Reminder Publications | The non-profit organization Monson supports women and children through programming
| Lauren LeBel
Singer-songwriter Bonnie Lee Panda will perform her original music at MAVE’s annual show on February 24th and 25th.
Photo submitted to Reminder Publishing
MONSON – Monson Against Violence Everywhere (MAVE) works year-round to help women and children who have experienced, or are currently experiencing, a cruel situation.
MAVE is a non-profit organization founded by Faith Ward of Monson.
“I’m a domestic violence and sexual assault survivor,” Ward shared. As a survivor, she feels the issue needs to be advocated more.
She went on to say that she doesn’t want to “just sit around and talk to people about rape,” she wants people to know that resources exist and that they are not alone in the fight.
This is how MAVE started.
MAVE hosts a variety of events throughout the year, most recently The Vagina Monologues on February 24th and 25th at the Palmer Historical Center. “The Vagina Monologues” is a play written by V, formerly Eve Ensler. According to Ensler’s website, her play has been published in over 48 languages and performed in over 140 countries. It was recently heralded by The New York Times as one of “the most important plays of the past 25 years: Ensler’s hilarious, eye-opening tour of the final frontier, the forbidden zone in every woman’s heart.”
Ward agreed with the play’s description, noting that it was “hysterical”.
To formulate her globally acclaimed show, Ensler interviewed thousands of women of diverse races, economic statuses, countries and more, asking unique questions about their bodies that can generate humor and understanding for all.
Ward said Ensler also interviewed women from the Bosnian rape camp, which led to some “really sad stories.”
Ward noted that Ensler allows her production to be used free of charge by various organizations that serve women and children. This marked the seventh year that MAVE has offered the show after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19.
This year’s audience attracted about 60 to 70 people. Ward explained that it went beyond “The Vagina Monologues” and would be called “Women of Heart Celebration,” consisting of musicians, poets, and artists sharing their work. “[It was] a four-hour event rather than a two-hour show,” Ward said.
The performers came from Palmer, Brimfield, Springfield and other surrounding towns all the way down to Plainville, CT. When scouting for people to be part of the play, Ward said she prefers non-actors because it makes it more “authentic.” This year’s show had eight cast members.
To attend the event, the usual donation fee was $20. However, if someone couldn’t afford it, Ward said admission was free. She added that winning The Vagina Monologues covers the program’s expenses for the rest of the year.
In April, Sexual Assault Awareness Month, MAVE participates in the Clothesline Project. The Clothesline Project is a national program that addresses violence against women and allows women to express their feelings by decorating a t-shirt. The t-shirts are color-coded to indicate the form of abuse an individual has experienced. For example, blue and green are for incest and sexual abuse survivors, red, pink and orange are for rape and sexual assault, black is for political violence, purple is for women who are being targeted because of their sexual orientation, yellow is for women who have been abused or assaulted, and white is dead.
Ward said the shirts are hung on a clothesline for others to see – usually in Monson and Palmer.
“[It is a] nice, eye-catching thing to look at from a distance,” Ward said. However, when you approach the T-shirts, there are “powerful” messages that some may have carried with them for a long time, she said.
The T-shirts are typically made at the Monson House of Art and the Palmer Library.
According to Ward, if the weather cooperates, the shirts will be displayed on a portable clothesline that can be easily moved. She added that in recent years a more permanent exhibit has been established at the Palmer Library.
To continue the creative front, MAVE also offers art classes. “They are more than art classes… [They are] for children and families,” Ward said. She explained that they hold “Survivor Art Shows,” where trauma survivors create artwork to share with other survivors, as well as a survivor’s family and friends. Ward noted that the art classes are completely free and all materials are paid for. The courses are offered at different locations.
Ward recognized the difficulty of asking for help. For example, she said that people who are being abused may not be able to get away without an explanation, but if they were to say they were attending an art exhibition, they could “safely go and snatch them on the spur of the moment.”
Another annual project that MAVE runs during Anti-Bullying Month in October is Backpacks Against Bullies. Typically, Ward said, they offer kids in the area — grades K-6 — an opportunity to answer the question, “What would you do if someone bullied you?” Backpacks are given out to the chosen kids based on the top answers .
Although MAVE’s focus is helping women and children, Ward said if a man called and said they were in a violent situation, they would help.
She went on to express her passion for helping others, particularly as survivors.
Ward has lived in Monson with her husband for 10 years. About the second year of her life in the city, she stated that there had been 41 rapes. Because Monson feels “really comfortable” and “safe,” she said people wouldn’t believe something like this would ever happen, despite national statistics saying that one in three women will be raped in their lifetime.
“We never talk about it,” Ward said.
Every year before the show “The Vagina Monologues,” Ward asks Monson Police Chief Stephen Kozloski about the city’s statistics on rapes, domestic violence calls, child abuse, and more. It then updates the programs to reflect the data.
In recent years, Ward said sexual assault calls have gone down, which she finds “surprising,” though she believes MAVE may have contributed.
Although Ward founded MAVE, she receives help from both her husband and volunteers. She noted that she’s always looking and ready to have an extra hand.
Ward recognized community businesses for helping provide over 60 sweepstakes at the annual show for people to enter and win. The shops were in Palmer, Monson, and Sturbridge
Northampton to name a few. “[We] none of this would be possible without their help,” said Ward.
The Monson Cultural Council and the Massachusetts Cultural Council also help make MAVE possible.
MAVE events are open to everyone. Ward noted that while his funding is dedicated to Monson’s domestic violence programs, his resources are there for everyone.
To donate or learn more about MAVE, visit https://www.facebook.com/MaveSavesUs.