“Your voice can be used as an instrument of change to shift perspectives and change the world,” says Amanda Schneider, East Valley resident and Executive Director of Amplify Voices, a local nonprofit.
Alongside Gilbert resident Deb Shapiro, the founder of Amplify Voices, Schneider leads this one-of-a-kind nonprofit that encourages people from marginalized communities who want to use their voices as to change perspectives, therefore changing themselves and the world.
How It Works
“I want to find a simple way to efficiently raise the consciousness of the world,” Shapiro says.
To do this, Shapiro and Schneider work with members of marginalized communities and help them build the skills and confidence they need to share their stories with the world through a training and development program modified from the corporate world. This can either be a 90-day Speaker Experience or a 30-day Speaker Circle where they work in a virtual environment with other participants. Each program culminates with the participants sharing their experiences on a public platform.
Established in September 2020, Amplify Voices has already helped survivors of sexual assault and human trafficking, the formerly incarcerated, and breast cancer survivors tell their stories.
“We help our participants find their voices and to learn that their voices matter,” says Schneider. “The program is built on a strong foundation, and I’ve gone through the program myself. Once the participants tell their stories, the audience can access a new level of understanding and see the humanity of every person.”
The experience has proven to be a life changing one for its participants.
“This experience has made me realize that there is space for me in this world and that my lived experience is relevant and important to others. I matter,” shares Dana, a Speaker Circle program graduate.
“Even in the hardest times in our life, even in the most tragic things that happen to us, there is a message of hope and that there is a lightness inside of our darkness,” says Hannah, a Speaker Circle program graduate. “So, I’m grateful for this program.”
“The community of women who were so courageous and uplifting, who gave freely of their time and held a safe space for each and every one of us encouraged me to share things I have never said out loud before,” says Trina, a Speaker Circle program graduate. “This program challenged me mentally and emotionally. It pushed me out of my comfort zone and allowed me growth, freedom and power beyond what I could have imagined. The program is clear, concise and ran like a well-oiled machine. The step-by-step process is easy to follow and creates amazing results. Having a buddy to lean on that has gone through the process was a huge advantage. Deb is amazing, supportive and uplifting.”
As an example of the powerful work being done by Amplify and its participants, the nonprofit recently shared “The Journey” both at an in-person event and online. According to the nonprofit, "’The Journey’" tells the story of three trafficked and sexual assault survivors who were part of the first group of women to go through the ninety-day Amplify Voices Program. The film follows these courageous women as they take steps to heal, find sisterhood, and learn to give voice to their trauma in a series of powerful and inspiring stage talks.”
“’The Journey’ had fantastic reviews,” Schneider says. “It [sexual assault and trafficking] is a tough topic and the film highlights the survivors’ stories but also the process of going through our 90-day program. Through the process, the participants only go as far as they are comfortable going and, because of this safe space, experience healing and a new understanding of themselves.”
Audience feedback from “The Journey” was powerful.
“This impacted me by making me realize how many women go through something traumatic like this and especially at a young age,” says Samantha, an audience member. “It made me thankful to be a woman and a part of such a strong and impactful community.”
“This movie opened up my mind to how much I feel and see the suppression within women and now I want to start to make a difference and speak up,” adds Jessie, another audience member.
The Power of Connection and Community
Shapiro and Schneider both agree that Amplify Voices is such a powerful program because of how it connects and inspires the speakers and those who hear their powerful stories.
“Amplify Voices allowed me to gain confidence in my ability to speak my truth with emotion and step into my own powerful voice knowing that my voice matters and it will resonate with those that need to hear my message,” shares Trina.
“The experience really confirms my perception that taking time to share stories is a key aspect of creating understanding and connection - and that there's something in everyone's story that I can connect to,” says an audience member.
Experience Amplify Voices on May 11: Beyond Breast Cancer
For those interested in hearing the stories of women who have participated in Amplify Voices’ program, the nonprofit will debut its latest set of stories from women who have experienced breast cancer. The event happens on May 11 from 6-8 p.m. at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts and it will also be live streamed online.
“While a woman’s journey with breast cancer is a journey that many face alone, it is also a powerful teacher for change. This is a story that deserves to be heard. Join Amplify Voices and listen as eight remarkable women share their powerful stories of transforming pain into power, and fear into unwavering courage,” according to the nonprofit.
To learn more about Amplify Voices, visit amplifyvoices.org. To learn more about Beyond Breast Cancer, visit amplifyvoices.org/events.
“Even in the hardest times in our life, even in the most tragic things that happen to us, there is a message of hope"