Amy Nace-DeGonda and Margeaux Gray: The Power of Resiliency
DescriptionMargeaux Gray (41), Bakita Empowerment Initiative (BEI)Advisory Board Member, talks with Amy Nace-DeGonda (43), BEI Assistant Program Director, about the power of resiliency in her life.
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00:00 With the bakhita empowerment initiative at Catholic Charities. In Louisville, Kentucky. I am 43 years old. Today is Monday, June 14th, 2021 and I am talking with somebody. I've known for a really long time and who is currently an Advisory Board member for our program Margo gray. And we are just very excited to get this conversation started. Oh, I am recording from Louisville, Kentucky. And margeaux is in New York City.
00:31 City of Technology, right? In the world. Do we meet? When did we first meet? Can you even remember? It was a lot of different things together at the time, we're both advocate in the field against human trafficking. I recall meeting you, I believe First at the Louisville Metro human trafficking, task force. And I remember seeing you very involved and the movement, and I like that a lot and I connected with your personality, you are outgoing and committed to your work, and that really drew me into you. And I remember us, you taking me to several.
01:31 Speaking events in different cities in Kentucky.
01:38 I think like my like you do as you were talking about it earlier and now it's like, what I'm thinking of is that, you know, the times that really stick out to me, the most are our drives to Shelbyville and back when we were doing the, my life, my choice, and it was a pilot program. It's just even amazing to think about that now because you know. Edge, you know, prevention education program we're doing now, but then it was in the pilot and we were driving out there, you know, and not knowing each time what to expect because it was so new. And it was a believe it was in the fall because I remember whenever we leave, it's really dark. And I just remembered on the way there and on the way back and some of it, you know, of course, centered on the anti-trafficking movement and feel because we are both involved in that but just other things to just talking about life. And so those are the memories that really stick out.
02:38 Really, I think for me, you know, and in the past what I've known you now for probably about 7 years, I would say, yeah, I know I'm 41 almost forty-two and, and then like you said, we were both in the movement. So we were able to kick connect on many different levels and then my life, my choice was, it was amazing to be a part of that pilot program to see how far it's come now. And I still remember the first group that we had that they will always stick out in my mind. And, you know, I think about him from time to time me to do. I am going to ask a couple of questions to you Miss Margo without the okay, app salute Lee.
03:38 And all your 41 years who has had some of the biggest influences on you.
03:46 I've really drawn from a lot of different people along the way along my journey, you know, my life wasn't, the easiest life isn't easiest, don't think we're here to learn and grow, and I just had a lot of hurdles in my life all along the way. However, there were a lot of people that care show, they cared. And and those people inspired me, and I took pieces of what I liked about them and knew that I wanted to apply that to my life. So whether it was from you, no, like my swimming coach or my art teacher
04:33 Those two things were really meant a lot to me both swimming and art when I was younger and still do compare. Also, you know, moving along the way to win. I started going through a lot of Crisis and challenges and I can remember being a short-term facility for children, residential facility for children, and there was a young nursing student who came in and just really connected with me show she cared and the facility wasn't the best, you know, so it was a difficult place. I was in a difficult time, but her taking the time, out to really spend with me, you know, that inspired me. And I knew that that was the kind of connection I wanted to have in the the when I got
05:33 Older and compare it also be on moving forward to like certain therapist.
05:43 Caseworkers, like celebrities also like that end in Riders from Maya Angelou, her work, and her courage, and her Artistry, Toni Morrison, you know, different people like that really. So it wasn't just a collection of mentors and then T's that some of them didn't even know probably ever that they inspired me, but they did you too. Thank you for that. You have inspired me throughout the years to. I think that Lake I like what you said because
06:25 It doesn't have to be just like one or two or three people write. Like, there's so much that happens in our lives and all the different, like, roads that our lives can take, and somebody might be a great influence. You know, who no, great or not, great influence in our lives, as it serves the purpose in that and then we move on. And you know, so then somebody else is going to write. I would I would hope to be honest that like, you know, there's going to be people even you. No further down the road for you and for me that, you know, continue to inspire and different ways. How else do you know, do we do we grow? So I like that, you know, point of it's not just, just give me one or two people in various ways. It's going to be people that, you know, that you do, you know how to experience it firsthand like face-to-face and some that you'll, you'll never meet
07:22 True. Very true who has inspired you? Wow, you know.
07:32 I feel like it's just been in different different ways throughout throughout life like you were going to talk to you about no coming into social services. And in this really random for me cuz I actually started out as a theater major. Oh wow, have my freshman year college and we have kind of gone and volunteered a homeless shelter for Thanksgiving that year and it just it just changed my whole perspective and I was like, you know, I don't have what I want to do. I want to work with people and be able to give back and, you know, it started very much like I think anybody in the social services field starts out, right? I'm going to save the world and you have to have that enthusiasm for it. I think starting out and and as the years go on learning, right? The sustainability is
08:32 Standing that you're not, you're not going to save the world and it's not on you. You don't have the power to save the world or save any person. It's about learning that it's just walking beside somebody and that looks different for every single person and I think honestly in in my my journey and Social Services, it is really been the other people that have taught me that that have a model that have shown me that has been very inspiring. Cuz I don't think that if I continued with that mentality, that I would have been in the field for like 18, 19 years like a really long time and then the people that I have worked with have really inspired me because
09:23 I feel that like, you know, they have to show me what perseverance is tenacity and perseverance, right? And like, you know, we all think that maybe we don't have it in us to, like, pull out of like certain situations, but we all do and it's watching people like find out within themselves, even on their very worst days. And again, that looks very different for everybody. But I feel like that is what inspires me like on the daily and now it looks a little different because I'm not doing Direct Services match. I'm doing you know, I'm supervising the direct service providers. So then watching them learn that is what inspires me. So it's you know, it's a whole plethora, I guess out of a stained and people. Yeah, it's a lot of different pieces of a puzzle coming together, right? Yeah, and our relationship is really interesting how we we,
10:23 From being friends and Advocates together to then, you know, like life is not linear. If you live long enough you realize that it was not and then you became my caseworker when I needed the support for you know.
10:47 To get out of trafficking.
10:52 That was a really interesting like challenge. What do you remember about that?
11:01 I remember I remember exactly what you said. It was, it was, it was a challenge because it has, you know, I think
11:11 That was not something that I had honestly ever, you know, come across in all my years in Social Services, but I think was, you know, something that was happening within the trafficking field. Because, you know, like I always say the traffic and be able to still awake. I'm in toddler stages, right. There's still so much for Learning and so and that's, you know, learning that situations that happened to us. And Trauma, that's not linear. And not like, you know, are like, it's not just like, oh, okay. Well, you don't have that trauma, dealt with it. It's done right,. I can come up at any point and I
11:49 I remember having to, you know, really like structure with the boundaries were going to be because it's the relationship really did have to change and you know, because we were we were friendly, we conversed about things and I had to learn today and go into case manager mode, right? Where is I can't be as free with my can. I have to have those boundaries for a very important reason, and learning to get to navigate that and also having to learn how to navigate because
12:27 You know, because we knew each other and that other way, there were some personal feelings involved with it too. And it was me learning how to turn their those off and I'm a very feeling person and so, but but I do like, it ain't speaking with you. We knew what was going to be best. Right? I mean, we you and I had a whole conversation of how that was going to look like and the reasons why I'm in. It really had to go into place like right away, and I know that like it was a struggle for me at certain times because I was concerned about hurting your feelings on because I had to die. I was last leg, you know, free with my with my talk about, you know, about life and my life and had to be more of, you know, how it is. It's really about like the services and what's going on. And there we know we're concerned that it would hurt your feelings or a message.
13:27 Question that I had would hurt your feelings cuz it was coming from me. But I think I mean I'm not going to say that it was a smooth transition, you know what I mean in the beginning, but I think
13:44 At least, I hope I guess right. You know, I can only see it from my perspective. Is that it it did it did work. You know what, you know what I mean? And then once once we were no longer working together, I still had to incorporate that like case management boundary. Like I think I told you it was like I appreciated that you even reached out to me here and there because I really love when people I work with have to do that cuz you don't always want to know if people are up to you but it's not for me to reach out, you know, so it was always really nice to having you reach out here and there just to kind of just say hi and update me because I can't do that. I can't call you, you know out of the blue, but I keep. What's up. How you doing?
14:33 It went well, but I, but I also think that it really helped to strengthen a lot of different policies and things that we put in place in our program and I think helps to
14:47 You know and I are in a roundabout way influenced the creation of this Advisory board that we have that. You know, because we understand that, you know those that we work with those are the important voices and we need to have those to be able to do you know appropriate services. Like I think I wish we had it back then so I could have gone to the Advisory Board and then like what would be the best way? I mean, you don't know till you do it until you come up again situations, you know, but I would have loved to have it back then. You know what I mean? Because then your maybe maybe it would have looked at 4. I mean, I don't know, I think it went. Well, you know it for me having had the trust in you already and I know that, you know, trust is significant and survivors in their process of, you know, healing and moving forward and growing. And because I had
15:47 Already established that trust with you, even though it it transition to a different type of relationship. I still had developed that trust and I think that played an important role in transitioning from you. No colleague to you being my case manager. Obviously, it worked out here. We are. Here we are. And now, you know, I graduated from from being from being in the services. They are and receiving Services into moving from Kentucky to California and working on my healing there. And now I have recently moved to New York City.
16:36 Become president of a nonprofit organization there. So I I definitely think something work that trust the consistency that you you gave me, you are very consistent and you had no strong boundaries. But also, you, you were humid, you know, you weren't like a robot and that consistency that tries to connection, all that plays, an important role. I believe in being a good case manager.
17:16 So, thank you for everything. You did for me and supporting my empowerment.
17:24 All year, I mean at the end of the day, it's all you. But you know, I appreciate I appreciate being able to be a part of the journey, you know, whatever part that helps. You know, I can appreciate now like how it has come full circle is being a part of The Advisory Board. That's so great to have you know, to tell us, you know, when we're getting it right? And then when we're not I mean cuz no no agency in the field was getting all of it. Right? And we have to we have to continue to keep you know, growing and learning and when we learn what we're not doing, right? We have to have to change it. No matter how uncomfortable that can be sometime, right? They can be incredibly uncomfortable and you know, sometimes you're kind of kicking and screaming.
18:17 A little bit with it, but, you know, you know, that that's what's going to be for the best. So I remember when you reached out to me and you asked me to be a part of The Advisory Board, I thought, wow, you know, this is a really coming full circle, you know, because I had to stop and think, you know, was I ready? And the answer was a quick. Yes. I felt very rainy and it was such an honor to be asked in, to be able to now, give my feedback, give my input into helping, to create a stronger stronger, you know.
19:00 What's the word do you know?
19:09 Program to be able and and what I liked, it didn't see it. You know, there's a, there's a group of us coming together and that's so
19:19 That's what I like the community of survivors, Survivor, leaders and Advocates. There are the voices, like you mentioned, the voices are so important. The voices add to the freedom of others. I believe it supports the freedom right of others. And it's, it's it's really a neat process to be a part of and I'm so grateful to be a part of the bakhita empowerment. Empowerment initiative. We are grateful to have you. I mean, like a year, like you said, I really I just
19:59 You know, your your voice is invaluable and it's so wonderful that we have like a diverse perspective, you know, on her board, which I really appreciate it because, you know, we serve a diverse population and so we want to have all of that hurt as much as we possibly can. So important.
20:25 Really? It is crucial. Yes, very much is a little bit about your life. Just when you think about it, I just completely surprised as you like. Wow, that happened or not or, you know,
20:50 Is there any anything or just something just fill you with joy?
20:56 I think what surprises me is that.
21:00 You can feel or I have felt sometimes at the lowest of lows.
21:07 And in that moment, it feels like nothing can really get better. That this is where I am. Right? It's, this is the end of the book. This is there's nowhere else from here. This is my life, right, you know, and then how that came not be right if it continues and that was just, you know, like a part of a chapter.
21:39 And that the resiliency Rises, you know, resiliency and that is what really surprises me. And as I've gotten older and get into that place. If I get into that place, I now I'm able to say, hey, remember that time that you thought like nothing was going to get better. And it did like just have patience, honor, the space and
22:13 See what the next chapter brings.
22:16 And that's really what has surprised me along the way and what I've learned from, you know, and
22:27 I'm now like the growth that comes from that.
22:33 Is Inspire is what you no surprises me.
22:39 Yeah, I'm really Amazed by it. And what brings me joy. Now, is being able to
22:49 Look back and see how far I have come in the work that I have put into it, you know.
23:00 Thinking back about,
23:02 5 year old me that was being abused and trafficked compared to the 41 year-old me now, and, you know, Advocate and active in the movement again against trafficking and just living life to the fullest.
23:19 It really amazes me and if anything, hopefully.
23:25 Others can be inspired by that and motivated to empower themselves because
23:35 No others like you and other people along my life have been their support of and guidance and that I really takes it team. Yes. I've done a lot of the work, but if it wasn't for those who helped supported my growth and in my empowerment, I wouldn't be as far as long as I am now.
23:57 And that really brings me a lot of joy and meeting other survivors who who want to grow and are interested and ask me questions. That brings me a lot of joy to
24:15 I like that. It it it doesn't, it does take. I mean everybody needs support in in different ways, you know. Like always if you know, it looks different at the very core. It is the person, right? But there are, you know, I always say to the case manager says, it's like you're planting seeds. And, and you know, when you're, when you're supporting someone, you're planting season in the last times, you're not going to know what comes of that. Shutting sometimes can be the hard thing when you're doing your exercises, if you don't see that and, you know, a joke, but not joke that like, you know, I was like, yes, if you open with someone and they kind of just take off, like, right away. Being able to do you explain that, you did not plan to go see somebody else before you. That did that, you know,
25:12 But it doesn't, it supports going to look different at different times of your life. And again, that's what I really enjoy about Direct Services in case management is that lets? You know, it's tailored to the individual and it's not a one-size-fits-all and you know and really not a cookie-cutter issue. If you're if you're this the old, do you have to know that, you know what I mean? You have you have to know that and you have to respect the individual in the autonomy. And in that can be, I think hard cuz sometimes, you know, we will see things in your people will make decisions that
25:55 You know, could could cause harm but you can only put the supports in place and you have to respect that. It's Hannah me. Yes, 100% agree with you. Yeah.
26:10 Siri yeah, what brings you Joy?
26:14 Well, in terms of my job. I don't know. I mean it truly even in the most stressful time brings me joy all the time, or I would not still be in it because it is incredibly stressful and I think that like, you know, my team brings me joy. I have
26:40 Like where we're small But Mighty, you know, it's five people five people right now. Five people. There's no 6:00, but we work together as a team and its, you know, it's not like, it's not like, okay, well case managers just do this and prevention education corner. Just does that. Like, you know, we all hold together when we need to and the fact that is
27:12 The fact that we like, we are learning and growing all the time, you know, like I said, sometimes I think probably hard and yet, you know, I might be kicking and screaming for a minute because I know I'm used to doing things a b or c. You know, I like that. We all recognize that that is not. We're not going to serve people in the best way possible if we stick to that mentality and so I'm, I'm
27:40 Grateful and joyful that it's a team that that understands that. I mean on the personal front, My Two children bring me great joy as as does my husband. I mean, it's I think great have never called him balance because life is just not balance, but hot like, you know, trying really hard to have that work-life rhythm.
28:06 Because sometimes, it's
28:11 One versus the other rights and there's more work. I be like last week was incredibly work heavy and it was less manly have any but just watching my kiddos grow.
28:24 And become who they are.
28:29 And they're just such separate personalities and I should so amazing to me. It's just so amazing to me to see them grow into the people that they that they are not. And that brings me a lot of Joy. So and I can say that that's not stressful either, but I feel like right now.
28:54 I have seen them grow to can't remember holding your second one just as a little newborn baby. And that's amazing. I know where does the time go, you know, nature on a personal level, you speaking about personal level like nature and animals at Junebug who is now my retired guide, dog for the Blind and she worked with me for 10 years and he was my end.
29:37 She inspires me, you know, going going back to who what inspires me and brings me joy, that is definitely she her joy for life and her work ethic,. I got if I could just be like her. I'm going to be good for Life. Yeah, I love animals and always have. I've been really connected with them and they all have different person. I learn a lot from nature.
30:27 I don't want to take care of her. So I want to know, you know, you just moved to New York City Bagel moved from across the country. What what does the future hold for you?
30:42 What is a hold right now? Like, in the next couple weeks? And what do you hope it looks like 10 years from now?
30:49 So right now and the current president of a nonprofit organization mentari that works to support survivors of abuse exploitation gender-based violence and trafficking. I see my future holding me holding, you know of the work that I do in that capacity as long as well as The Advisory board for the bakhita empowerment initiative.
31:21 So I can see continued advocacy and the movement against trafficking and supporting.
31:32 That's really an important.
31:35 To me that's really special for me to continue to do that work there. So many that have yet to receive help and the don't know.
31:48 Hope you know or need that extra light and I want to be that you don't want to make sure that they know that there is hope. And that there's someone there that can listen and be an active listener. And also I
32:09 My goal is to go to school because of the my life that there was a lot of interruption in my life and I wasn't able to go to college and that is one of my dreams and goals that I had to go to become an occupational therapist assistant, so I can use what I learn there to support and bring it together in the work that I do against trafficking and to help with the mental health aspect of that help. So kind of the work that I'm already doing helping survivors. Like what do you want? And helping them kind of guide them and getting those things?
32:58 Getting to those points in their life, but hopefully with more education graduating from there. That's awesome. Continuing. I'm an artist. So I want to be able to get my artwork more to create a store for it in, like, on different things, where people can buy whether it's on t-shirt or mugs or actual like,
33:36 You know, I like copies of different paintings that I've done. Yeah, he really loved art and have always always done it. So I'm glad that, you know, that's a, that's a goal is to continue that had art in my life to help me along the way and process things, even though I didn't realize I was processing. That was one of the gifts that art can give you and I realize that's how it has helped me a lot and I don't want to let go of it. It brings me joy, it brings me. I enjoy it. I love it. I love being able to challenge myself and
34:32 Yeah. I see arts and service work, a lot of different things in my future, good Legacy to leave behind. What?
34:46 What about you?
34:48 What does my future hold? What does your future, hold? A mean. A teenager because I feel like there are their young but they, they are.
35:11 I don't know, like I I hope that, you know, I continue to be United with Akita for a really long time. I mean,
35:21 I currently you do don't see me going anywhere. I remember coming into the position is assistant program director, super nervous. I mean, I knew I knew that I knew case management and I knew it well cuz I done it for a really long time, but I was super nervous about the
35:47 The chef, you know, a getting out of your ex Services all together, which is something I have been doing for a really long time and have learned that that you know, is not actually the case. Cuz you know, I need to be the best the board of supervisor. I can be. Sometimes you have to like step in and do some Direct Services. But since you're going to supervising people I was super nervous.
36:14 I did not know that I would.
36:17 Find such.
36:21 I don't even know what the best way would be, but I just really love it. I really love doing what I'm doing. I love the fact that I know what my main goal was to ensure that the case manager manager still support it. Because if they don't feel supported and are feeling overwhelmed or burned out or whatever, then they are not able to, you know, Lake serve in the way that we want them to, and then that does a disservice to those that, you know, we're working with. And so I didn't know that that would be as, in like,
37:02 Don't even act. Like I just was worried that I would feel somehow address for not doing Direct Services since I've done it for so long. But so I I see like me like continuing to do that and taking it to New To Life work, to strengthen this program to be, you know, in the in the drug Services area, the best that it can be. And that means growing and getting out of my comfort zone all the time. And you know, I don't like and I see the future just watching watching my kiddos seeing seeing who they be coming. Hopefully, you know being a mom that I can be that supports all of that and it is somehow showing Den.
37:47 That, you know, they can they can do lots of different things in their life. You never know. Maybe, maybe I'll retire in 10 years, you know, life isn't linear. So, you know, I just don't know. But I like know that right now. I like where I'm at. And you know, as I said, even though the anti-trafficking field as a whole can be incredibly stressful. I see so much good so much good like saying shifting and such a, you know, a positive direction. And I want to I want to be able to to be around to continue to see that and
38:34 Yeah, cuz I think that there's so many great things that can happen.
38:40 A boy in a horse wearing a growing stages right? Where in the United States is so it'll it'll take a minute, but I can't believe it does. It really does? I was like well, I told you I was nervous in the beginning and then like we could probably still talk for like 40 more minutes and we will want to come full circle and you're an amazing human being in person mother.
39:25 An advocate and I'm thankful and grateful to know you.
39:32 I am thankful and grateful to know. You. I feel Joy seeing your journey and you know, like you talked about your resiliency, but your perseverance and just your strength of character. We are like 5 Seconds out. So I am just going to say thank you so much Margot for taking time to talk to me today. You're welcome. Thank you. Bye.