By Emilie Trepanier
Our June Volunteer of the Month is a mom, paralegal, dog lover, maker of quesadillas, and is currently earning a Ph.D. She is also described as passionate and dedicated, with a positive attitude.
“She blows my mind,” Brian Nguyen, director of social media said about this BTSADV rock star.
Brian said he lost track of how long he’s worked with Andrea. He said of training Andrea, who is our Facebook Messenger manager and interim social media admin, “she listens, which is rare… she takes in criticism and adapts and applies.” Brian also said he tends to give little to no direction, and that Andrea “just goes with it.”
Andrea lives a busy life with a demanding job as a paralegal in family law. She has been in law for eight years and loves working in the field, even if at times it can prove difficult. Her work life is different daily, but despite this, she continues to be passionate about what she does.
Her journey to presently earning a Ph.D. in psychology began when she was out of work and an acquaintance needed someone to do filing and other office work at their law practice. After some time, they needed a paralegal and asked Andrea to do the job. She agreed, started reading cases and files, and picked it right up. Having worked in both criminal and family law, she said family law is more high conflict and emotional, while criminal law is more by the book.
In the future, Andrea hopes to continue to advocate for domestic violence, but she’s not exactly sure where in the legal field she will end up.
At one point, she thought about being a therapist, but after having the opportunity to attend trials, she said, “I really enjoy [the] aspect of breaking down…psychology and…body language and trying to read people and understand…what the jury is thinking.” She said she felt as though she already had the stepping stone in the legal field, and that she’s good in it. “[It] feels like I found my niche,” said Andrea.
As far as BTSADV goes, Brian said, “Words can’t describe how efficient, organized and flexible she is,” adding how fortunate he feels working with her.
When she initially wanted to be involved, Andrea said, “I think this is just such a great platform for survivors long-term.” She said when survivors are having their down days, the BTSADV family is supportive of each other through those times.
She said, “I know personally that even after I went through healing and therapy, there are those days when you may not feel okay…and you can’t always go back to therapy…that’s what BTS[ADV] is there for.”
The 2018 volunteer retreat helped Andrea connect with the team. While written communication is good, that verbal connection really changes things. After having a rough personal year in 2018, she said the retreat pushed her through the rest of the year and that it helps to bond with members.
“For me, even though we are close, I have to get to know people before really getting their friendship,” said, adding how the retreat really helped form friendships and getting to know everybody.
Andrea began volunteering with BTSADV alongside a second volunteer responding to messages in Facebook Messenger. When Brian saw a need for a revamp, he said Andrea wanted to take on more work.
“I know her work ethic and I trust her,” he said and gave Andrea more of a leadership role. Brian said she took on the project with little direction and started the new social media advocacy hotline, which works to make sure someone is consistently available on all social media platforms to help survivors and advocates. He said Andrea always seems eager to take on more and that she is truly passionate about it.
Cathy, who has worked with Andrea as a Facebook advocate since spring 2018, said Andrea “is always multi-tasking, whether attending [Z]oom call while grocery shopping or cooking or simultaneously on phone and laptop.” She said that she watched Andrea do “a 180 within BTSADV” and become “more confident and driven.” After meeting at the retreat in 2018, Cathy said she saw how much Andrea loves to laugh.
Andrea said that there are currently different BTSADV Facebook groups for different regions of the United States, but eventually, they want a group for each state. Alongside her assistant, Cathy, they handle 75 percent of the groups. She said the next step is to get moderators to take over the groups so that she can put more time into the administrative side of things.
Andrea said she still hears stories from survivors and family of survivors in Facebook groups that shock her. She said, “Even in family law, I hear stuff every day that I’m like ‘Seriously?’ It’s amazing to hear what people have to go through and to hear what people put other people through.”
She said the amount of stories she and other volunteers on the other end of Facebook Messenger hear has gone through the roof. There are a lot of people in crisis, but that what’s difficult is Messenger is not meant for crisis intervention. “We would love to help [but] can’t really do immediate danger,” Andrea said.
Watching people go from only making small comments on the page, or sending a short “hey,” to opening-up has been amazing. She said it turns into paragraphs, and she has spent hours on Messenger going back and forth with people. She said even family members reach out asking how to support their loved ones. Messenger gives people a safe place since verbalizing can maybe be too much of a connection versus typing.
“I hope that I can assistant them and also not push them away,” Andrea said.
At home, Andrea gets to distress with “three really fat chihuahuas,” one of which she saved from almost being euthanized. While she loves her dogs, she said her 10-year-old daughter is “the love of my life,” and they enjoy cooking together.
When Andrea was told she was our volunteer of the month, nearly the entire team in the meeting became emotional.
“When she started crying when she found out she was VOM, I started crying,” Brian said. He said watching volunteers he has trained grow from induvial volunteers and blossoming is what he hopes for.
“I was like a mama bird so proud,” he said.
We are so thankful for Andrea and her amazing eyelashes, but more importantly for her warm heart and continued dedication to making BTS the best it can be. Congrats, Andrea!
If you’re interested in volunteering with Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence, visit: https://www.breakthesilencedv.org/volunteer/.