Family

The Gift of Time

Frustration, hope, and superheroes in a New Jersey domestic abuse shelter.

The stories in this comic are nonfiction, but the names and details have been changed to protect the identities of the participants. This work follows my first year and a half as artist-in-residence at Town Clock Community Development Corporation, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, which offers permanent housing to survivors of domestic abuse. The creation of this comic was supported by CoLABarts, which has collected some of my interviews here.

Cover image. Two woman and their children, and the title "The Gift of Time."
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Panel 01
It’s the night of my first meeting at 
Town Clock.


“....Must be weird 
having graves on your lawn....” (LW)

Panel 02
It’s November, 2019. I feel anxious and
depressed about my country. This is my 
chance to ACT, and combine the two things 
I’ve done for my adult life: teaching art 
and making comics.
If I suck at it,  it will be over in a year.

“Beep 
Beep 
Beep!”
“Okay, it’s Susan. I’m coming downstairs….” (Susan)

Panel 03
“Hi!  This building is beautiful!  It’s amazing, the history…”
Executive director
Reverend Susan Kramer-Mills (arrow pointing to Susan)
“You mean the fire?”(Susan)

Panel 04 
“Yeah, it was right here--”
“In 1971 a man came here looking for his ex-girlfriend, who the church was protecting. “
“She was cleaning the church to give back, and he came in looking for her and set the place on fire.”

Panel 05
“And the Sanctuary was never properly repaired, so when I became a pastor here around 2000, we began to think 
about how to 
rededicate the space…”

Panel 06
“And we said maybe God was trying to tell us something. Maybe we need to house survivors of domestic violence.”
Panel 01
“And how did you decide on long-term housing for the women?” LW
Panel 02
“Well, I felt that long-term affordable housing would be better for anybody.”
Panel 03
“There are only 14 beds like this in all of New Jersey.  We have 11 of them.”
“  Women need time to heal.
Most places expect you to 
get out after six months tops, 
and most women don’t have the financials to do that, so a tremendous amount of women end up going back to their abusers.  Where else are they 
supposed to go?”

Panel 04
“You know when we got our final funding?”  
“When?”
 “Super Storm Sandy. 
Fema was giving away lots of money for new housing because when natural disasters hit, domestic violence always goes up.”

Panel 05
“So Hurricane Sandy was sort of 
...uh..lucky??”

Panel 06
“Well, no.
 I like to think we’re inviting the Spirit in!  Using disasters as a catalyst for change!”
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Panel 01
Susan takes me upstairs and shows me the meeting room, I meet Christine Edwards, the programmer for Town Clock.

“So this is where you’d be doing the art. And we will provide the materials.  “ (Christine)

Panel 02
We talk about the project. I'm supposed to make comics with the residents.  I’ve taught comics to college students for years, but have no background in art therapy.
“Maybe we should do a Superhero project with them? “ (Christine)
“They could make vision boards of where they see themselves.” (Susan)

Panel 03

“Sounds good, I can write the questions.” (Christine)
“Okay!” (LW)
“We’ll be in the room with you during the workshop.” Christine


 “Vision boards? Superheroes? That seems pretty cheesy…”

Panel 04

“We should wrap this up. I’ve got my other job managing cases at a mental health facility. And then one of my classes for social work school.”
“It’s 10:30! I didn’t realize. I’m sorry!”
“Town Clock is  everyone’s second job.”

Panel 05

“You should come to the Community dinner next Wednesday, and bring your kids so the residents see you as a human being.”
“That will be easy!  My kids are crazy.”

Panel 06
“You will need a way to process some of the stories that you hear.”
“Okay.”
She will be right about this.
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Panel 01
That night, as I drive back home from downtown New Brunswick, past the strip malls, and on to 95 towards my 
house in tree-lined maplewood, 
I think about all the women ...

Panel 02
...I’ve known over the years that were in bad relationships they couldn’t get out of…

Panel 03
like the neighbor in Brooklyn who screamed for me to call 911 for her one night.  We never said anything about it...

Panel 04
...except two years later we passed each other on the street and she said,
“Thank you.”

Panel 05
Part of my job will be to get to know the women, interview them, and make a comic about their lives.

Panel 06

Am I up to the task?  Will they trust me? Will I do right by them by retelling their stories? 
Will teaching them art help anything?
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Panel 01
The Community Dinner
“This is Sylvia and Ramona…”
“What book are you reading?”
“Edgar Allan Poe.”
“Edgar Allan Poe” isn’t a book.”

Panel 02
I’m supposed to find the residents and get them interested in the cartooning workshop, but it’s hard to tell who is a resident and who is a guest.  People don’t wear trauma on their sleeves. 


Panel 03
“I find an empty seat near a gentle looking woman named Daraja.”
“What a cutie!  What’s his name?”
“James.”

Panel 04
“He is cute but he does not sleep.  Does your child sleep?”
“Sometimes?... Oof I’m braindead!!”
“Ha! 
Ha!”
“HA!”

Panel 05
“Where are you from? Your English is very good!*” 
“I am from (Place crossed-out). Our colonial masters were British, so I speak English.*” 
“Colonial Masters?” (in thought bubble)
*Totally Clueless

Panel 06
“Hey, would you like to come to an art workshop I’m going to teach?”
“I don’t know anything about art, but it could be good?”
Panel 01
A chair falls.
A woman jumps.

Panel 02
[silent panel]

Panel 03
A woman comes in late with her son.
“I’m, uhh, going to be teaching a drawing workshop... Do you want to come?”
“Yeah? Maybe.”

Panel 04
“I used to draw all the time when I was a kid, superheroes mostly. When we first came to the USA, my dad loved to read Thor and the Hulk, so I’d copy the pictures. He was 
proud of me then.  “





Panel 05
“I took art classes in the back of a comics shop. The teacher was really strict about drawing the “Marvel way” and when I tried doing something different he said I’d never be good enough.”


Panel 06
Well, you don’t have to draw the Marvel way!  I don’t care what you draw!”

“Terrific!  I want it my style!  I want it so that people know that’s Svetlana’s work... just like da Vinci.”
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Panel 01
On the day of the first workshop, Daraja shows up first.

“Can I use this check to pay this phone bill?”
“Hmm, I think you can deposit it through your phone…”
“Amazing! 
Thank you.”

Panel 02
“Five more arrive. It’s pretty chaotic. Women come and go, tending to their kids.  It’s hard for anyone to focus, but I stick to Christine’s questions.“

“If you were a superhero, what powers would you have?”
“ I would be invisible. That way I could do things and people wouldn’t know.”

Panel 03
“I would be bold and fast.  Able to read minds…. And to change people’s minds.  And strong. 

“Whatever I write becomes real.”

Panel 04
“Are there bad guys/gals? Who are they?”
“For the mind reader, the enemy is an emotional reader and manipulator.  They always win.”

Panel 05
“As a woman, what are your superpowers right now?”
“Strength.”
“Endurance.”
“Communicating with others that you deserve love. “
“Self-love.”

Panel 06
“What can you do that only you do?”
“Sing!”
“Cook African food?”
“Cook Spanish food.”
“It was delicious!”
Panel 01
“ What are your Weaknesses as a human superhero?”
“ Abusing your power, perfectionism.”

Panel 02
“Do you see yourself as a superhero?”
“Yes, I have strength.”
“Yes.”
“Yes.”
“Yes.”

Panel 03
“So then I have them draw themselves as superheroes, and that’s when it gets hard for everyone except for Svet and Daraja.
“I can’t draw.”
“I gotta go.”
“Maybe I’ll draw kind of an avenging angel!”
Panel 04
“Maybe she could be like an abuser slayer!“
“Wow!  You are amazing!  I could see that being concept art for Marvel!”

Panel 05
“No no, I can’t show this to anyone! if anyone sees this they’ll think I’m crazy.  My life is like a war zone, I’m constantly afraid I’m going to step on the landmine that takes my son away from me.”

Panel 06

Later I’d learn why she felt this way.
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Panel 01
That was one of the most profound conversations I’ve ever had.  Thanks for those questions, Christine!” (LW)
“The women are real superheroes.  They need to believe that.” (Christine)

Panel 02
 “
 Working at Town Clock I learned to 
break down my own walls with these women. I was like, “We’re not going to get close,” 
I don’t do the hugging and all of that, and it’s not that I’m not a warm person, it’s just no, I have created my own boundaries. But I had to show myself as more than just someone who works here, but as empathetic, knowledgeable, caring, and warm. I had to show 
who I am and it has changed me.



”

Panel 03
Christine’s job overseeing the needs of each of the 11 residents seems like an impossible amount of work, but then she tells me that during the day she works at a mental health facility and she’s also getting her masters in social work and she’s a single mom.  
“My son’s an artist too!”
“Wow!”

Panel 04
“One of the hardest things for these women to do is figure out who they are when they are no longer controlled by their abusers.  Like one of them asked me about perfume so I said,” 
“What do you like?”
“I don’t even know.”
Christine thinks: “Ok, so what does that mean?”




Panel 05
“... in transitional housing, there’s a deadline and there's an agenda and you must meet that by a specific time whether you’re ready or not.  With Town Clock, we’re assisting you to be ready when you’re ready to be ready.”



Panel 06
 “The only agenda is to keep you moving along in whatever way that looks like for women. If for six months you just want to lie in bed and not do a thing, that is fine, but now the conversation is going to be, What are your goals? Do you want to exercise? Do you want to go to school? And it really is sometimes teaching them to think for themselves so that they can make these decisions.”
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Panel 01
For the second workshop I start off with a warm-up exercise. The idea is that you get better at drawing yourself with practice, and you start to learn the difference between a long drawing and a comic-style drawing, which can sometimes capture the essence of you better.



Panel 02
The assignment is supposed to take ten minutes.   but with the kids running around and people walking in and out, it takes the whole class.

Draw a self-portrait from your head.  first one that takes five minutes, then three minutes, then one minute.*

*The assignment is adapted from Ivan Brunetti’s Cartooning, Philosophy and Practice

Panel 03
Afterwards we share.  Daraja says,
“This was me when I came to America…”

Panel 04
“This was me when I had my baby alone in the hospital.”

Panel 05
“This is me now, I am here, and by the Grace of God, things will get better.” 

Panel 06
Silent panel, LW puts hand on Daraja’s arm.
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Panel 01
“Sometimes I wake up and I can’t believe I’m here.”
Panel 02
Daraja tells me about the dermatologist.  “I go to the appointment. They prescribe a cream.  I go to the pharmacist, but I cannot afford the cream, so why go to the follow up appointment?”
Panel 03
“They give me food assistance and I went to a farmer’s market, but one corn costs a dollar, so I heard about this other place that has fresh corn for much cheaper, but it’s very far.”
Panel 04
“How do you do it with your kids and your career? I need strength, you must be a superhero.” “No I am just crazy, I work all the time.”
Panel 05
 I should have said, 
“No, I just have childcare.”

Panel 06
Daraja: “But I don’t want to talk about these things. They make me sad. I want to make art.”
Panel 01
For the next class Rev. Susan gets us a volunteer sitter. Linda is the former executive director of an affordable housing program in East Brunswick.  She will be the golden person that allows us to get to work.


Panel 02
With the kids gone I feel that freedom 
that any parent feels when they don’t 
have to worry about childcare.  
We can finally just focus.
“So here are comics.  Have you seen comics before?”
“Not really.”
“UGLY!”


Panel 03
“These are different, women have drawn them about their lives.” (LW)


Panel 04
This room will give us  the time and space to work, Svet on her Superheroine, and Daraja on James’ birth story.  Gradually we share about many other things.

Svet, while drawing: “My prayers are not answered, I keep praying but I’m questioning my faith.”

“I have so many crosses to bear.” (Svet)

“But God made you so he is good. “ (Daraja)

Panel 05
Daraja writes and draws her whole experience giving birth alone in the hospital in a methodical chronology.  She draws boxes, dividing up time.  Sometimes I set a timer so she can focus on just one thing for a couple minutes.
Daraja “How do you draw trees?”

Panel 06

“I never should have gotten on that plane…”
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Panel 01
Daraja’s Story

“I came here two years ago.  I won a green card lottery.”

Panel 02

“ I lived in a beautiful simple village. It got hot but there were trees. There was no electricity.  If you had to take a shower, you poked holes in a bucket and dipped it in water and poured it on yourself.”  

“If people needed food they would kill a chicken or goat and share it with the village.” 

Panel 03
She went to school, learned English and French. She became a midwife.

“I saw many mothers and children die in childbirth in my village.”
She wanted to go to the USA to get more medical training to open a clinic back home.

Panel 04
She got married. She found out she won the Green card lottery right after she became pregnant. 

SOMEONE made arrangements for her to live with a woman in the USA.

Panel 05
She got off the plane in NJ and was taken in by a woman who did not mention she had a husband and kids. 

Panel 06
 At first the woman told Daraja to eat whatever she wanted. Then the woman changed her mind—she wanted Daraja to earn her keep.  Daraja began cooking and cleaning and taking care of the kids.
Panel 01
Once she was on her hands and knees scrubbing the floor, and the husband offered to help her since she was pregnant.  Then he ....  “I don’t want to talk about this part.”

They took her money.  Her phone didn’t work here.  

Panel 02
They told her that the world outside was completely unsafe: that babies get kidnapped and people get shot on the street for no reason.  

Panel 03
At 6 months pregnant she went to the obgyn... “You should gain weight to help the baby.” 
“How can I gain weight? They are starving me.”  

Panel 04
I keep thinking about that moment 
for Daraja, how much courage 
she had, telling this 
stranger her whole story

Panel 05

She never went back to the house again.  First she was transferred to a temporary shelter, and then she came here.


Panel 06
“God Willing, I  want to be trained as a doctor.  I want to help women.”
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Panel 01
With Daraja’s gentleness, clarity, and vision, I can imagine her so clearly as a doctor.  There must be some “privileged white lady” info about becoming a midwife or doctor that I can find out…
  


Christine is looking for someone to transcribe Daraja’s foreign nursing school papers.  That alone costs $350 and takes months.  

Panel 02
I reach out to my dear midwife who helped me through the birth of my second child to find out the process... 

 
“Probably her midwife credentials aren’t good here, which is crazy, I know.”
 But she could try the dual nursing midwife degree at Rutgers…
But first will she have to get an undergraduate degree?

Panel 03
I speak to a doula.  “If she is going to be a doula she has to figure out her risk profile, ...if she’s apprenticing with a doula she will have to be on call.  Does she have the flexibility to do that?”

Panel 04
I email Daraja links to all the information I find but she doesn’t have easy access to a computer or the internet.   
She tried to get a phone with broadband,  but it was astronomically expensive and she couldn’t pay for it so collection agencies went after her.


Panel 05
I ask her if she could do research at the library but the people she was with before told her that the streets were not safe for her to walk on.

It’s hard to totally dismiss this.

 Panel 06
“Have you ever gone to New York City, just to walk around?” 
“No.”
“Well one day maybe we can all go on a field trip to the Met…” This feels like a hollow promise.
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Panel 01
After hearing Daraja’s story, I feel way out of my depth.  I need more perspective...what does it take for women to disentangle from all the trauma and move on? People keep mentioning this board member, Sandy.

“She’s my guardian angel.”  (Svet) 


Panel 02

Sandy was in an abusive relationship for 15 years.  She’s now devoted to helping the residents. I interview her at her lovely townhouse.

“This goes for all of my survivors, that it wasn’t our fault. This is all we saw. We had no idea there could be anything different.”

Panel 03 

“I was in a supermarket. I was picking up some sort of meat for my husband. It was odd...  
The guy behind the counter was helping everybody else and not me.

I was in a supermarket. I was picking up some sort of meat for my husband. It was odd...  
The guy behind the counter was helping everybody else and not me.”
” 

Panel 04 
...and I opened up my mouth to speak and all of a sudden I had this strange noise that kind of enveloped me and after a couple of moments I realized it was the sound of my own voice...
 and it sounded so foreign to me.  There was no point in saying anything because everything I said was wrong.



Panel 05 
It got so bad that Sandy was living in a separate room in the house, with locks on the doors.  One day she came in and the money she’d hidden in her shoe was all gone.  A cop said, “It doesn’t have to be like this.” So she hired police to help her move out. 
 
Panel 06 
Sandy was able to make a break from her ex because she could sever ties completely.  They didn’t have kids. She was able to buy a nice condo.  Her father was a lawyer and could help her navigate the divorce.
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Panel 01 
Sandy knows she is one of the lucky ones--just the fact that she could find affordable housing is rare. 57% of all homeless women in the US cite domestic violence as the original reason for their homelessness. But what comes after shelter? 

Panel 02

Sandy and the rest of the Town Clock board help out with legal fees, schooling, technology, transportation, and therapy.  Figuring out how to address and balance everyone’s needs is an ongoing challenge.

I think back to something Sandy said...

Panel 03
It is my belief that when we are born we learn three chords from our family of origin, and throughout life,

we play these chords, we play them in different keys, in different order, in different tempos,

 and we think that we're playing something different, but we're not.



Panel 04
  And so everything that I am and everything that I do today, I can trace back and I know where it came from and that makes it easier to break that pattern.

(This is after a lot of therapy.) 

But there is a lot to break, so, it's a process.

Panel 05
I used to imagine that one day my therapist would walk me down the aisle and she would give me away, like a graduation.


Panel 06
 But you never graduate. The deeper you dig the more you have to learn and I'm still learning. I pick my battles. So, as long as I'm walking and I'm not hurting anybody else, I'll let that one go. 
I have bigger fish to fry.
Panel 01
Svetlana’s Story

“I don’t know whether I should keep his head in the picture or not…” 
“I mean what if you could really end your abuser? What would it really solve?”(Svet)

Panel 02
“I’m sorry I can’t concentrate right now. Everything is going crazy with the case with my son.

Panel 03
“What do you mean?” (LW)
‘Well I know my ex has been grooming him, but there’s no hard evidence.” (Svet)

Panel 04
“...so we have to wait.”  (Svet)
“So you have joint custody with your husband... and he’s abusing your son?” (LW)
“Yes.” (Svet)
“I mean.. that’s crazy.” (LW)

Panel 05
Well a woman from child protective services said,  as soon as you report abuse you are made to look like an accomplice. You need to have evidence.  (svet)

Panel 06
“My old lawyer said the same thing, if you make allegations they can take your child away from you.  It’s happened to a lot of moms for reporting abuse.” (Svet)
“I can’t believe that... “ (LW)
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Panel 01
But it’s true. “Mothers are often accused of leveling false allegations merely to ‘alienate’ the children from their father,” law professor Joan Meier told the Washington Post in 2019. Her study showed that when children are abused, “courts protect them less, not more.”

Panel 02
Svet is terrified that the court will interpret conversations with Paul about evidence as an effort to coach her son into claiming abuse from her ex.

Panel 03
Anytime Svet hears a conversation, or sees a drawing or a note or a piece of clothing from Paul that suggests abuse, she holds on to it, but she doesn’t really talk about it with her son.

Panel 04

What if I couldn’t talk to my own kids if 
I found a diary entry, 
or read a text…
...And instead I just had 
to wait for the hard evidence of 
abuse, the smoking gun that means some terrible thing has happened to my child?


Panel 05

“OK and I am the one who is giving him to the abuser. They are giving me the responsibility to give him to the abuser. And who feels guilty for doing that? Me. And in my child’s eyes I am the bad guy.” svet

Panel 06
“Imagine what he’ll think of me when he grows up.”
“You knew mom”, and you had to pretend…”

Panel 01
A couple years 
ago for court, 
they evaluated 
me to see if 
I was crazy.
They did the same thing to him, but they gave him therapy.

Panel 02
A man from child protective services 
intimidated Paul, while he low-key flirted with Svet...
“What’s a matter kid?“
“You’re a beautiful woman, you can move on!”



Panel 03
Reverend Susan and Christine accompanied Svetlana to court and were horrified. The judge would look over at the bailiff and roll his eyes whenever Svet spoke .


Panel 04
Svet would get intimidated and emotional.  Christine said, “You’re making her nervous. If you want her to get to the point , you need to say it in a more comforting way, because you’re making her nervous and that is making her ramble.”


Panel 05

The board of Town Clock, primarily Sandy, found an attorney for Svet. 
“...Now I’m beginning to see that there are people that are actually listening.” (Svet)
“You have a strong case.” (new lawyer)
Since getting the new lawyer some of her ex’s custody appeals have been rejected.  

Panel 06

They are working towards giving her sole custody, but the hearings drag on, with more psychiatric evaluations, 
testimonials, and legal fees....
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Panel 01
Each of the ten women that live at Town Clock have needs, beyond food and shelter that can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Good lawyers are essential.  So Town Clock is always having to figure out who needs what and how much it will cost.   
(Lawyer Car Singing Lessons Childcare WIFI School)
Panel 02
Finding this balance is tricky.  It creates tension with the women... 
“I heard she got a LAWYER!” (resident)

Panel 03
And I often wonder what my role is here, 
I mean, I’m taking their stories.  
How can I give back? 
“Daraja, did you get a computer yet?” (LW)
“Well they gave me one but they said it wasn’t the right kind.” (Daraja)
“Well maybeI can get you one!  I bet a lot of Maplewood moms have extra laptops hanging around.” (LW)

Panel 04
“Please don’t help me.  Because I have one already and I don’t want to seem ungrateful.” (LW)
“BUT IT DOESN’T WORK! WHY DOESN’T SHE JUST TAKE MY OFFER??” (LW thinking)

Panel 05
“But look, I am drawing this picture of my son! But I don’t have his eyes right!” Daraja
“Oh, well, there are proportions.  Here, I’ll show you.”
“I’d like to try watercolor.” (Daraja)
“I’ll get you some.” (LW)

Panel 06
And just when we start gaining momentum,
the world shuts down.
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Panel 01
The last public event I attend before quarantine is Daraja’s son John’s first birthday. 

Panel 02
Then the art lessons become texts.
‘How do you draw a red convertible and a 
cobra? “ Svet
“Oh man I don’t know... You just can’t make those up.
Send me a picture. “ LW
“I got a court hearing online. Do you know how to do it?” Svet
“Oh yeah, this is Zoom... I just used it for the first time yesterday!” LW


Panel 03
“Daraja, how are you?” (LW)
“I am okay by the grace of God.” (Daraja)

Panel 04
In April, Linda comes back, and watches the kids despite potential Covid risks. They keep drawing, so Town Clock decides to have a fundraiser and sell the women’s art.
“Svet! I didn’t realize how huge this drawing is!” (LW)
“Well, isn’t this how you’re supposed to draw?” (Svet)
“Sure!” (LW)

Page 05
They ask me to contribute something for the art sale, so I decide to draw pictures of where they see themselves in the future…
“What are your dreams?”(LW)

Page 06
“What do you think? It’s when you become a doctor!” (LW)
“Thank you so much!” (Daraja)
But these drawings end up feeling false to me, like I’m pushing too hard for a happy ending....the future is theirs and not mine.
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Daraja, in a doctor's coat, standing in her village.

Daraja tells me about wanting to open that clinic, about the teenagers that she distributed sanitary products to as a nurse in her country. 
How she wants to tell them that they should go to school and not have babies.
Svet with her son in a nice house, art on the walls.

Svet says that she wants to live “Somewhere in New Orleans, or somewhere hot. Somewhere where I can have a studio. and my son is safe.”
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Panel 01
It is one of the last beautiful days of the summer, right after the art sale event.  Linda has the kids and we are working out on picnic tables in front of the church.  Daraja is painting a still life of rocks. Sveta is drawing a warrior woman on a motorcycle.

Panel02
Daraja: “I have been given another computer but it doesn’t work. James puts the camera for it in his mouth.   I think it is old.”

Panel 03
“Hi I saw your work on Facebook live last night, and I bought a print of your art!” (passerby)
“You bought my art?” (Svet)
“Of course!” (passerby)


Panel 04
“I can’t believe it! she bought my art!” (Svet)
“Yeah, because it’s great!” (LW)

Panel 05
“You know what, if the wifi doesn’t work on the lower floors, we should start a collection for the women who live down there!” (Svet)

Panel 06
Both women sell seven prints of their work at the show.
“Can you sign these?” (LW)
“I never thought of myself as an artist!” (Daraja)
And for the moment, everything seems possible.
Panel 01
But this is all so tenuous.  Fall comes, covid cases go up.  I stop going in-person to Town Clock.  Things get dark.

“Paul won’t eat, but they’re getting him therapy.” (Svet)
“John has a speech delay, but he’s getting help on Zoom.” (Daraja)


Panel 02
In the depths of the winter I get drawings texted at odd hours.  And these texts get me through the loneliness and isolation of the quarantine.

“That’s amazing Daraja!  Thanks!” (LW)
(Town Clock is finally able to fund the WIFI on Daraja’s floor.)


Panel 03
“Thank you for making me feel useful…” (Daraja)

Panel 04
“I don’t know why I can’t be useful doing the things I love best, delivering babies.” (Daraja)

Panel 05
“I have been waiting in this country for three years to fill out a form so that I can become a nurse.  If I had known that before I would never have come.” (Daraja)

Panel 06
“At least when I am drawing, I can remember where I used to live, and it appears to me on paper, and I feel like I’m there.”
“I love you, my sister.”
“I love you too, Daraja.”
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Panel 01
Sometimes I look at the turmoil in Svet’s and Daraja’s lives, and get so frustrated that things aren’t moving faster for them.  
“ Why isn’t Svet’s court case over?”(LW thinking)
“There’s another hearing in a month.  But just for visitation rights.” (Svet texting)
“Why isn’t Daraja delivering babies already?” 

Panel 02
But I’m probably asking the wrong questions. 
I have superimposed a timeline on their lives that has nothing to do with all the dysfunctional systems that they tread through.  
“I have filled out 
the nursing application! My credentials are good here and I don’t have to go back to school. but I have two accounts and it will take the nursing agency seven days to delete one of them.”

 
Panel 03
The one constant thing that Town Clock provides is time.
Figuring out what support each woman needs is an ongoing journey.

Panel 04
And I feel now, that this isn’t just some freelance gig I can just leave.  I can teach them techniques as they want to learn, and help give them a voice. I want to help them sell their art.

Months later Svet texts me,
“We won the visitation hearing!  This is big.”
“Now I can draw better.”
The court then reverses its decision.  But Svet still draws.

Panel 05
 Christine once defined success like this…
“When they can really do it on their own, 
like I’ve already gone through the steps and they’re able to make these decisions on their own, they’re able to navigate it themselves.and they only come to me for, 
“OK, this is what I’ve done.”” 
”I will see you tonight, John!” (Daraja)

Panel 06
“That’s success to me because it doesn’t even matter if you win or fail, it’s that you made a decision and you stuck to it, and you saw it through.”  Christine
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