EL CENTRO – In the spirit of domestic violence awareness month, Womanhaven hosted a night of hope and laughter Tuesday with its third annual Mariposa Gala event to bring awareness for domestic violence survivors, raise money to support survivors, and to enjoy a night full of giggles.
Held at the Old Eucalyptus School House, the night was about more than awards. Womanhaven also raised funds at the event through raffles and a silent auction. Guests were enticed to attend by experiencing a night of jeering and side-splitting comedy.
Members of the Wassup Wu Comedy group jested with and cheered up the crowd, and several of the comedians said they were glad to support Womanhaven through laughter. According to Gina Vargas, executive director of Womanhaven, it’s important for victims to laugh and be able to move on from the trauma of domestic violence.
Despite the event revolving around a night of laughter, it was also centered on a sense of hope. Womanhaven bestowed several awards to volunteers and sponsors in appreciation for their hard work.
Centinela State Prison was presented with the Partnership Award for efforts to improve services for domestic violence victims. According to Tomas Oliva, Senior Field Representative for Congressman Juan Vargas, the prison has aided more than 150 children who were accompanying their mothers inside emergency shelters.
Elizabeth Predmore of WOVEN was given the Visionary Award for her consistent personal involvement with Womanhaven and the community.
According to Vargas, “mariposa” represents a lily flower for this event. She explained the importance of using a lily to represent domestic violence survivors.
“The Mariposa Award is actually a lily for this event, because lilies can make it through the storm and come out stronger than before. That’s how we see the survivors of domestic violence. They have a tough road to face, but they make it out, standing tall,” said Vargas.
The Mariposa Award was presented to Verna Wright, who has overcome domestic violence and chosen to use her experience to help the community. She explained the way domestic violence affects children.
“There’s a story behind a child’s eyes. Every child has a story, and sometimes they’re not willing to share it. Silence is how domestic violence thrives,” said Wright.
Wright expressed her gratitude for the award and explained how it has taken her many years to feel comfortable sharing her story. She said she was glad to be able to finally speak up in hopes of helping others.
“If you have a voice, use it. Speak up, even if your voice trembles when you do,” said Wright.