Vanessa Micale (she, they, ella) is the founder of Poderosa Voz LLC. “Poderosa voz” means powerful voice in Spanish. As a facilitator, she loves to support tender-hearted people who want to shine their authentic light on this earth.
Vanessa has two decades of nonprofit and public sector experience from direct service to leadership roles in public health violence prevention, the movement to end gender-based violence, strategic communications and creative writing teaching in juvenile hall. As a bilingual and bicultural mixed Uruguayan American, she is fluent in Spanish. They have created bilingual curriculum, facilitated trauma-informed workshops and participated in public speaking in local, national and international settings.
Vanessa Micale is a writer, multidisciplinary artist and performer. Vanessa holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and is currently a Randolph College MFA Blackburn fellow. She is a 2023 Latinx in Publishing mentee and a fellow of Anaphora Arts and VONA.
Vanessa is a graduate of Cohort 9 based in Portland, Oregon. We spoke with Vanessa this month about their work and what it was like to develop their own Resilience Toolkit offerings as a Certified Facilitator.
Describe your experience of facilitating The Resilience Toolkit in 1-2 words.
Authentic & attuned.
What has been your Toolkit journey, and how are you working with The Resilience Toolkit now?
I started reconnecting with Lumos at the start of the pandemic, when I was working in the public sector, in communications, leading community engagement work. And when the pandemic hit, multiple crises were coming up, so I convinced my organization to bring Lumos in for a few sessions. Recently, in the last year, I’ve transitioned to doing less public forward facing work. I’m working in digital communications, and I’m working on my graduate degree, for creative writing. And I love to do popular education style workshops, when you draw on the wisdom and experience in a room, and it’s not just, one person talking at you. So that’s something I’ve done a lot in my different iterations and organizations I’ve worked at. Most recently, I was invited to host a creative writing workshop and talk about personal narrative, because I do a lot of creative nonfiction writing. So I built this workshop on how personal narrative is like a mixtape. And in that is an example of how I bring in the Toolkit – even from how I open the space. It’s an online space and I don’t know who’s in the room, so even the way that I am inviting people to participate – to have their cameras on or off and to look out for themselves – that is always present. And then a lot of the ways that I think about the creative process, whether that’s writing or other art forms, has a lot to do with how to stay connected to our bodies, so that we don’t burn ourselves out in the process of creating something that might be difficult, like personal stories.
A lot of my past experience is in the realm of crisis intervention and violence prevention. Many years ago, I started off doing direct service work in gender based violence, working in women’s shelters, and working with children and youth was my passion. And I wish I had the Toolkit then, because wow, did we all need it? I was doing a lot of direct service work and supporting clients, often working with immigrant survivors and families who spoke Spanish because I spoke Spanish, and working with families, whether that was in a shelter, or if they were transitioning and trying to find an apartment. There was just so much going on in our bodies, that I didn’t have a lot of tools to navigate. Later, I moved into more leadership spaces and worked in public health – giant organizations – and similarly I was doing youth violence prevention work. There was just so much in those community meetings that wasn’t happening – physically, emotionally, mentally – and there wasn’t a lot of attunement or care given. Or there was maybe even just a sense of, “well, we don’t know what to do with this” and not address it. So I think over the course of years, I just became more drawn to, “okay, with crisis, there’s intervention and there’s the moment of violence…but how do we heal? How do we be with each other? How did we build that resilience?” And at some point, I ended up at a conference where Lumos was presenting and I was like, “What is this? I need to learn!”
In the current iteration, between my graduate studies and my digital communications job, I just launched my Resilience Toolkit offerings through Poderosa Voz LLC. I am now accepting a couple new individual clients, I’m doing workshops as requested individually through my business, and then have built a collection of offerings to start in Spring 2024. My upcoming offerings include: “The Drop” (a 3 session series of private one on one sessions); “The Ripple” (a 3 week series of small group sessions); “Somatic Sometimes” (a 6 week group series to sustain collective co-regulation); and “Somatic So-manly” (a 6 week series for men to practice in collective space). I seek to work with tender hearted people. I love to support performers, writers, creatives, leaders, direct-service providers, marginalized identities in mainstream organizations, DEI practitioners. HSP’s (Highly Sensitive Persons), empaths and changemakers.
And I’m excited about it, because I like being in community, and I’m excited to have something tangible, the Toolkit is just so tangible. It’s so applicable. So you get to choose what you like, and what you don’t.
What was the process of developing your Resilience Toolkit offerings, and what tips would you offer to other facilitators who are looking to develop their own?
One thing that I would say, and it’s something I have to repeat myself – not just about this, but about life in general – it’s okay to go slow and go at your own pace. It’s timely that I just finished reading Rest is Resistance. Even when I was doing the certification…it’s a very rigorous – amazing – but rigorous certification…I was working full time, in the pandemic, plus all the other crises and things that we all know, happened starting in 2020… it was just this time of a lot of stress. And it was very anchoring for me to be in the training.
I think initially, I felt this self pressure or need offer this right away – this feeling that now that I’m certified, and because I’ve done direct service work, I’ve facilitated workshops, and I’m comfortable doing that…I put this pressure on myself that once I had the certification, I needed to offer it right away. Which is funny, because when I decided to take the certification, I told myself, “you don’t have to offer this publicly.” But it just felt like the journey, you know? So then I got certified and I was like, “I better offer this right away!”
I would say that everyone has a different path. Like for me, I didn’t have a website for a business yet. I was being contracted for conferences and doing speaking engagements, but that was just through word of mouth. Then I was making some changes and decided on grad school. So just timing wise, the approach that I took was to stay really engaged in my personal practice. I did the Lumos’ practice groups that are offered once a week for three years. I think I signed up when it first started being offered, and I just recently stopped my subscription, just to see how it feels. But I’m probably going to sign up again! So I was like, “Alright, let me embody this practice.” And be around others that are also embodying this practice, and working through it, and hear how people are thinking about it, talking about it, how it lands differently on different people. For me, that just helps me to feel more in it – almost like when you ride a bicycle. So I took my time – because I graduated in, I want to say 2021 – and then I just was practicing.
In terms of the different offerings that I wanted to come up with, I knew that I wanted to offer something that was more of a lighter touch – like three sessions where you could get to dip your toe in. And then something a little bit longer, like six sessions. So I had that in mind while trying to think about offerings. And I knew that I wanted to play with what it felt like to work one on one with folks versus in a group, because I’ve enjoyed doing both in different contexts in my life. So that was some of my thinking. And then I love words, I love language. So I’m always brainstorming – ideas, and words, and language. I was talking to my partner, who is a cis het man, and doesn’t really do these kinds of practices. So I asked him, “for someone like you, what kind of language would draw you?” Because a lot of times in these fields, there’s so much jargon. And so we were riffing and “Somatic So-Manly” came up, and I loved it. I’ve felt really called, even though I’m not a man, to have an offering that’s not just for cis men, but anyone that identifies as a man, because a lot of healers that I love or teachers that I’ve worked with, specifically don’t work with men. Normally, for an affinity space, I would want to be also of that identity to offer that space, so I’ve thought about ways that I can collaborate or bring someone in – other folks I know that are men that do somatic type work. But I just felt called to have that offering because I was just feeling that there are not a lot of spaces for that. So I just really enjoy language riffing and brainstorming, and then also just being in conversation with people that aren’t necessarily in this space that aren’t don’t have the same language of “embodied resilience,” “trauma-informed,” and all those words and asking, “how does this language land?”
I’d say the other thing that along with going at the pace that you want, is asking for help, which can I think be hard sometimes. I had a friend that referred me to a nonprofit here in Portland, Oregon called Livelihood Northwest. They work for free for businesses that are getting started. I’ve been working with a business coach, maybe for five or six months, and I meet with them once a month. It’s kind of like an accountability buddy. Like, I had developed my copy, and up with all this, and they said, “Alright, I think it’s time to make a website that’s good enough doesn’t have to be perfect.” And I’m someone that once I tell someone I’m gonna do something, I have to do it! So then I took the copy, and I put it into a website template, and then I reached out to 10 or so people in my community from different kinds of jobs and places and said, “Hey, what do you think of this? What’s not clear to you? What do you want to see more of?”
It’s a long process, but I’m excited about the slower pacing. I was like, “okay, early 2024 – that’s fine for individual clients” My business coach is also helping me think about that. They know how busy I am, and I told them, realistically, I can probably work with a couple of new people between now and the new year. So I’ve been reaching out to my network and I posted on LinkedIn that I’m doing this now, so that people that know me and know my work in other areas, know that I’m doing it. It’s kind of like putting myself out there and not being afraid. I can’t remember if it was Desiree who said this or if it was just a conversation a few of us had that was so helpful, but it was something like, “remember that yes, this is a new certification, a new skill sets or offering…but you bring everything you’ve done and all of who you are to it.” That weird sort of collage of everywhere you’ve been and the way you see the world is showing up with you. So that also is helpful. And for anyone that is starting out, and maybe apprehensive, or nervous, or scared, or whatever…that was helpful to me to just remember that “yes, you have held space, and you’ve had people give you feedback that you held space in a way that worked for the group.“ So building on past experiences – that can be helpful, too.
Everyone has their own needs and processes and pieces. And it can depend – like some people I know that I was in the cohort with already had the infrastructure set up – like maybe they already had their own website or a newsletter. But for me, I’m starting to build all of that infrastructure now. I worked in digital communication though, so I know a lot about marketing. It doesn’t have to be creepy – marketing can sometimes scare people. But it’s just about making sure that if you are taking people’s attention span, that you do so in a way that’s meaningful for them. So again, it really depends. For example, I do have my other job that I work, so I’m not counting on needing to have 20 clients tomorrow.
On my website, I offer more than just the Resilience Toolkit – it’s workshops, writing, creative collaboration. I learned a lot more about myself in the pandemic, as many of us did, on bandwidth, and the grind, and pushing ourselves past capacity. And when I thought about this work and these offerings, I said “I want to do this work from as well a resourced place as I can.” I can’t just “grind” through this kind of work in particular. And because I’m the one designing the flow and the pacing, I’m just being mindful about whatever’s on my plate. Obviously, you have to be realistic about financial survival. But asking myself, “How can I do this work and try and set it up to be sustainable, and so that I continue to enjoy the work?” So a lot of factors go into thinking about that.
I think if someone’s in a similar situation – maybe checking out working with a coach. Like I mentioned, I’m working with this nonprofit, where free of charge, I get to meet with a coach that’s really knowledgeable. I can tend to linger in the dream space, and they bring me down and they’re like, “Okay, that sounds great. So how many units of time would you need to do that? How many clients? Or if you’re charging this, how many hours?” So they can help me be a little more realistic. And they have also given me some great ideas, because a lot of the communities that I want to serve – from a heart space and from my background – are folks that might not necessarily be able to pay the rate that I’m looking for as a business person to sustain the work. So they gave me some great ideas, which are so simple, and it’s just helpful to have someone else tell me, “okay, then go to the organization serving those folks, and those organizations have budgets.” So I’m thinking about creative ways, and I also pay a lot of attention to people that I follow or have engaged with and how they present opportunities for sliding scales and thinking about pricing. So I can think about, “Okay, for my business goals (which is okay – to have business goals) if I need to have this workshop make X amount of dollars, and I want to offer three free spots…” then I can work backwards to know how much to charge for the other spots. So the business coach has been helpful, because otherwise I will stay in the dream space. And just having someone else to talk through some of those things has been helpful.
What has been most satisfying in your work as a Resilience Toolkit Facilitator?
As a daily practitioner of the Resilience Toolkit for the past three years, I am deeply satisfied by my ability to self-soothe and to show up with a greater sense of wholeness in these ongoing times of global crises. I bring the Resilience Toolkit framework to all spaces that I facilitate and participate in.
I am amazed by how powerful co-regulation is. It’s really amazing what co-regulation can do. Those practice groups that I did for three years (which I’ll probably join again) showed me that we don’t have to know the life story of each person around us to be connected. And in a time where so many things feel severed and disconnected that is just really powerful.
What’s something that has piqued your interest recently that you would want to share with other Toolkit facilitators?
Yes – the book Rest is Resistance. Trisha Hersey describes herself as a womanist, and roots beyond white feminism as a Black scholar. This was a really beautiful book, and I just read it almost the way I would a poem – I didn’t take a lot of notes, I just let it sink in. Also – in 2020, I worked with Kelsey Blackwell, they were my somatic coach – and they wrote a beautiful book which I also just read. It’s called Decolonizing the Body: Healing, Body-Centered Practices for Women of Color to Reclaim Confidence, Dignity, and Self-Worth. I think that book would probably be of interest. These books kind of speak to each other in a lot of ways.
And I’m always listening to podcasts. I really got a lot of nourishment recently from Lama Rod Owens who wrote Love and Rage, and has a new book coming out. He’s the Black, queer Buddhist monk. He offered a one hour Instagram session and spoke to…how do we navigate when, in Palestine, there’s genocide happening, and there other parts of the country and of the world where it’s not being broadcast? How do we navigate that grief? And then he offered this one hour free Instagram talk that was a kind of ritual with water that was so helpful, and just really beautiful. So I am seeking out some of those teachers and podcasts that I follow, that are acknowledging the moment that we’re in, while also holding the space so that people feel rooted enough to be present and show up in where they are now.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
I think not feeling like you’re going it alone – like in the fear around creating offerings. There’s a realness that I so appreciate from all the Lumos facilitators – that there’s no sense of “we’ve reached this level” or that “we’re not feeling the impacts of the lives we’re living or our past experiences…” be it trauma, or however you want to label it. But that everyday, we are in this work, and we show up for ourselves, and then we can show up for the people we love, and those we’re trying to reach.
If you are interested in connecting with Vanessa, you can find her on https://www.poderosavoz.com.