A few years ago, we began an initiative called Music and Healing to partner with area organizations that help community members facing significant challenges or trauma.

As part of this initiative, we recently started to work with Red Oak Hope, an organization that provides housing, holistic healing methods, and life skills education to women recovering from human exploitation. We spoke with Haley Patterson, their US Director, about our work with the women in their Restore program.

Red Oak Hope began as a collaborative effort to help survivors of sexual exploitation across borders to return home safely and connect with organizations offering immediate help. It started in 2013 as a single response to one individual’s need, and has grown into an international organization for female empowerment, community development, and social justice.

The Red Oak Hope home in Austin offers a safe space for women to live and heal for up to 18 months. They help women who have experienced exploitation to establish a specific intervention plan with goals such as obtaining a GED, writing a resume, learning budget skills and computer literacy, and preparing to live on their own. These programs are based on partnerships with organizations offering an array of resources to provide the women a holistic experience of healing and restoration.

As part of their healing process, the women can participate in Restore, a program through these partnerships that offers creative opportunities for participants to discover new methods of self-expression. Haley Patterson explained the benefits of artistic outlets for individuals experiencing complex trauma.

“There’s a lot of heartache in mental health crises and trauma. Creative programs engage a different part of the brain, giving unstructured creative space for the women to get to see who they are, and what they’re like. Anytime the women we work with are able to express themselves in a way that feels different, it’s one step in their journey of building trust and rapport.”

We connected with Red Oak Hope last fall through our Music and Healing program at Dell Children’s Hospital. As part of Restore, one of our Healing Artists will meet with an individual in the program several times over the eight-week period. During their meetings, they get to know each other, talk about music tastes and styles, and craft unique lyrics that hold special meaning to that individual.

Arnold Yzaguirre, one of our Healing Artists, talked about the joy in sharing music with the woman he worked with recently at Red Oak Hope. “She was bouncy and ready to connect with someone. It turns out we have a lot of the same likes, so we started really vibing. I can’t wait to see where the song goes.”

Haley described the first woman we had the opportunity to work with as a person of few words. She explained that as the woman began to write her song with our Healing Artist, what emerged was “the most vulnerable thoughts outside her head that I’ve seen.” The woman created a poignant depiction of her feelings in a song she was excited to share with friends and family. It is a beautiful articulation of pride and strength, of embracing who she has become, of looking forward to the future.

Claire Puckett, one of our Healing Artists, told us, “Those themes of pride, of taking back your own narrative – often times we work with people who have had things happen to them, so this gives them a chance to take their voice back.”

We are so glad that the woman absolutely loved her song, “Angels All Around Me,” and we’d love to share it with you as part of our Hopeful Things Series.

No more waiting, it’s time to go.

I wanna live my life.

I am proud of the things I’ve done. I am proud.

I wanna go somewhere far away, no one can stop me, no I won’t stay.

I look out across the sea to clear my mind, it’s just me, proud and waiting.

With the past behind, I am free, I am free.

Angels all around me. Angels all around me protect me from the cold … 

Never know what tomorrow is.

Some people wanna kill your joy,

but keep on pushing, the time is yours.

Travis Marcum, our Director of Education and our Music and Healing program, said, “You can hear in the lyrics the pride in what she’s done and what she’s become, and how she’s creating a new world for herself.”

Haley Patterson hopes that Restore, and our work with the individuals in that program, will grow and morph over the coming months and years to reach more women who could benefit from creative opportunities. We’re so fortunate to know and work with such inspiring individuals in our community, and we look forward to our continued partnership with Red Oak Hope and the music we’ll share with the women there in the future.