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Survivor community: Resilient Souls nonprofit provides tools for healing

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Lisa Majors was around 9 years old when her older sister was kidnapped by a prominent Bay Area gang and forced into what we would now consider a sex trafficking ring. At the time, Majors said she and her family didn't fully understand what was happening. It was the '70s and her parents were devout Catholics—they'd been extorted by the gang. They didn't have the language or emotional wherewithal to talk with Majors about what had happened, so she said they just never really did.

SHARING STORIES Resilient Souls members practice lines at a dress rehearsal for the organization's upcoming event, Tonic for the Soul: A Healing Arts Evening Showcasing Triumph Over Trauma. - PHOTO COURTESY OF LISA MAJORS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Lisa Majors
  • SHARING STORIES Resilient Souls members practice lines at a dress rehearsal for the organization's upcoming event, Tonic for the Soul: A Healing Arts Evening Showcasing Triumph Over Trauma.

Years later, as Majors was working her way toward a graphic design degree, she was assaulted on Halloween. She reported the incident to the police and charges were filed, but she felt like her family had already been through enough.

"So I walked through the courts alone," Majors said, "and you do whatever you have to do to get through it."

She pushed her feelings down and ignored the emotional pain as best she could. She got through the trial and, although she said she got one brutal assault conviction, she left the experience feeling completely numb and alone.

Eventually she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and learned about all the ways that traumatic incidents can impact you for the rest of your life. Instead of ignoring it, she learned to heal, and now she's helping others do the same.

"There's such a great need out there," she said.

Majors is now the founder and president of Resilient Souls, a Paso Robles-based nonprofit that uses evidence-based classes and programs to help survivors of trauma and abuse recover, heal, and rebuild their lives. Resilient Souls became an officially recognized nonprofit in 2018, and Majors said she opened her Paso office in February of 2020, just two weeks before the pandemic hit.

COVID-19 and the shutdowns only increased the need for already lacking mental health support in San Luis Obispo County. Resilient Souls added around 20 members through the pandemic, bringing its membership up to around 70 total.

"It's been incredibly busy, she said. "More than I've ever experienced."

Resilient Souls serves all of SLO County and works with survivors of almost any kind of trauma—sex exploitation, intimate partner violence, vehicular assault, battery, abuse, grief, etc. The organization provides science-based classes on the psychology of trauma through Mending the Soul, a nonprofit that provides abuse recovery curriculum to communities worldwide.

Majors said Resilient Souls hosts support groups, connects members with needed resources and mentorships, and holds events, including an upcoming art show and storytelling event scheduled for June 18 and 19. At 6 p.m. each night, Resilient Souls members will share their stories and tour a gallery of survivors' art. Some will also perform a play based on one survivor's experience with trauma.

The overarching goal of this event and all Resilient Souls efforts is to create a nonjudgmental and safe space for those in need. When horrible things happen to people, Majors said it can be hard for them to return to normal life, to face friends and family again. The beauty of Resilient Souls, she said, is that everyone involved understands. They've been there.

"So we're building a community of trauma-informed participants to help each other," she said.

As a former pastor, Jay Turner is used to helping people through some of the worst times in their lives. People often turn to religion when they're struggling, and Turner said he felt somewhat ill equipped to handle some of the complicated cases he was dealing with as a care pastor at Mountainbrook Church.

He heard about Resilient Souls and learned about the group's trauma-informed curriculum. He loved it, and started using some of those techniques with his own clients or referring them to Resilient Souls altogether. His clients loved it too.

When Turner left Mountainbrook in May of 2019, he reached out to Resilient Souls in hopes of becoming a facilitator of the program. He ended up going through the program himself in a small group with two other men, and addressing traumatic experiences that he'd previously thought he'd buried for good.

It genuinely helped him, and soon he'll be doing the same for others as a group leader.

"What Lisa did and what Resilient Souls tries to do is create a really, really, super safe space," he said. "If you're open at all and you want to recover and heal, you'll get there I believe."

Fast fact

• Paso Robles-based olive oil producer Pasolivo took home five gold medals in this year's NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition. Pasolivo's extra virgin olive oils were among nearly 1,200 entries from 29 countries. Δ

Staff Writer Kasey Bubnash wrote this week's Strokes and Plugs. Send business and nonprofit story ideas to strokes@newtimesslo.com.

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