Former refugee worker now heads DoVE

Elizabeth Archambault has traveled the world trying to protect women and girls from violence.

Elizabeth Archambault has traveled the world trying to protect women and girls from violence.

Several times, she was evacuated from war-torn Chad, where she worked in international humanitarian aid. She’s fought female mutilation, worked to provide health care to children in the slums of India and coordinated a gender-based violence project for UNICEF.

She’s now on Vashon with her husband and two young daughters, ready for a quieter but equally important chapter in her life. And last week, she started it when she began her job as the executive director of DoVE, Vashon’s small but growing anti-domestic violence program.

Though Vashon’s a far cry from what she saw in her seven years abroad, Archambault, a Michigan native with a doctorate in gender and political anthropology, says she thinks the island has plenty of unmet needs in the area of domestic violence. She volunteered for DoVE for a month before accepting the position.

“When we moved here, I knew I wanted to work again, and I knew I wanted it to be in gender equality,” she said.

Research suggests that 35 percent of women at some point in their lives face domestic violence. “It’s everywhere,” Archambault said. “There’s a problem. I don’t believe any woman — or any family or any man — should live a life of fear.”

Archambault replaces Tavi Black, who got DoVE off the ground in her first two years as project director. But Black, who has an MFA in creative writing and a young daughter of her own, wanted to step down to complete a novel she’s been working on for four years, she said.

Black met Archambault a few months ago; both women were at the PlaySpace with their daughters when they struck up a conversation. When Black decided it was time for her to resign as project director, she asked Archambault if she’d be interested in becoming the organization’s new executive director.

“I could not have had a better person take over,” Black said. Referring to DoVE as her baby, she added, “I wouldn’t give my baby over to anybody.”

Diane Kjellberg, the board chair, said she, too, was thrilled Archambault accepted the position.

“It’s a perfect match,” Kjellberg said. “She comes to us with a lot of experience. But she’s also ready for this next phase in her life. … We’re very grateful.”

DoVE — a shortened name for Domestic Violence Ending — was launched in April 2011 with a $10,340 start-up grant from Vashon’s Healthy Community Network. The organization was an attempt to create a new home-grown program after several years of rocky services.

Nearly a decade ago, Island Domestic Violence Outreach Services fell apart after its director was charged for embezzling funds. She pled guilty to first-degree theft in November 2005. The Tukwila-based Domestic Abuse Women’s Network (DAWN) stepped in for a few years but had to pull its Vashon-based advocate when it lost some of its funding in 2009.

DoVE is now beginning to take off, some close to the organization say. The board just applied for the organization’s federal nonprofit tax status; Vashon Youth & Family Services currently acts as its financial agent. It also has several new board members, several volunteer advocates, weekly support groups and a $43,000 budget.

It recently added a crisis line. It now has volunteers who can accompany clients to court and lawyers willing to do pro-bono legal work. And it’s beginning to look at implementing some kind of network of safe homes on the island.

“The need is there, and it’s growing,” Black said. “Some islanders still don’t know that we exist, so I can only imagine it will continue to grow.”

Indeed, this year’s budget is $100,000, with a “dream budget” of $300,000, Black said. The organization hopes to secure its own office and wants to pay some of its volunteer advocates. “We ask a lot of our volunteers,” Black said.

Kjellberg praised Black’s “entrepreneurial spirit,” a determination and work ethic that have enabled DoVE to grow quickly. One of Black’s important contributions, she said, was the number of allegiances she built with other Vashon agencies, including Granny’s Attic, Vashon HouseHold and Vashon Island Fire & Rescue.

She hopes Archambault will be able to build on this foundation, bringing DoVE to the next level. Top on her list will be fundraising to meet this new $100,000 budget, Kjellberg said, a challenge but one she believes Archambault will be able to meet. Archambault recently earned a certificate in nonprofit management from the University of Chicago. “She already has some wonderful fundraising ideas,” Kjellberg said.

Archambault, meanwhile, said she looks forward to her new position. She and her husband, a commercial pilot, moved to Vashon in October, drawn to the island after years of living in cities with 20 million people where the playgrounds are made of cement.

“We wanted to have the exact opposite situation for our girls — a garden and some land and a green lifestyle,” she said.

Now, she said, she’s pleased to have a job that will quickly deepen her connections to her new home. “Finding a job doing what you love on the island — it was really amazing,” she said.