While the rest of us are instructed to social distance and stay indoors, many others are classified as essential. This means they must work on the frontline during the pandemic. Essential employees are often the unseen heroes who are out there sacrificing their own safety in order to provide services to others in need.
Child Specialist, Savannah Rounds, has lived in Hendry County for six plus years. She also lived here for part of her childhood. She has worked for over four years at Abuse Counseling and Treatment (ACT), in their shelter division.
“We provide services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. My job focuses on the children we have in our shelter, and making sure they have everything they need to be successful, as well as providing group counseling, assessments, and much more,” explained Savannah. “Our shelter division is particularly essential because we provide housing to participants who would otherwise have nowhere else to go. We also have other programs for clients who are not residing in the shelter and we are still providing those, though we have had to change them a bit to maintain social distancing guidelines and safety for our staff as well as those we serve.”
Unfortunately, during times of crisis like this, increased stress and having to stay at home increases the frequency and severity of domestic violence and abuse incidents. ACT’s crisis hotline fields daily calls from survivors of domestic violence, abuse, and sexual assault in Hendry County. Their LaBelle shelter offers a place for women and children in need, to escape their situations, as well as individual and group counseling, domestic violence education, and classes that teach life skills.
Savannah says living here and working for ACT has been rewarding and inspiring, “What I love most about our community is how willing everybody is to come together to ensure that we are all successful. I know that if I have a participant in need, and I don’t personally have the capacity to help them, that I can reach out to someone in the community and get what they need. People here are so willing to help and they genuinely want everyone to be successful, and I think that’s very special,” she went on, “That is what makes me feel so connected to our community - knowing other people who are like minded and want to make the world just a little bit more beautiful.”
Just as the current global pandemic has changed all of our lives, it has created challenges for Savannah. “My life, like everyone else’s, has changed drastically since COVID-19 began to spread and the stay at home orders were enacted. I would say that being away from my family is the most difficult aspect of all of this for me. I haven’t seen a majority of my family in over a month, and if I have it has been very briefly and we have been very far apart,” she said. “As I do still work with participants and we are still taking people in, it is a huge concern of mine that I will spread it to a loved one. I wouldn’t be so worried about myself getting it, because I am very healthy, but I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself if I spread it to a vulnerable loved one when I could have avoided that by just staying away and social distancing appropriately. That would be my biggest fear with this - a loved one getting it.”
She has been trying to stay positive throughout the social distancing and stay at home orders. “A typical day for me right now consists of work and home. I keep myself very busy with home projects when I am not at work. I have been trying my very best to see this situation as an opportunity to get things done that I would have otherwise held off, instead of seeing it as a punishment or burden.” Savannah added, “My back yard and laundry room have never looked better!”
When asked about her future hopes, she replied, “I think this is a great time for self reflection and focusing on what is important in life, though some days it can definitely be hard to see it that way,” she explained, “My hopes for the future would be that we all come out of this a little bit more thankful for all of the blessings that we so often take for granted. I would hope that within a month we will be able to get back to some sort of normalcy, but I realize that people will be very cautious after coming out of this until we do get a vaccine.”
How can we help Savannah and her co-workers stay safe while she provides essential services? “The best way that people would be able to help me is to help themselves! Stay home whenever you can, practice social distancing, take time to reflect and appreciate yourself, and call the people you care about. Remember that this is only temporary. We will come out of this as a community stronger than ever before,” she said.
If you or someone you know is in need of services for domestic violence, sexual assault, or human trafficking (shelter, counseling, etc.) you can contact the free and 100% confidential hotline at 239-939-3112 or visit their website at www.actabuse.com.