September 8, 2020 : By Jacob Couch - Office of Communications & Public Engagement
During Liberty University’s second week of classes, LU Serve hosted events as part of a Serve Expo, where students could participate in activities structured to educate and raise social awareness for causes in the local community. The week was highlighted by a Send Relief: Serve Experience Thursday evening on the steps of the Montview Student Union, which focused on coming to the aid of sexual assault survivors.
More than 450 students and faculty packed 500 kits for victims of sexual assault and their children in the Lynchburg area. The project was in partnership with the YWCA and Sexual Assault Response Program (SARP).
As participants packed kits, they heard the true story of a sexual assault survivor at the various packing stations.
YWCA USA is on a mission to eliminate racism, empower women, stand up for social justice, help families, and strengthen communities. They are one of the oldest and largest women’s organizations in the nation, serving over 2 million women, girls, and their families.
Executive Director for LU Serve Lew Weider said that when women and children go to the hospital following a sexual assault, all of their clothes are taken for forensic study.
“The hospitals don’t provide anything except a paper gown if they don’t have family or friends there to assist them,” Weider said.
The kits included underwear, sweatpants, shirts, a stress ball, paper and pencil, and a Teddy Bear made specifically for this program.
“Each bear has a backpack that is filled with paper and it has an opening in the heart with a sleeve in it,” Weider explained. The sleeve will hold a piece of paper on which survivors can write down their fears and thoughts. Once the survivor has gone through counseling or senses that they have overcome those fears, they can remove the paper and dissolve it in water as a symbol of releasing that fear.
All of the students that were involved in the event also wrote out notes of encouragement, empowerment, and prayer for the survivors who will receive the kits, then took the kit up steps where they prayed for the woman or child who would receive it.
“This is a way to advertise needs in our community that our students are passionate about doing something for the problems of our culture, whether that is sexual assault, sex trafficking, poverty, or homelessness,” Weider said. “This is just one more way to provide students with an opportunity to learn about what happens, to be better informed, to be proactive, to make a difference, and to actually understand that they can make a difference in the lives of people in their community who are hurting.”
The Serve Expo is an annual event aimed at inspiring, informing, and connecting the Liberty community with opportunities to serve in Lynchburg through their passions, talents, and academics. On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, local organizations and event sponsors set up interactive stations on the Montview steps. Workshops included “Toxic Charity,” looking at what it means to truly serve the community; “Leveraging Your Potential,” to help students learn how to integrate their Christian/Community Service work in better career opportunities; and “Unconscious Bias: A Current Conversation.”