Curriculum: The Women’s Empowerment Program in 2008

By Joan Stockbridge

It is a pleasure to offer this report and curriculum for posting on the Healing Story Alliance website. When Gail and I received the $650 grant from NSN in 2003 to develop and document a transferable curriculum, we hoped that many people would be able to make use of the curriculum as they worked with healing story in a variety of settings.

It is five years later, and 468 women have graduated from the Women’s Empowerment Program. The transformative story curriculum is still an essential, highly valued, and powerful part of the program. While Gail continues her story and journaling work in other arenas, I’m still leading the story groups at Women’s Empowerment. The story curriculum has evolved somewhat, but the basic elements remain the same.

We happily offer this report (of which Gail is the primary author!) in the hopes that you might find it useful. Feel free to contact us with questions or comments. If you are going to use information from our report in a paper or presentation, please acknowledge the source and contact us first. Thank you.

Joan Stockbridge 530-823-9610
Gail Catlin 916-485-8182

Download Full Report and Curriculum (PDF)

Finding Our Voices by Sharing our Stories: A Transformative Curriculum in A Homeless Shelter

Project Director:
Joan Stockbridge
370 Hammond Drive
Auburn, CA 95603

Gail Catlin
1753Haggin Grove Way
Carmichael, CA

Important Note:

This is a report is a working document describing an ongoing project characterized by ongoing learning! Every classroom experience offers us new insights and awarenesses about story. If you are interested in using this “model” of teaching we invite you to contact us so we might share our up-to-date experiences as we are continuing to use healing story at the Women’s Empowerment Program and in a variety of other settings. Here’s to the power of story!

“Remember only this one thing,” said Badger. “The stories people tell have a way of taking care of them. If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. That is why we put these stories in each other’s memory. This is how people care for themselves.” Crow and Weasel by Barry Lopez

Table of Contents

1. Introduction to the Project

2. Discovering Our Voices: An Overview of the Developmental Theory Underlying the Curriculum

3. Curriculum Overview: Four Styles of Story for Empowerment

4. Curriculum Components: Session Outlines

Journaling/Reflective Story
Traditional Story/Folklore
–The Stolen Child
–Vasilisa the Beautiful
–Amaterasu and Susanowo
–The Wounded Samurai
–Little Burnt Face
Women of History/Biography
Personal Story/ “Ah Ha” Moments

5. Observations by Students and Program Staff

6. Observations by Project Collaborators

Introduction to the Project

The purpose of this project was to develop and document an integrated storytelling program with homeless women at the Maryhouse Women’s Empowerment Program.

Maryhouse Women’s Empowerment Program

Maryhouse Women’s Empowerment Program provides practical skill-building sessions as well as transformational arts-based activities to homeless and impoverished women in Sacramento. The program is funded entirely by private donations and grants has now graduated over 200 women with a distinctive 80% job and housing attainment rate. Joan Stockbridge and Gail Catlin have volunteered in the program since 2000, focusing in the areas of storytelling and journaling respectively. Their work became partnered after the first year, and this grant project was designed specifically to strengthen that partnership and document the work with the hope that the curriculum would become transferable and usable elsewhere.

It is important to note that the story program is contained within a larger program. The story program is a highly valued and effective component within a larger framework that also includes such courses as anger management, interview skills, job mentoring, group sessions facilitated by a social worker, and parenting skills.

The Story Curriculum

The Women’s Empowerment Program works as a closed group that meets for eight weeks and then graduates, allowing a new group to form. We proposed to work with 3 different groups over their 8 week sessions, keeping process notes and other documentation, in order to develop curriculum materials that could be transferable. Funds were requested for supplies for documentation and art materials. Specifically, the project goals were:

-To develop a conscious “through line” of story over the eight week course, developing a curriculum of specific modules that build toward a reframed, productive narrative or “story of self” for the graduates

-Document the process and create a transferable model

-Provide each woman the opportunity to tell her story publicly, at graduation, and also, as appropriate, at large public forums.

Since the funding of this report, Joan and Gail have actually completed 6 cycles of teaching, keeping process notes and documentation. Additionally, they interviewed the program director, case worker and selected graduates regarding the results of the program.

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