At Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence, we understand that we could never impact the lives of so many domestic violence survivors without the hard work of our dedicated, selfless volunteers. We value their time and efforts and it’s important that we highlight and recognize them, especially those who go above and beyond the call of duty. As a way to show our appreciation, we want to recognize and give a big cheer for Giana Waller, our November Volunteer of the Month.
A student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), Waller was training to become an advocate for domestic violence victims without knowing how she and her family would soon be impacted by that very issue.
In 2015, tragedy struck. While away at college, Waller was informed that her mother in San Diego was murdered by her abusive boyfriend. The news that she had lost her best friend devastated Waller, but she tried to remain strong for her grandmother and younger brother. She held in her own pain, appearing strong on the outside, but still unsure of what to do next. She decided to move back to San Diego to be there for her family.
A year after her tragic loss, life was starting to turn around. Waller graduated college with a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in marriage and family therapy. She was determined to turn her tragedy into triumph and bring awareness to others.
BTS founder Kristen Paruginog reached out to Waller in January 2017 and invited her to our Angel Families Retreat, a retreat for those who have lost a loved one to domestic violence. The retreat had a major impact on Waller. After attending, she knew she wanted to get involved in helping people experiencing domestic abuse. She dove into volunteering with our Angel Run, a BTS fundraiser that raises awareness about domestic violence, provides academic scholarships to students impacted by abuse, and supports programs for Angel Families.
As she used social media to spread awareness, Waller realized she had family members in other parts of the country, and even her mom’s friends and co-workers, who wanted to stay connected to Waller and help raise awareness. To keep her mom’s legacy going, she founded the Tracie’s Legacy Scholarship, which is exclusively for domestic violence survivors. The scholarship is not only a way to remember her mother, but also a way to get the word out. “I really want to do this as a legacy for my mom, but also to bring awareness to our youth and my peers,” she said.
Due to her involvement with our Angel Programs and incredible job keeping our Angel Families engaged, “G” has become our brand new Director of Angel Family Programs. However, her efforts don’t stop there. She also organized a vigil at the University of California, San Diego where she represented BTS and she has shared her story on multiple occasions in order to bring awareness. Any time there is an event or a space provided to bring awareness to domestic violence, “G” is ready and willing to participate in any way she can. Some of her most recent efforts include participating in BTS’s Color Run, Angel Run, and Holidays of Hope program.
When asked what she enjoys doing in her spare time, Waller said she recognizes the importance of self-care, although she is not great at it all the time. She enjoys yoga and breathing exercises, and she also attends therapy. Attending therapy is an important aspect of self-care for Waller and she wants others to know that it is okay to ask for help.
Keep up the amazing work Giana! We can’t wait to see what you accomplish in your new role.
Written By: Christine Yates, Volunteer Blogger with BTSADV