Jen Robinson

Life’s Curveballs


In working with victims of commercial sexual exploitation, the only thing I have found to be predictable is that it will always be unpredictable.  This may hold true for working with any population that involves people.  I love and hate that we have free choice.  Our decisions don’t just affect us, but others.  I have found the only way to not get overwhelmed is to be flexible and try to find the humor in most situations.  After all, just one laugh can stimulate your organs, relieve pain and improve not just your mood, but also your immune system!

At Awaken, every women and girl that we work with has the option to choose to have a mentor or not.  We help to pair the two together based on personalities and interests.  Sometimes these relationships take off and really flourish and other times, they can be slow and a little trying. I can think back to last summer when I was pairing up a new girl with her mentor.  We were meeting at a restaurant up at Lake Tahoe and it was going to be a great day! That is until the girls showed up almost an hour late with a guy for their first date! I am not sure why she thought it wasn’t going to be awkward, and looking back, I’m still not sure she thinks it’s bizarre now!  But one thing is for sure, you have to be flexible!  And learn to expect the unexpected.

We also get donations once a week from Bed, Bath and Beyond and a few other stores. The women and girls love to come by our center, check out the new items we received and take what they need for their apartments and houses.  We are very generous with the women and girls and they know that. One week in particular, one of the girls shows up with a tall man.  I should state that our office is in a questionable part of town and sometimes we get people visiting who could potentially be dangerous.  I asked around and found out that he is safe and was just providing transportation for the girl.  I settled back down at my desk and a few minutes later, I look over and he is walking out carrying our piano! He nicely put it back as soon as I told him it wasn’t up for grabs! I laughed and reminded myself that the only thing predictable, was that each day is going to be unpredictable.

These are two of the many situations that used to make me frustrated and uneasy, but I’ve come to learn that it is just a normal part of working with people!  Comment below and tell me one of your stories when things didn’t go as you planned!  Looking back, are you now able to laugh and see the humor in it?

PC: Financially Blond

Celebrating Successes


Next month we hit an important milestone for Awaken, the anti sex trafficking organization I co-founded.  It was in May of 2011 when we first received word that we were now a legitimate 501c3 organization recognized by the IRS. I think back over those past years to all that I have learned, the struggles and heartache I have felt, and the amazing accomplishments that we have celebrated. As an organization, hitting the five-year anniversary mark is monumental and often unheard of in the nonprofit world.  The Census Bureau has found that after five years, only 45% of all new establishments were still around. As I consider this statistic and how Awaken could have just as easily been apart of the 55% to fail, I think of what has been most influential for me.

The best advice I could give to a new start up would be to never lose focus of your vision and mission. Write down now what it is you hope to accomplish and why it not only makes a difference in your life, but also in the lives of others.  Make sure you note any internal and outside confirmation you received before you started.  When times get hard and life’s circumstances seem overwhelming, you will need to remember why it is you do what you do. Awaken was started on a foundation of prayer, where God laid out what His plans were not only for us, but for His city.  This is something I often need to go back to.  It instills a renewed sense of focus in my mind and can sustain me through the seasons where it seems like everything is going wrong.

I have also learned to stay humble and be faithful.  Two of the harder characteristics for me to uphold, yet so necessary for a good leader.  I am the first to apologize and admit when I am wrong.  I have found that there is much grace to be given for those who say “I’m sorry”.  There are occasionally consequences for my actions and I try to do everything I can to ensure I will not make the same mistake twice.  I am transparent with my staff about things I have done well and things I wish I had done differently.

Awaken has also become far more than a job, it is a passion, a calling and something that has grown to become an extension of my life.  The girls and women we work with are not only friends but have also grown to become my family.  We laugh together, cry together and learn together.  As I think of everyone involved in Awaken, the mentors, case managers, counselors, community members, etc., if it wasn’t for the hearts of everyone involved, we would not still exist.  The biggest difference for me is heart.

And finally, we celebrate! Every accomplishment, however big or small, deserves to be celebrated!  We celebrate everything from birthdays, sobriety anniversaries, graduations, weddings, and babies.  If there is a reason to celebrate, we take advantage of it.  Celebrating the small and large achievements help give us hope and encouragement for the future.  In these moments I have found, I gain more clarity and are able to relax and have my heart renewed.

This week, journal and share with a friend what makes you come alive.  If you don’t yet know, start by writing down all of the things you enjoy doing and see if any one sticks out more than the others.  And after, celebrate!

PC: Keep Calm

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