Cultural differences can make seeking help very difficult for some people. Sarah Taylor, the founder and executive director of Yo Soy Ella, Inc., understands the idea after her own past escape from domestic violence. As an Afro-Latina, Taylor struggled to find help and wants to provide that help to other women. mitúCares has chosen Yo Soy Ella, Inc. to receive a grant to help with their missions to help women in our community.

Sarah Taylor started Yo Soy Ella, Inc. to help women of color.

Taylor understands the experience of living in a bicultural body as an Afro-Panamanian woman who grew up in the U.S. Her own experience of escaping an abusive relationship opened her eyes to the need of women stuck in similar situations.

“I am a survivor of domestic violence,” Taylor says. “I am also the daughter of immigrant parents. We are Panamanian. I am the first American of my family. I was engaged to someone for three years who violated my person space, violated my body, and, unfortunately in our culture, finding support services and telling people that, ‘Hey. I was domestically abused,’ is not something that we talk about freely. It’s not something that we bravely expose ourselves.”

It took Taylor six years to work through her experience.

Taylor left her relationship in 2006. Over the next six years, Taylor found her voice and worked through the trauma to get to the other side. The growth she went through was transformative and gave her the knowledge and experience to help other women in similar situations.

“Beautifully, I was able to create that space for myself and then, within that work, it was inviting to many other women who had similar stories and similar journeys,” Taylor says. “With that being said, Yo Soy Ella is here today as a supportive safe space for women to not only unpack and process their issues with domestic violence but also some of the emotional and mental challenges that come along with this thing called life.”

Yo Soy Ella, Inc. focuses on helping to bridge the bicultural gap that might prevent women from seeking help.

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Taylor understands how bicultural struggle as a person who lived the experience and seem foreign-born women live a similar yet different experience. Yo Soy Ella, Inc. works to break down the work that needs to be done using the language and and cultural references that foreign-born women better understand. As Taylor explains, using the terminology and tools she learned in school could be offensive to someone else. That is where Yo Soy Ella, Inc. becomes a unique network of “supportive services of mental and emotional support.”

“A lot of it can trigger some of the generational trauma and some of the nuances that come along with the mental deterioration that comes along with the journey women go through when they come to the U.S. and those who are here who are considered ‘privileged,’” Taylor says. “We have more resources than we ever did. With Yo Soy Ella, we try to bridge those understandings between those who are foreign-born and those who are here bicultural and help them identify where we can bridge this gap and help each other understand the differences.”

Covid has given Yo Soy Ella, Inc. an even more important role in the community.

“Covid has really changed the way we see and impact people because the stories we used to have of the people we used to impact before Covid were transitional,” Taylor recalls. “We were making sure that we change and provide that wrap around with the emotional support whether it’s the physical needs to the immediate needs. When Covid came in the stories weren’t the same. The stories were, ‘Mi mama murió ayer’ or ‘El papa de mis hijos murió.’ I literally have to get on the phone, me and some of my members, and help to disclose and provide this information to the children and strengthen our mothers.”

Yo Soy Ella, Inc. has taken its work with women to another level to provide the best support possible during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. As the world shut down and got scary, Yo Soy Ella, Inc. stepped up to help women weather the storm and come out the other side stronger and more empowered.

mitúCares is a grant initiative through we are mitú empowering those helping our community in fundamental ways.

READ: mitúCares: Leslie Gonzalez of Latinx En Medicina Wins Grant To Help Her Mission