Monson nonprofit supports women, children through programming

March 16, 2023 | Lauren LeBel

Singer-songwriter Bonnie Lee Panda performs her original music at MAVE’s annual show on Feb. 24 and 25.
Reminder Publishing submitted photo

MONSON — Working year-round to serve women and children that have experienced or are currently experiencing a cruel situation is Monson Against Violence Everywhere (MAVE).

MAVE is a nonprofit organization that was founded by Monson resident Faith Ward.

“I’m a survivor of domestic violence and sexual assault,” shared Ward. As a survivor, she believes the topic needs to be advocated more.

She went on to say that she does not “want to just sit and talk to people about rape” but wants people to know that there are resources available, and they are not alone in the fight.

This is how MAVE started.

Throughout the year, MAVE hosts a variety of events with the most recent one being “The Vagina Monologues” on Feb. 24 and 25 at the Palmer Historical Center. “The Vagina Monologues” is a play written by V, formerly Eve Ensler. According to Ensler’s website, her play has been published in over 48 languages and performed in over 140 countries. Recently, it was heralded by the New York Times as one of the “most important plays of the past 25 years: Ensler’s hilarious, eye-opening tour into the last frontier, the forbidden zone at the heart of every woman.”

Ward agreed with the play’s description noting that it is “hysterical.”

To formulate her globally recognized show, Ensler interviewed thousands of women of different races, economic status, countries and more, asking unique questions about their bodies that can generate humor and understanding for everyone.

Ward said Ensler also interviewed women from the Bosnian rape camp, which resulted in some “really sad stories.”

Ward noted that Ensler allows her production to be used for free by different entities that serve women and children. This was the seventh year MAVE offered the show after a two-year hiatus because of COVID-19.

This year’s crowd attracted about 60 to 70 people. Ward explained that it went beyond “The Vagina Monologues” and was called a “Women of Heart Celebration,” consisting of musical performers, poets and artists who shared their work. “[It was] a four-hour event instead of a two-hour show,” said Ward.

Cast members came from Palmer, Brimfield, Springfield and other local towns, all the way down to Plainville, CT. When looking for people to be a part of the play, Ward said she prefers non actors as it makes it more “authentic.” This year’s show had eight cast members.

To attend the event, the standard donation cost was $20, however, if someone was not able to afford that, Ward said they were allowed free entry. She added that “The Vagina Monologues” profit covers program costs for the rest of the year.

In April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, MAVE participates in the Clothesline Project. The Clothesline Project is a national program that addresses the issue of violence against women, allowing them to express their emotions by decorating a T-shirt. The shirts are color coded to show the form of abuse an individual has experienced. For instance, blue and green represent survivors of incest and sexual abuse, red, pink and orange represent rape and sexual assault, black represents political violence, purple is for women attacked because of their sexual orientation, yellow represents battered or assaulted women, and white is death.

Ward said the T-shirts are hung on a clothesline for others to view — usually in Monson and Palmer.

“[It is a] beautiful, striking thing to look at from a distance,” shared Ward. However, when you are close to the T-shirts, there are “powerful” messages that some might have been carrying for a long time, she said.

The creation of the T-shirts is typically at the Monson House of Art and the Palmer Library.
When the weather cooperates, Ward said the T-shirts are displayed on a portable clothesline that can be easily moved. She added that a more permanent display has been set up inside the Palmer Library in past years.

Continuing the creative front, MAVE also offers art classes. “They are more than art classes … [They are] for children and families,” said Ward. She explained that they have “survivor art shows” where trauma survivors create pieces of work to share with other survivors, as well as a survivor’s family and friends. Ward noted that the art classes are entirely free, and all the supplies are paid for. The classes are offered at different locations.

Ward recognized the difficulty that comes with asking for help. For instance, she said that people who are being abused may not be able to get away without explanation, but if they were to say they are attending an art show, they can “safely go and grab it on the fly.”

Another annual project that MAVE puts on is “Backpacks Against Bullies” during Anti-Bullying month in October. Typically, Ward said they offer kids in the area — grades K-6 — the opportunity to answer the question: “What would you do if someone was bullying you?” Based on the top responses, backpacks are given out to the selected children.

Although the focus of MAVE is to help women and children, if a man were to call and say they were in a violent situation, Ward said they would help.

She went on to express her passion for helping others, especially as a survivor herself.

Ward has lived in Monson for 10 years with her husband. Around the second year of living in town, she said there were 41 rapes. As Monson has a “really comfortable” and “safe” feel, she said people would not think something like that would ever happen, although national statistics say that one in three women will be raped in their lifetime.

“We never talk about it,” said Ward.

Every year before “The Vagina Monologues” show, Ward asks Monson Police Chief Stephen Kozloski for the town’s statistics on rape, domestic violence calls, child abuse and more. She then updates the programs to reflect the data.

Over the past few years, Ward said sexual assault calls have decreased, which she finds “surprising,” although she thinks MAVE might have contributed to that.

Although Ward founded MAVE, she receives help from husband as well as volunteers. She noted that she is always looking and willing to have an extra hand.

Ward recognized community businesses for their assistance in offering over 60 raffles at the annual show for people to enter to win. The businesses were in Palmer, Monson, Sturbridge and

Northampton, to name a few. “[We] couldn’t do it without their help,” said Ward.

The Monson Cultural Council and the Massachusetts Cultural Council also assist in making MAVE possible.

MAVE events are open to everyone. Ward noted that its funding is for Monson domestic violence programming, but its resources are for everyone.

To donate or learn more about MAVE, visit

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