We had the good fortune of connecting with Chelsea Sabo and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Chelsea, we’d love to hear about a book that’s had an impact on you.
At the Mothers Advocacy Project, we are always talking with our clients about mind-body connection. The trauma that they have endured in their past will come back from triggers and show up in flashbacks, but it also manifests itself in their physical bodies as well. That is the reason why participatory arts (specifically martial arts and ballet) are an important component of our trauma intervention. But, I wanted to see how this mind-body connection could be a part of our work for employees as well. So, we started off this year with the theme of “thoughtfulness” and it has carried through our work. Which brings me to the book that inspired me with some ideas we have been trying. The book is called “Rituals for Work,” written by Kursat Ozenc, PhD and Margaret Hogan, PhD. In this book it highlights that fact that when our bodies engage in a physical activity that is representative of the values we hold while completing what might be a mundane task, we are able to bring meaning to that task. This meaning then brings about more productivity, creativity, confidence, etc. These are the qualities I want to have in the culture of our organization. So, I thought I would invent a couple myself. Here are a couple that I have incorporated into our staff meetings: 1. Everyone stays standing until the last person in attendance has arrived. Then, we all sit and begin the meeting together. This represents for us respect and value of every member of the team, regardless of title. We value one another by being on time. By waiting for every single person, we express that each person invited to the meeting has value to bring to that meeting. By all sitting together at the same time, we represent to each other that we are ready to actively engage in the conversation rather than just coasting in and out. And lastly, it has been a great time to talk to each other before the meeting, as we are all standing, rather than all having all our eyes on our own computers or emails. 2. We play a silly dice game at the start of each meeting. The game is simple. You roll 2 dice and when you get double 1s or 6s, you can start writing the numbers 1-100. Then the next person in the circle begins to roll their 2 dice until they get double 1s of 6s. At which point, you must stop writing and they must begin writing. This continues around the circle, until someone gets to 100. Whomever the winner is, lets say Teammate #4, gets to open their envelope revealing where they would want a $5 gift card to. But, here is the twist… everyone on the team gets a $5 gift card to Teammate #4’s favorite place. What this symbolizes to us is that “When one of us wins, we all win. But the one who wins still gets special acknowledgement!” This happens the first week of each month. It is fun and silly! We all laugh together and then take our dice back to our desks. But, seeing those dice, or fiddling with those dice serves as a physical reminder that we want to always seek the success of our teammates!

Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
The Mothers Advocacy Project (formerly Foster Care Alliance) is a unique non-profit founded to help mothers (or anyone who plays the primary role of mother) to overcome the symptoms of trauma. Those symptoms can look different for each person, but some examples are mental illness, poverty, physical pain, substance abuse, flashbacks and indifference. We do this through a 3-phase model designed to accomplish a specific outcome, proven to be most beneficial in trauma recovery. Those outcomes are resetting the central nervous system, processing trauma, and trauma assimilation. We are different because we are not just “trauma informed,” but we are “trauma focused.” In addition to our mission of breaking the inter generational cycle of trauma and maltreatment, by providing evidence-based, trauma-focused programs and support to at risk mothers and their children, we rely heavily on our values of family, dignity and generosity. These values hold the most weight in our company and that is what sets us apart. This has been difficult at times, especially as a start-up, to make sure that we do not “chase money” to receive grants that take our focus away from our core work. This has been difficult, when we want to be working in a government space that is so set in their way of doing things and we don’t fit into their mold. In fact it took us 6 mo to even get our first referral. And it has been difficult to stay true to our values when cutting corners would be more efficient. However, I believe that because of our values as a company, we have earned ourself a place in this work. We now have relationship with people that have allowed us to bring new ideas to old government (and in fact have met a lot of movers and shakers in these government spaces who love innovation too!!). I was given some advice in the very beginning, before I even opened the doors. That advice was to “tell as many people about my idea as a could and then ask them to shoot holes in it. That way, I could come up with plan A, plan B, plan C, and plan D. With this many plans, I would never be caught off guard and always be ready to pivot.” This advice has allowed me to be prepared for challenges, but has also kept me humble to seek advice from others and always be ready to listen for what could be made better!

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Growing up in ATL, there have been many places over the years that have been significant to me. But, I would say a few places on my list of favorites would be: #1 Fernbank Museum of Natural History (I even hosted my 30th birthday here!) #2 Zoo Atlanta #3 Taqueria del sol (Must have the fish tacos and a margarita!) #4 Lucy’s Market for unique shopping and of course their pimento cheese and chicken salad. #5 Beltline and PCM (Always a great place to get outside with the family and the dog and explore!) Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I want to shout out to my Clinical Director and partner in crime, Denisa Millette. She is a brilliant clinician and researcher who shows excellence in every aspect of what she does. She believes in the work we are doing and has worked tirelessly to develop our model of trauma recovery to where it is today. She is a bright light of hope to the families we serve and a leader in this field of work. I truly believe that her name will be a name to know in the study of trauma in years to come! She is not only an accomplished woman in her work, but a wonderful wife, mother, and friend. We have been through many ups and downs over the last 3 years of building this business. Her passion for seeing women and families healed from trauma has proven her resilience in the face of challenges!

Website: www.mothersadvocacyproject.org

Instagram: mothers_advocacy_project

Image Credits
Roxy Moure (my personal headshot) Melanie Hughes (picture of therapist with the white board) Ana Chartier (other 3 photos… she is my assistant and took with iPhone 🙂 )

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