Hidden Water evolves in community.
As a community, we are committed to growing through collective wisdom gathered in circle spaces.
By happenstance (and miracle) we came across a photocopied text of an unpublished book called Restorative Justice Theory by Dr. Derek Brookes. This book laid out a profound understanding of how to repair serious harm as a community. Dr. Brookes details the moral implications of harm and the way in which shame can undermine how we respond. The book (now published as: Beyond Harm) became the basis for our model which we call The Path to Healing from Harm.
In 2014 we met Kay Pranis, a restorative justice practitioner, trainer and author. She taught us a powerful process called Circle Keeping, and mentored us on program development. We knew putting a family together in a room to talk about the abuse was not working. From Kay we learned more had to be done to "stack the deck" to have the individuals feeling held in their experiences and open to the perspectives of others.
The work of the Community Holistic Circle Healing (CHCH) from the First Nations town of Hollow Water, Manitoba, Canada has inspired many, including us. We take our name, Hidden Water, as recognition of their important gift to the world in the form of their groundbreaking documentary. They have inspired great change and growth worldwide. We are forever grateful to their generosity in showing others what is possible.
In 2016, Elizabeth, our founder, along with Glen Parker and Sethu Nair led the first two circles for Hidden Water. This started the journey, which has lead to more than 1,000 individual family members participating in our healing spaces. In 2019, we had grown so large we could no longer safely continue without dedicated staff. Through the generous contributions of our Founders Circle, we raised our seed capital which allowed us to bring on our first staff members.
Until the summer of 2019, we functioned entirely with donated space, friends offering to pay our insurance and tremendous volunteer power from several dozen committed circle participants.
Hidden Water has always been, from the very beginning, an iterative process. Our programming was built from the wisdom of those with a personal experience with sexual harm. We sat as a community, with no funding, just a desire to find a new way to heal that made sense to us - the family members suffering from the impact of child sexual abuse.
We had one beacon off in the distance calling to us as we grew, stumbled and evolved. It continues to guide us to this day: we wanted to heal together.
Our grassroots growth through community
Cat Greenstreet and Elizabeth Clemants begin discussing the lack of services foradult individuals and their families suffering from the impact of childhood sexual abuse.
Research begins around existing methodologies to support those impacted by child sexualabuse. Hidden Water is named as a tribute to the groundbreaking work of the First Nations Ojibwa Community in Hollow Water, Canada that inspired a rebirth of restorative justice programs everywhere with their Community Holistic Circle Healing model.
Using actors, we attempt to try various interventions for a family struggling with the aftermath of child sexual abuse. We meet Kay Pranis in the Fall at an alternative dispute resolution conference in Cincinnati. She sparks the idea to "stack the deck" and showed us how circle used in a specific way would be the right process to bring more community to families.
Kay comes to New York City to hold our first training for Circle Keepers. Hidden Water registers as a501(c)(3). Beyond Harm, a book from Australian Author Derek Brooks, inspired Elizabeth to create the Path to Healing from Harm model to use as the basis for the work of Hidden Water.
Hidden Water holds the first Healing Circles in Green in the winter. By the end of the year, we had held our first Blue, Orange, and Purple circles. Kay returns to train a second class of Hidden Water Keepers and gave an Advanced Circle Keeper Training to the first class of Hidden Water Keepers.
Hidden Water holds the first Family Circle. Hidden Water was growing through word of mouth, and more individuals were requesting an opportunity to join a circle. We began identifying the need for administrative support to build our capacity to take on more participants.
With the continuation of circle keeper training from Kay twice a year, we manage to double the number of participants trained to be Hidden Water Keepers. We are able to increase the number of circles we are able to hold. Though the management of those circles and support of the Keepers was begin to overwhelm those volunteering to help with the administration.
In the Spring, Hidden Water holds its first major fundraiser at Betaworks, in lower Manhattan. We established our Founders Circle with 50+ individuals donating our seed money to begin the next stage of our growth. We were able to raise over $200,000. Elizabeth Clemants was hired as our first Executive Director.
The #MeToo Movement, the tragic death of George Floyd and the start of global pandemic brought a dramatic increase in demand for our circles. Hidden Water eventually moved all circles online while the world sheltered at home. The demand continued to grow, and waiting lists started to form. We canceled our second Betawords fundraiser, and instead held our first Crowdfunding Campaign online. We raised $125,000 which kept the doors open.
Hidden Water makes the intentional decision to take a ‘Pause’ on services for one season. As a community, we were overwhelmed, and need to time to reflect on the impact of the previous year. We held over 25 community listening circles to map who we were, who we are now, and who we are becoming. This re-calibration resulted in our 12 Core Principles.
Hidden Water received our first funding from the New York Women's Foundation which allowed us to commit more resources to speciality circles such as LGBTQ and BIPOC Green Circles. We were able to increase our specialty circles this year by 66%. We introduced the MultiColor Healing Circles which add depth to the concept of healing together. We introduced our first Summer Workshop Series which grew out of our Keepers need to have a rest from the seasons work, and focus on self care and education.
This year has been a year of immense growth for Hidden Water. Our board developed a five year strategic plan to guide our trajectory. We received new grants from various foundations, built a new website with our most current thinking, and hired more staff to expand our ability to support more keepers, and therefore more circles. We broke ground on two new projects: a multi-year evaluation of our process and an active prevention curriculum for families.