By Viktoria Belle
The Dandelion Initiative (DI) is an organization founded, staffed and governed by survivors, for survivors. I started the organization in 2016 on the steps of city hall after the Ghomeshi hearings and since then we have grown to develop programs (like Safer Bars & Spaces and our policy work) that prevent and respond to gender based violence. I was inspired by the resiliency of Dandelions, and I figured it was a good name to describe how incredibly resilient survivors and women are.
When we started envisioning what we wanted the “Heal and Thrive series to be, we knew that survivor-centered peer support and knowledge sharing had to be at the top of our priorities. We all wanted a space where survivors could connect with one another, see themselves in one another, learn and grow together, and create a community where we were the experts in our own experiences.
We also knew that prioritizing the safety of all women and trans survivors was vital while creating opportunities for cis-men who identify as survivors to participate throughout the series as well.
Creating safer spaces for survivors to heal or to thrive means: planning ahead, building trust with your community and facilitators, paying these community members for their knowledge and work, de-colonizing your online or in-person practices, and using trauma-informed and survivor-centered principles.
We have served over 250 survivors through 12 workshops over 1 year with 3 staff and 7 facilitators. It was incredible, hard and endless work, and worth every single second.
Dandelions can grow through concrete and through anything, anywhere. Some look at this plant like a weed, something common and replaceable. But in fact the dandelion is a pretty magical plant. Dandelions are one of the most vital early spring nectar sources for a wide host of pollinators; they can be eaten raw or cooked, made into tea, and used in traditional herbal medicine and tinctures. I look at survivors as dandelions, people may underestimate us and our value, but we are so important and resilient, especially a field of dandelions; powerful.
The DI is a small grassroots nonprofit. We have 2 full-time staff and a dedicated volunteer board of directors. Since COVID-19 we have lost over 80% of our core revenue from our Safer Bars & Spaces training, workshops and policy development work. This means we have no funding to provide free services and programs for survivors without the support of our program fees.
We are working really hard to release our report “Don’t Rebuild On Our Backs” which will showcase the impacts of our programs, current information on gender-based violence and finally, the report will highlight policy recommendations to our government, partners and community to help us continue our important work and collaboration.
Anyone can help us by either donating, sharing our work, sharing grant opportunities with us, all of these things are helpful.
Thank you for giving us the space to share some information about us and our work, we are grateful.
Viktoria Belle (she/her), Executive Director & Founder, Dandelion Initiative