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  • Writer's pictureLani Byrd

From Fear to Freedom: How Donated Devices Fuels Hope and Healing at Tubman

Tubman helps people of all ages, genders, and cultural backgrounds who have experienced relationship violence, sexual exploitation, homelessness, mental and chemical health challenges, and other trauma. A recent interview with Trudy Greaves, Executive Assistant to the CEO at Tubman, shares how donated cell phones, tablets, and other electronic devices from the 911 Cell Phone Bank are saving lives in Minnesota!

Tubman logo

Can you tell us about Tubman's mission and the services you provide for individuals who have experienced trauma?


Tubman’s vision represents the future we want for our clients and the wider community: thriving people, healthy relationships, and peaceful communities. Our mission is to advance opportunities for change so that every person can experience safety, hope, and healing.


Tubman’s comprehensive, trauma-informed services help people heal from relationship violence,  trafficking, homelessness, addiction, mental and chemical health challenges, and other trauma. Services include safety planning, a 24/7 crisis and resource help line, shelter, transitional housing, and rapid rehousing, legal services including Orders for Protection and attorney representation, addiction-informed mental health treatment and services, parenting education and child care, youth outreach, mobile case management, and in-school violence prevention education, job readiness and financial education, community education, and professional training for service providers.


A cellphone from the 911 Cell Phone Bank being donated to Tubman to assist a victim in need

How has Tubman utilized the resources provided by the 911 Cell Phone Bank since becoming our first partner supporter in 2005?


Beginning in 2005 and for the next 15(ish) years, Tubman received 911-only phones, which were desperately needed for our clients fleeing trauma. It gave them access to police in an emergency. Community partner organizations serving similar populations contacted us if they had a client in need, and we shared that resource. 


Now, we are very fortunate to receive phones that include minutes so clients can reach police in an emergency, as well as make appointments, access services, consult with attorneys, or make other necessary calls so they can move from fear to freedom. We still distribute 911-only phones – and many clients are able to access resources through WiFi, including Skype for phone calls. Many of the laptops and tablets we receive are given to the youth and young adults we serve who utilize them for school, continuing education, and online homework.

Theyve got a great study group. A group of students studying in the library.

In what ways have the devices obtained through the 911 Cell Phone Bank supported Tubman's efforts in facilitating continuing education for the people you serve?


Most of the laptops and tablets we receive are utilized by youth and young adults in our Safe Journey’s Transitional Living Program. Many are either finishing high school or enrolled in continuing ed/college courses, learning skills for future employment opportunities. Before receiving the laptops and tablets from 911 Cell Phone Bank, many students were trying to share the few computers Tubman had available, which made it harder to keep up with their schoolwork.


Specifically regarding women, how do the devices acquired through the 911 Cell Phone Bank aid in their empowerment and support?

Woman feels empowered by having a cell phone to stay connected to the world

Many of the women we serve are/were connected to their abusive partners’ phone plan. If they continued to use that phone, they had a higher risk of stalking and retaliation from their partner.  After receiving a phone from 911 Cell Phone Bank, the women we serve can safely make appointments, job search, talk with attorneys and  contact additional resources, and stay connected with family, friends, and Tubman staff.  


How do these devices contribute to the safety and well-being of children who have experienced trauma or are at risk?


Parents can use the phones to make appointments for their children and stay in communication with their children’s schools. Youth in our transitional living program feel safer traveling to/from school, and out in the community. They have a safety plan in place and can connect with Tubman staff, teachers, and mental health providers.   


What other persons besides women and children have benefited from donated devices, and for what purpose?


We serve all gender identities and the LGBTQ+ community who are fleeing domestic violence and have lost or had their phones stolen. They also may have been connected to their abusive partners phone plan or have been connected to their abusive parent or guardians’ phone plan.  


Can you share any specific success stories or testimonials illustrating the impact of these devices on individuals within your organization?

A young woman receives a 911 Cell Phone Bank phone to use in Tubman's 'Safe Journey's Program'
A young woman receives a 911 Cell Phone Bank phone in Tubman's 'Safe Journey's Program'


One of our major successes in our youth transitional housing program is the number of high school graduates this year – 3! They have been able to stay connected to their schools via a phone, tablet, or laptop provided to them by the 911 Cell Phone Bank.


Also, many residents have been able to obtain employment because they could receive phone calls, send emails, and apply for jobs in the community.


Additionally, residents are able to experience more freedom being out in their community as a result of feeling safe because they have a 911 cell phone.


What strategies has Tubman implemented to encourage the community to donate unused cell phones, tablets, laptops, and other electronic devices to support your cause?


Used electronic devices are always listed as needed items on our website.


Have you faced any challenges or obstacles in integrating the devices into your programs, and if so, how have you overcome them?

Youth are avid texters, so they weren’t terribly interested in flip phones. However, since receiving smart phones, integrating the 911 Cell Phones is much easier.  Though we are limited in the number of phones we receive with minutes, youth have been very willing to download and use Skype so they can use the 911-only phones and still stay connected. 


Cell phone with downloadable app icons

Are there any particular features or functionalities of the donated devices that have been especially beneficial for the people you serve?

Smart phones that allow downloading of apps to use with free WiFi has been invaluable for our clients. Unlimited texting is a must for youth clients.


How do you measure the effectiveness of incorporating technology, such as donated devices, into your support services?


It is huge! Technology helps keep clients safe in so many ways. Clients of all ages and genders can create virtual safety plans, so when they go out, they know what to do if they feel unsafe. Technology also helps clients connect with staff for extra support, even after they leave our program. The best measurement is simply to listen to our clients. They tell us what they need. And in today’s world, technology is no longer a want, it is a need.


Beyond communication purposes, in what other ways have the donated devices been utilized to enhance the support and resources provided by Tubman?


Clients can use laptops and tablets to create resumes, cover letters, participate in job search workshops, and apply for jobs. Students use laptops and tablets to complete school assignments and attend virtual classes.


Can you speak to any collaborations or partnerships facilitated through the 911 Cell Phone Bank that have furthered Tubman's mission?


We are always collaborating and partnering with other service organizations, police departments, schools, etc.  Donations from 911 Cell Phone Bank help facilitate these partnerships by providing a means for clients to stay connected to resources. We’ve seen particular success in building stronger partnerships with schools and housing resources in our suburban metro area.


How do you envision the role of technology evolving in your organization's efforts to support individuals affected by trauma in the future?


Using technology has become an invaluable tool to support people affected by trauma.  As such, Tubman continues to evolve and incorporate technology in as many ways as we can to support our clients.  We can proactively support clients who prefer virtual appointments with mental health, chemical health, and medical providers; have virtual meetings with attorneys and attend virtual court hearings; attend virtual classes and complete homework assignments; or simply staying connected to their case managers, and support systems. Having access to technology opens so many more avenues for clients to address and overcome trauma.

Woman holding older cell phones and putting them in a box for donation

Lastly, what message would you like to convey to individuals and organizations considering donating to the 911 Cell Phone Bank to support Tubman and similar organizations?


Please donate your phones and electronic devices to 911 Cell Phone Bank, where they will be securely cleaned, rebuilt, and given to people who desperately need them. Your donations will remove barriers to safety, increase access to resources, and help clients experience safety, hope, and healing as they move from fear to freedom.

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