Friday, January 31, 2014

Question & Answer Interview with Island Girl Power Program Director Juanita Blaz

1. What is your mission (goals & objectives) at Island Girl Power? 


Our mission is to decrease the occurrence of teen pregnancy, suicide, substance and sexual abuse amongst young girls. 

It is also our mission to promote and encourage positive self-esteem with mentors and positive role models in the community and offer positive activities for young ladies to make healthy lifestyle choices, while inspiring environmental stewardship, cultural, and community pride.

Vision Statement

Our vision is to create an environment where girls ages 7 to 14 can feel safe and confident in their ability to make healthy lifestyle choices, and create positive change in their lives and the lives of others. We want girls to know just how special they are here at Island Girl Power! We also emphasize the importance of Positive Role Modeling and Volunteerism in our community.

IGP’s Community Messages

“Island Girl Power” means… The Power
·       for females to choose a future with goals and dreams to achieve.
·       to be confident, accepting of one’s self and other’s uniqueness.
·       to seek happiness and enjoy the adventure in life.
·       to expect kindness, faithfulness and respect in future relationships.
·       to take a stand against Tobacco and Alcohol Company Support and Sponsorship of Youth         Programs and Family Events.
·       to Speak Out against the Exploitation of Women and Girls through inappropriate media promotion           and exposure to youth of sexual images in advertising.

We know we can’t change the island overnight, but we can make it better, one girl at a time!

Island Girl Power Objectives

Improve the awareness for girls ages 7-14 years of social issues and build their skills to resolve them.

Strengthen girls’ self-esteem and connecting them with a support network of mentors and role models.

Facilitate activities that foster civic responsibility and respect for cultural diversity.

2. What specific services does Island Girl Power provide? 

Due to the recent completion of the renovation, construction, and expansion of our facilities in Dededo we will soon be able to provide more services to the community. 

Kurason Ysengsong is the result of more than 10 years of working in Dededo to raise awareness of the social issues in the community.  We are now in a couple of abandoned buildings that were known for housing squatters and skippers from the nearby middle school. Through our collaboration with many wonderful organizations, we brought hope and inspiration to the surrounding residents.  

IGP 3R’s Thrift Store - Help support Island Girl Power’s Kurason Ysengsong Compound, our programs and the planet by supporting our thrift store.

The second building provides more opportunities to partner with various organizations, agencies, school clubs and cultural associations with access to this great building. Everything from fundraisers, workshops, classes and training events are possible with these expanded facilities.

IGP Family Enrichment Center - The Center will assist with strengthening our collaboration with prevention organizations, agencies, cultural and school groups. Groups may coordinate with us for use of our facilities to conduct workshops, classes, training sessions, fundraisers, and so much more.  In addition, information will be available to help build the community’s awareness of social issues and the resources that are available.

Our third building embodies the core of our program: Island Girl Power’s Girls’ Club House. This unit is designed to be a multipurpose training facility with an art workshop, cooking & nutrition, literacy, sports areas, media room and a teen resource center. We look forward to being able to provide these services to more young ladies because of our new facilities.

IGP Girls’ Club House - Our members are girls 7-14 years of age. We schedule classes, workshops and activities year round. Our objective is to offer positive alternatives that empower and educate our members

The fourth building aims to expand our environmental efforts. We are excited to help the community of Guam by promoting Community Gardening. This building will help us facilitate several gardening projects in the village of Dededo and beyond including our community garden, demonstration garden, adopt-a-park project, edible landscaping, earth buckets and rain gardens.

IGP Community Gardens & Parks Building- This unit will house our equipment and supplies that will be loaned out to schools and organizations for gardening projects, fitness programs etc… We will also be able to conduct composting, nursery, and mulching workshops in this building.

IGP Community Gardens- located behind three of the buildings, we will construct our first Community Garden. We anticipate between 15-20 lots that will be available for community members, organizations, and clubs to rent out annually to garden for themselves in Spring of 2014

The same activities are available at Girls Club Houses in Malesso and the Guahan Charter Academy School sites.

3. Who is your target audience?

We work with girls ranging from 7-14 years old.

We also work very hard to build leadership for people ages 15 and older to be Positive Role Models, Mentors and Advocates for girls. 

4. What are your hours of operation and what is the best way for people to reach you that are interested in assistance? 

KURASON YSENGSONG, Dededo - We have limited hours due to moving in and unpacking.
We are asking for volunteers to participate in an Unpacking Day on February 1, 2014 from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Please call for a tour and/or directions (671)-688-4752

If you wish to volunteer or sign up a young lady for membership please call our site manager, Sandy Yee at (671)-797-0885.

Contact us via email at

Call our IGP cell (671)-688-4752 or call Ayuda Foundation Office (671)-473-3003.

5. In addition to direct services, what resources does Island Girl Power offer? 

School Presentations on:                                                                                              
·  Making Better Choices                                                                
·  Keeping Youth Programs Positive-Choosing Sponsorship            
·  Environmental Stewardship/Positive Volunteerism
·  Service Learning Opportunities on Guam 
·  Island Girl Power Management Training
·  Avoiding Dating Violence- Let Your Heart Rule
·  Self Defense Classes

6. Thinking about current events, how do you foresee recent events in your field of work affecting your organization and its work? 

We have always stressed the importance of self-defense, empowerment and building self-esteem in our girls and their families. In regards to men and boys we know that more can always be done to help us with them. The recent events just cause us frustration because we are not currently open. 

7.  Can you discuss your community partnerships and how they contribute to the overall success of Island Girl Power individually. 

We rely heavily on our network of Prevention partners. It is through them that we are able to bring reputable workshops, classes and sessions on topics such as Victims Rights, Sexual Assault 101, Dating Violence Prevention, Teen Health, Red Flag & Green Flag, SafeTalk & ASIST, Suicide Prevention and so much more.

8. Can you touch on the history of Island Girl Power and how the organization is set up?


The Ayuda Foundation was established April 1996.

Island Girl Power was established 2001.

The Ayuda Foundation Purpose

The specific and primary purpose of this corporation shall be to organize medical relief teams and provide supplies for medical treatment, education and missions to the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and such other jurisdictions as may be determined by the Board of Directors.  

Additionally, the Ayuda Foundation and its Board of Directors revised its Articles of Incorporation and By Laws in 2010 to include prevention and awareness campaigns in Guam and The Marianas Islands, also expanding disaster relief efforts to include The Islands in the Philippines.

Island Girl Power was created in 2001 with the leadership of Carlotta Leon Guerrero and Shannon Murphy to address the issue of the high teen pregnancy, suicide, sexual assault and substance abuse rate in our community. 

We are set up as a program under the Ayuda Foundation. We operate under their Board of Directors and we have our Advisory Board, Program Director, Project Managers, facilitators, volunteers and members.

9. Any upcoming plans or projects that our island community should be aware of?

IGP Moving In Unpacking Day - February 1, 2014 from 9 a.m. -2 p.m.
IGP / United Community Garden Set Up Day- February 22, 2014 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Thrift Store Opening- Mid-February 2014 (Saturdays). 

10. Why do you think the work you do is important to our island community and the world at large (very obvious question, but I feel this is extremely important to ask)?

The work we do at Island Girl Power is important because although we are a very developed island in the Pacific our young girls are constantly given mixed messages regarding relationships, substance abuse, suicide and so many other self image issues. 

Guam has some of the highest stats in the U.S. with regards to teen pregnancy, suicide, sexual assault and family violence. This a direct correlation with our record breaking consumption of alcohol, tobacco, and other mind altering substances.

We also feel it is our responsibility to take the lead to develop programs that fit our island’s girls and communities, which will allow us to address the issues of women's rights, empowerment, and assault prevention for our sisters in Micronesia and the rest of the Pacific. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Question & Answer Interview with WestCare Pacific Islands Sagan Mami Project Coordinator Shirley Untalan

1. What is your mission (goals & objectives) at WestCare?

The WestCare Pacific Islands (WPI) mission is to empower everyone we encounter to engage in a process of healing, growth, and change benefiting self, family, co-workers and communities.

The vision of WPI is to devote our best collective and individual efforts toward, “uplifting the human spirit,” by consistently improving, expanding and strengthening the quality, efficacy and cost-effectiveness of everything we do in building for the future.

Our guiding principles that set the framework for the delivery of behavioral services to individuals, families and communities are Excellence, Dedication, Growth and Ethical behavior (the EDGE).

WPI is a health and human services organization dedicated to excellence through the empowerment of people, families and communities. We create a continuum of culturally competent, client-centered care in the communities we serve that is recognized for clinical excellence, innovation and coordinated access.

2. What specific services does WestCare provide?

Programs of WestCare Pacific Islands:
1. HIV/AIDS and other STD counseling, testing and prevention.
2. Veterans and returning warriors and their family’s referrals.
3. Evening Drop in Center for persons who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness.
4. Work Enrichment Program- on the job training.
5. Enrichment center services for individuals with Severe Mental Illness who are homeless or at risk of being homeless.

WPI has provided training and technical assistance to Sanctuary (a long time island provider), and established a close partnership with other local agencies. Throughout its 39 year history providing human services, WestCare has only entered states, offshore territories or communities and neighborhoods by invitation when there is an extreme need and great support for WestCare to assist local residents and agencies with evidence based practices and programs based on our expertise and experience.

3. Who is your target audience?

1. Persons living with mental illness
2. Persons living with disabilities
3. Veterans
4. Persons suffering from alcohol or drug abuse/addiction
5. Dually diagnosed
6. Homeless or at risk of homelessness
7. Youth
8. Women and Children

4. What are your hours of operation and what is the best way for people to reach you that are interested in assistance?

Our main office is located in Suite 301 of the Hornet Building in Tamuning and is open between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and by appointment.

We can be reached by phone at (671) 472-0218/9, Fax: (671) 472-0217. 

Our helpline is available 24 hours-a day-at: (671) 482-9001.

The Sagan Mami Enrichment Center is operating Monday thru Friday 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

The Sagan Mami Drop-In Center is operational from 4p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Both programs can be contacted at: 472-6264 (396 West O'brien Drive Hagatna Guam 96910)

We can also be found on Facebook/Westcare Pacific Islands and the WestCare Website,

5. In addition to direct services, what resources does WestCare offer?

We currently have a staff on board who is a Certified Substance Abuse Counselor who is able to conduct initial screenings and is able to make referrals to Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center for further assessments.

WestCare has a host of resources in our training room.  Anyone from the community is welcome to utilize our health related materials, and use the available computers, which have access to the internet. 

Staff in all programs are able to do outreach and education at various community events including: Career Days, Health Fairs, Community Waves, Various Trainings and capacity building.

Additionally, condoms are available free of charge during regular business hours. 

6. Thinking about current events, how do you foresee recent events in your field of work affecting your organization and its work?

WestCare’s HIV/STD testing program has seen drastic cuts to its budget over the past 12 months, as well as, the Department of Public Health, HIV/STD department who provides our agency the testing kits.  As a result, the outreach testing that WestCare was previously providing cannot be conducted in the same capacity. 

Last year WestCare’s Guahan Project administered more than 300 STD tests, which test for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea. It is likely, many of those tested during outreach would otherwise not been tested until serious symptoms occurred, causing potential long-term health and/or reproductive problems. 

The funding cuts pose a reduction in the amount of test kits DPHSS can provide, which is disheartening, as the rate of Chlamydia on Guam remains one of the highest in the U.S. and its territories.

This decrease in testing impacts the community first and cripples the ability to keep our community safe.    
7.  Can you discuss your community partnerships and how they contribute to the overall success of WestCare individually?

Partnerships are vital to the success of all WestCare programs. The ideas and concepts for many of our programs are due largely to partnerships in identifying gaps in existing services, which may be out of the purview of other agencies. 

The majority of our consumer base is driven by referrals from other agencies. Those partnerships allow for a greater ability to provide outreach throughout the community that could not solely be organized by our agency alone.   

8. Can you touch on the history of WestCare and how the organization is set up?

WestCare Pacific Islands (WCPI) was established in 2009 as an affiliate of WestCare Foundation, a national behavioral health care and human services organization with nearly 40 years of experience providing social service programs. WestCare provides services and operates programs in fifteen of the United States, and in the offshore territories of the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Pacific Islands.

WPI assists in the spirit of Inafa maolek (to make right) and is committed to identifying areas of need and filling service gaps to reduce health-related disparities in the U.S. Associated Pacific Islands. WPI has direct oversight of federal, state and local grants encompassing prevention and early intervention services, treatment and supportive care to special populations include adolescents at risk for substance abuse, HIV/AIDS and other STDs, the homeless, veterans, and persons currently living with and/or impacted by HIV/AIDS.

Five years before the official incorporation of WestCare in Guam, WestCare Chief Executive Officer and President, Richard Steinberg, was invited by the Executive Director of a local Guam non-profit agency to visit the Islands to view the extensive gap and need for services to vulnerable populations and residents in the area. Sarah Thomas-Nededog, then the Executive Director of Sanctuary, is now the WestCare Pacific Islands Vice President.

9. Any upcoming plans or projects that our island community should be aware of?

Westcare applied for funding with Administration on Children, Youth and Families - Family and Youth Services Bureau to have a Maternity Group Home for teens ages 16-22.
Guam has the highest per capita rate of teenage pregnancy in the whole nation.

We saw a need in the community to have such a service for at-risk or runaway youths who are pregnant or are nursing their children who needed assistance in gaining independence, being self- sufficient, receiving  parenting instruction (including
child development), child care, transportation, family budgeting, nutrition and health services, family planning, comprehensive sex education, and pregnancy prevention services.

10. Lastly, why do you think the work you do is important to our island community and the world at large?

“Uplifting the Human Spirit,” allows the ability to empower each individual, organization and community in which we serve. 

When we are able to empower those we work with, it allows them the ability to continue the empowerment process and pass it on to others, creating a healthier community and healthier world.      

Friday, January 17, 2014

Question & Answer Interview with Healing Hearts Program Manager Maresa Aguon

1. What is your mission at Healing Hearts?

The Healing Hearts Crisis Center (HHCC) incorporates a holistic approach for individuals who may have experienced a sexual assault.  Regardless of when the assault occurred or the age, ethnicity, disability or gender of the victim, Healing Hearts offers a supportive, healing atmosphere with caring people to assist them in regaining feelings of safety, control, trust, autonomy and self-esteem.

2. What specific services does Healing Hearts provide?

Healing Hearts provides crisis intervention, intake/assessment, medical examinations to include collecting forensic evidence (rape kit) and short-term case management for all victims.  In addition, we conduct forensic interviews of child victims between the ages of 3 and 15 and community outreach. 

3. Who is your target audience?

Victims of sexual assault or abuse and their families, as well as the general public to raise awareness and prevent sexual assault and abuse.

4. What are your hours of operation and what is the best way for people to reach you that are interested in assistance?

Healing Hearts is open from 8am-5pm Monday through Friday.

People can call 647-5351.

In addition, after-hours on-call services are provided 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for acute cases.  These services can be activated through the Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center’s Crisis Hotline at 647-8833 during non business hours, weekends and holidays.

5. In addition to direct services, what resources does Healing Hearts offer?

We provide linkage to other needed services in the community, especially counseling.  Healing Hearts contracts with licensed therapists to provide counseling to our clients.  We also conduct training to various sectors of the community, such as the Guam Police Department, Department of Education and non-profit organizations.

6. Thinking about current events, how do you foresee recent events in your field of work affecting your organization and its work?
When a high profile case is highlighted in the media, it can prompt an increase in disclosures and clients referred to Healing Hearts.  We provide red flag/green flag presentations to schools as well as participate in community outreach events.  These opportunities to be readily available to the general public can help those who may not have been able to come forward to seek the help they need.  High profile cases also highlight the unified community response to sexual assault and abuse, and bring together various agencies with a common goal to work together more closely and forge more partnerships and collaborations. 

7.  Can you discuss your community
partnerships and how they contribute to the overall success of Healing Hearts individually.

Healing Hearts has many community partners; first and foremost HHCC is part of Guam’s Sexual Assault Response Team which also includes agencies such as the Guam Police Department, Child Protective Services, the Attorney General’s Office, Victim Advocates Reaching Out and the military counterparts.  Having a team that works together in these cases makes response more effective and efficient, can highlight gaps in services and provide an avenue for improvement. 

8. Can you touch on the history of Healing Hearts and how the organization is set up?

Guided by Public Law 21-44, the Healing Hearts Crisis Center (HHCC), under the Guam Memorial Hospital was established in 1993.  The intent of the program was to provide survivors of sexual assault with “discrete, immediate, and full medical attention”. A year later, Public Law 22-23 removed the program from the hospital’s jurisdiction and placed the program under the Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse, now the Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center. 

As such, HHCC is a government agency and all clients that come through also become clients of GBHWC.  As a government agency, HHCC is not eligible for a lot of funding that other rape crisis centers are, as most rape crisis centers are non-profit organizations or private medical clinics.  In response to this, Dr. Ellen Bez, HHCC’s long-time Medical Consultant, established the Guam Sexual Assault and Abuse Resource Center Association (SAARCA) to help augment funding and provide opportunities for training and technical assistance to HHCC. SAARCA works hand in hand with HHCC through an MOU, availing HHCC to all the benefits that SAARCA can provide to the organization.

9. Any upcoming plans or projects that our island community should be aware of?

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, be looking out for joint HHCC-SAARCA projects! Otherwise, HHCC continues to provide presentations in our island’s schools.

10. Lastly, why do you think the work you do is important to our island community and the world at large?

Sexual assault and abuse affects the entire island community; and an incident has a ripple effect.  It is hard to talk about, and has been culturally taboo and secret historically.  Unfortunately, most of the victims know their perpetrator, and family members are often left asking questions and turning blame onto themselves.  Healing Hearts works with victims to provide immediate medical attention, and we also work with families to help link to other needed services, provide support and information.  We also work in the greater public.  Knowledge is power, and sometimes making people more aware of the behavior of those who are in their care can be helpful in identifying possible abuse and being able to talk about it. 

The work we do not only serves to help victims and their families; we also serve to assist the successful prosecution of criminal sexual assault cases through the collection of forensic evidence.  In that way, we impact the health and safety of our island people.  

Monday, January 13, 2014

Question & Answer Interview with VARO Crisis Services Supervisor Latisha

1. What is your mission (goals & objectives) at VARO?

 It is the mission of VARO to not only respond to all victims of violent crimes and traumatic events, but to also elevate the stature of women and children on our island, those who are most often victimized by physical and sexual abuse.

 2. What specific services does VARO provide?

VARO offers emotional support, information and referrals to community partners based on the their needs, personal advocacy, emergency food, emergency clothing, emergency transportation, emergency shelter (up to 3 days). We can assist in helping them fill out GHURA applications and Pro Se forms (self representation for protective orders).

3. Who is your target audience?

Primarily women and children of domestic violence, sexual assault, abuse, other violent crimes and traumatic events. We also service men. 

4. What are your hours of operation and what is the best way for people to reach you that are interested in assistance?

Our 24-hour hotline: (671) 477-5552

Also, VARO’s Facebook account, but because of safety reasons if someone messages us on Facebook we will instruct them to then call our hotline.

5. What resources does VARO offer?

The expertise of our advocates, emergency clothing, food, shelter and transportation.

6. Looking at current events, how do you foresee these recent events in your field of work affecting your organization and its work?

Decreased Federal funding will mean less money available for victim services. Increased crime rates will mean more people needing services from VARO.

7.  Can you discuss your community partnerships and how they contribute to the overall success of the VARO individually.

We do heavily rely on our community partners. If a client needs a protective order we refer them to Guam Legal Services - Disability Law Center and Public Defender.

For sexual assault cases we refer them to Healing Hearts Crisis Center and can be present with them during their exam, if they wish. 

Also, Alee Shelter provides longer term shelter for abused women and their children that we cannot provide due to our funding. We also refer clients to Oasis Empowerment Center for transitional housing.

8. Can you touch on the history of VARO and how the organization is set up?

Guam Task Force on Family abuse and Sexual Assault established VARO in 1982 and Sexual Abuse, Before "VARO" it was called CARO, Counseling Advocates Reaching Out

9. Any upcoming plans or projects that our island community should be aware of?

We will continue to service all victims of violent crime and traumatic events. We will continue to recruit volunteers to become advocates and/or support volunteers.

10. Why do you think your work is important?

I truly feel my work is important because there are people out there that have experienced traumatic events and violent crimes and they need our help. We assist victims and survivors by providing our free services. We want them to know we are here for them, they’re are not alone, and there are free services including ours.