75th Anniversary

Story – Sandrine Chabert

To launch our 75 Stories of MT Service in Maine I would like to highlight the volunteer work of a recent NHITA graduate and classmate, Sandrine Chabert. Since her work is fresh and in process of forming, I find it inspirational!  Kara Masters Seikman

Sandrine’s idea first came to her when in school and in need of practice clients; she thought it would be a great way to benefit her community as well as her education. Making massage and bodywork accessible to the underserved populations is something Sandrine is very committed to.

Sandrine got in touch with the Portland Shelter for battered women run by Through These Doors (formerly Family Crisis Services) and started volunteering as an MT shortly after graduation.  Sandrine reached out to her classmates and teachers and found a used table in good condition that was donated by the school.  She was not sure how the program would unfold, but she just started by touching in and reaching out!

She is working on a grant so that the program can be an integral part of the services offered there. She’s in the early stages of the grant writing, working with her friend Heather Denkmire, a grant writer (and winner!)

She is soon to meet with the director of the shelter Jenny Stasio to discuss further how to implement the service and make it a permanent offering at the shelter for the residents as well as for the staff (burn out rate in social work is very high). They will discuss the need to educate the residents about the benefits of bodywork, especially for victims of abuse, how to address it with a naturally transient population (monthly meetings, survey, literature,…), and, among other things, how to introduce safe touch concept to women who have suffered from physical violence.

She knows there are obstacles such as gaining the confidence of the residents and educating them about safe touch and the benefits of massage. Often times the residents come with many physical and emotional issues due to trauma or a lifetime of rough circumstances. This will take education on Sandrine’s part to learn more about trauma informed bodywork in order to avoid pitfalls such as re-traumatizing or triggering emotions.

So far the residents have been very appreciative and enthusiastic. In the past month and a half she’s treated 4 residents and 2 staff members. Because of the transient nature of the residents it might be difficult to establish regularity and follow ups; another challenge that can be foreseen  is how dedicated to their massage appointment can the women be when they have to face immense difficulties to reconstruct their lives (kids back in school, looking for lodging,…) after they get out of the shelter. Sandrine feels like she has the support of the shelter director and manager who are equally excited about bringing this program to life.

Her vision for the future would be to have massage and bodywork services offered throughout all the shelters in Maine – because every woman deserves to know what safe touch is.