sister Dana.

Meet Rachel Berzack!

I am a 28 year old feminist, writer, advocate, wanderer and survivor. I graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in communication and a specialization in bioethics, humanities and society. I have been doing sexual assault intervention and prevention work for about 7 years now. My passions for social justice, creativity, yoga and nature are gently shoving me down career paths of story-telling and shamanic healing practices. I am a realist who believes in magic. I like people okay, but I am an extroverted introvert so I enjoy the company of animals way more. Harry Potter and a good cup of tea has saved my life more than once. I am a survivor of rape, sexual assault, stalking and relationship violence. I live with post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression, but I am learning how to befriend my shadows. I have participated in the Firecracker Foundation Soulfire calendar project, and the Tashmica Torok’s #WhyItold online storytelling project. But, I have never done anything like this before. My heart is so full of gratitude and love that I have the opportunity to be the Star Show Presenter. Owning our stories is one of the bravest things we could ever do. I am so honored to be able to do that with all of you by my side.

Tomorrow night, Rachel’s words will be illustrated in stars, galaxies and an asteroid or two. I promise, you do not want to miss your chance to catch the most powerful star show in town.

Get your tickets to tomorrow’s big celebration here: bit.ly/Stargazing2016

Meet your Survivor Keynote for Stargazing 2016!

i Jun 10th No Comments by

We believe that the adult survivors in our community are uniquely qualified to mentor, serve and advocate for children on their path to healing. That’s why we are so excited to introduce you to your Survivor Keynote. A trauma informed community must be willing to learn from the diversity of the survivor experience. You are invited to hear a powerful story and be inspired by her courage, fortitude, and grace in the face of victimization.

Meet Diane and then get your tickets to Stargazing 2016 here: bit.ly/Stargazing2016

Diane Mikkelson is a survivor of sexual trauma and incest beginning calendarwhen she was 5, and ending when she was 14. She has been actively focused on the healing process and working through obstacles since 2003. In 2005 she married an incredible man, who allowed her to delve even deeper into healing by helping her to feel safe and valued. She has a bachelor’s degree in education and has taught now for 14 years. Teaching is her love because it brings her closest to those who need saving.  She wants all children to have the ability to be or do whatever they aspire to in life.  She hopes to be the hand that rescues those in difficult situations.

As a child, education was the bridge Diane saw as her way “out”. She learned that if she did well in school, that financial support would be more easily available.  In May of 1998 she graduated as Valedictorian of her class and received a full tuition academic scholarship to the University of Dallas.

Diane’s teaching position is as an intervention specialist. In this role she helps kids who are reading below grade level, learn missing skills needed to “fill in the gaps”. She spends every day motivating scholars to dig deep and use their grit to raise themselves up.

Diane realizes that not all kids are able to envision a “way out” and has therefore made it a priority to help them see value in themselves. She is also passionate about preaching the necessity for working hard to better one’s situation.

Diane has completed 4 full marathons, and about 15 half marathons. She was a running coach for Luke’s Locker for the last pace group for 4 years.  She has helped many struggling runners train for, and reach, their goals.

Diane has participated in #WhyITold both in 2014 and 2015 and has been blown away by the impact her story alone has made.  This gave her the inspiration to continue on a grander scale and reach more survivors.  She is featured as the March survivor in the Soulfire 2016 calendar.

Diane lives in Dallas with her husband and 7 year old son.

Be sure to post a comment thanking Diane for volunteering to share her story as an advocate for children who have survived sexual trauma. We’ll see you on the 21st!

 

Stargazing 2016

The Listening Ear: An Official Response

i Jun 6th No Comments by

You’ve probably read the headlines.

“Sex offenders volunteered for group serving sex assault victims.”

Lansing’s The Listening Ear has confirmed that they have utilized volunteers that are registered sex offenders in the same space where they serve survivors of sexual assault. This news is really scary and you deserve to hear how safe space is protected at The Firecracker Foundation.

Here are some key things you need to know.

The Firecracker Foundation requires all staff and upper level volunteers to submit to full state and federal background checks as well as provide a Central Registry Clearance that tells us they don’t have a substantiated accusation of child abuse on their record with DHS. You can check out the volunteer requirements and apply to join the team here.

The Listening Ear has a process by which they change policies and that process has begun. While they work on their internal process I recommend that all community members utilize MSU Sexual Assault Program  and EVE (End Violent Encounters) as a resource for crisis hotline and intervention services. We have also removed The Listening Ear from our list of resources until further notice.

Survivors deserve to have their agency respected. You deserve to know if you are working, serving or sharing space with a registered sex offender. That is the point of the registry. It is our policy that should a sex offender be identified within our ranks, all staff and volunteers are required to report it either to the Executive Director (yours truly) or the executive leadership so that they may be immediately removed.

It is never appropriate for registered sex offenders or people with substantiated reports of child abuse on their record with DHHS to work with survivors of sexual assault.

Here’s how you can help.

The foundation is working to expedite the launch of the Pediatric Medical Advocacy Team we had planned to kick off in 2017. Due to this unfortunate situation, there are no medical advocates qualified to respond to pediatric crisis calls at Sparrow Hospital. It is critical that families have the support they need and our job is to respond even when it doesn’t fit our timetable.

This critical response effort will cost The Firecracker Foundation approximately $10,000 outside of the budget planned for 2016.

Give today to support the Pediatric Medical Advocacy Team.

Volunteers are already pushing themselves through last minute trainings and signing up to take on shifts. You have the most amazing team of advocates on your side! Support their valiant efforts by giving a monthly gift of $83 . If you are already a Firekeeper, consider increasing your already generous monthly commitment.

If 10 people make this commitment today, this critical response effort will be fully funded!

I want to sincerely offer my compassion and care to all of the volunteers and community members who have been negatively impacted by this situation. Please know that you are in my thoughts. I remain hopeful that this situation will inform and strengthen our community’s crisis response into the future.

Since the very beginning, YOU have created a space or sanctuary for child survivors of sexual trauma and their families. It is our commitment to you that it will be fiercely safeguarded through survivor-focused policies.

Best,

Firecracker Sig

 

 

Tashmica ‘Firecracker’ Torok
Founder & Executive Director

 

PS –  Background checks are a vital component of working with ALL vulnerable populations. It is a FREE process and does not take a lot of time. If you want information for your programs on our process, feel free to email me at info@thefirecrackerfoundation.org.

Welcome, Kyle!

i Apr 11th No Comments by

Thanks to capacity building funds awarded to The Firecracker Foundation through Just Beginnings Collaborative, your office team has grown by one. Meet Kyle Kirkby, your new Bookkeeper and Office Manager!

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I’m  a proud community advocate with almost a decade of hands-on office management experience sustaining local non-profit organizations. I genuinely enjoy supporting our community and the important mission and outreach work that makes #LoveLansing a unique and wonderful place to live.

By honoring the bravery of children who have survived sexual trauma, The Firecracker Foundation is building a community invested in healing their whole being. The fostering of holistic opportunities which promote healing and growth for youth survivors of trauma is enormously important work and creates a foundation for children to grow beyond their experiences.

Providing young people a safe space to heal; an empathetic listening ear for guidance and the opportunity for creative expression and movement, inspires the mind and body toward empowering the Self to become a trusted, valued home for the Spirit.

Being within the natural landscape brings a Peace that sustains me. I’m a long-time gardener and my husband and I love to hike, canoe and are active birders. We have 2 sweet rescue pups and a trio of cats to round out our family and they bring us laughter, snuggles and enough pet-hair tumbleweeds to knit matching sweaters!

I am grateful that the work I do to support The Firecracker Foundation will help child survivors of sexual trauma reclaim their safe space.

Kyle Kirkby
kyle@thefirecrackerfoundation.org

 

Will you be the Survivor Keynote for Stargazing2017?

i Feb 10th No Comments by

Share your story as the Survivor Keynote for this year’s Stargazing 2017 celebration!

As a part of the foundation’s anniversary celebration, an adult survivor shares their personal story of healing. The goal of this presentation is to help improve this community’s understanding of the complex and diverse paths to survival for those who have experienced sexual trauma. The Survivor Keynote helps our community understand the importance of The Firecracker Foundation’s holistic healing services for children and families in the tricounty area.

If you are interested, read the requirements below and complete this application

Stargazing 2015 Survivor Keynote Lauren Manston- Domino

Stargazing 2015 Survivor Keynote Lauren Manston- Domino

In order to be considered, your full written presentation (1-2 pages) and powerpoint (10 slides or less) are due by March 15, 2017 at 8 p.m. EST to be considered. If possible, also include a photo of yourself and a short bio of 400 words or less. Please email these materials to info@thefirecrackerfoundation.org with the subject line: SURVIVOR KEYNOTE SUBMISSION.

Please note that if chosen, you will be asked to commit to rehearse with foundation coaches for 1-1.5 hours a month in April, May and June (place & time TBD) with a final dress rehearsal performed in front of the foundation Board of Directors on July 18th, 2017 at 6:15 p.m. 

Stargazing 2014 Survivor Keynote Patrick Harris

Stargazing 2014 Survivor Keynote Patrick Harris

The keynote selection process will be March 16 – April 15. During that time, applicants may be contacted to schedule an interview with members of the selection committee. The selected Survivor Keynote will be asked to submit to a background check prior to being allowed to perform in this role. A final decision will be announced in April 2017 and every applicant will be contacted with the results.

If you have questions, email info@thefirecrackerfoundation.org.


 

Begin Your Submission Here.

Your personal story is honored and valued by the foundation community of staff, volunteers, donors and clients. Your submission will be held in confidence and only shared with selection committee members.

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Become the Foundation’s Volunteer Administrative Assistant!

i Feb 5th No Comments by

Due to incredible growth in the 2.5 years since the foundation’s launch, there’s a need for additional office support for the important programs and services offered to child survivors of sexual trauma and their families living in the tricounty community.  If you are a person passionate about organization and systems with at least 5 hours of week that you can donate, please consider applying for this position!


PART TIME – VOLUNTEER ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT

The Firecracker Foundation

The Firecracker Foundation is a 501(c)3 charity with the mission of honoring the bravery of children who have survived sexual trauma with a community invested in the healing of their whole being.

Description of Responsibilities:

The Volunteer Administrative Assistant (Admin) provides administrative support to the organization.  The Admin works directly with the Bookkeeper/Office Manager (BOM) and Executive Director (ED) in order to support the organization’s administrative needs.

Time Commitment: This job description is a part time volunteer position for The Firecracker Foundation. Estimated time commitment 10 hours/week. Position may be shared among 2 volunteers.

Job Requirements:

The Administrative Assistant should have professional experience in the following areas:

  • Excellent communication skills in-person and on the phone
  • Excellent organizational and filing skills
  • Ability to coordinate and balance multiple projects
  • Proficiency in Word and Excel: proficient in developing and maintaining databases; ability to create and manipulate spreadsheets; perform mail merges
  • Excellent writing skills

General Office

  • Provides general support to the Bookkeeper/Office Manager
  • Answers all office phone calls and directs calls appropriately
  • Maintains general office files and files necessary paperwork accordingly
  • Follows up on all agency emails from website
  • Sorts mail and distributes appropriately

Fundraising/Grant Support

  • Updates the foundation’s donor database as directed
  • Prepares thank you letters for ED and/or Board signatures; ensures proper filing and mailing of all thank you letters
  • Attends all fundraising events as needed

PR & Marketing

  • Ensures that all marketing materials are in stock and ensures proper presentation of materials for distribution
  • Monitors website for updating and accuracy – directing additions/changes to the webmaster

To apply for this position, please submit your resume and cover letter to info@thefirecrackerfoundation.org. Indicate in the subject line that you are applying for the Part Time Volunteer Admin Assistant position. Please click here to learn more about The Firecracker Foundation. DHS Clearance, background checks and participation in Darkness to Light: Stewards of Children training required.

The foundation considers itself an Equal Employment Opportunity Employer (EEO). The Foundation shall employ/engage persons and make employment/recruitment decisions without regard to an individual’s race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, age, citizenship status, genetic information, marital status, AIDS/HIV, height, weight, misdemeanor arrest record, individuals with disabilities, or disabled/recently separated/other protected and armed forces service medal veterans.

Just Beginnings Inaugural Cohort Announcement!

i Feb 1st No Comments by

Dear ones,

I hope you’re ready to celebrate because this is HUGE.

The Firecracker Foundation is one of 10 grant recipients to receive $75,000 a year, for the next 3 years from Just Beginnings Collaborative. All told, that’s $225,000 to build the capacity of the work you started with me.

Click HERE to meet the organizations, their leaders and 8 incredible fellows!

This means more high quality consistent therapy for child survivors of sexual trauma, more caretaker support groups, more trauma sensitive yoga therapy and more advocacy. This means more of the holistic healing services you believe in.

More than 100 organizations applied for this honor. The healing you bring to the children in this community is worthy of support on a national level.

You should be proud.

Also – I have been included in a national cohort that will learn collectively and lend our unique and diverse experiences to ending child sexual trauma while working to heal those suffering.

This grant award is not about changing the mission of the foundation. It’s about supporting the work you’re already doing.

Because you’ve created something extraordinary.2016_FFCalendar_Print8

All ablaze,

Firecracker Sig

 

 

 

Tashmica ‘Firecracker’ Torok
Founder & Executive Director

P.S. – Media contacts can email me directly at tashmica@thefirecrackerfoundation.org or call 517-242-5467.

Dancing on Graves

i Oct 30th No Comments by

On October 21, 2015 I was invited to participate as one of the storytellers for Current State’s third Pop-Up Stories event. The theme: Create and Destroy. In this story, I reflected on the idea that the work I do with The Firecracker Foundation is like dancing on my father’s grave. (more…)