Neighbor Spotlight: Donita Royal, Mothers Against Violence Healing Ministry
By Danae Freeman, Engagement Manager
Donita Royal is the founder of an organization called Mothers Against Violence Healing Ministry (MAVHM). The group was one of the nominees for INRC’s 2022 Collaborative Spirit Award and won after receiving the popular vote from their video submission for the application.
The video demonstrated MAVHM’s goal to reach mothers across Indianapolis grieving from the loss of their children to gun violence and offer continuous support through the stages of their healing. The group assists mothers and families by helping with funeral costs, rent, transportation, food, and clothing.
As part of their reward for the Collaborative Spirit Award, they attended the Neighborhoods, USA (NUSA) conference in El Paso, Texas.
Below is a Q&A with Donita about her experience alongside other members of MAVHM applying for the award and attending Neighborhoods USA.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I’m Donita Royal, and I run an organization called Mothers Against Violence Healing Ministry. The reason being is because my son and his best friend got killed to gun violence. I am a mother of two, a daughter and a son. He was my son. And so, I help the mothers who have lost a child to gun violence and who share the same pain by encouraging, uplifting, and going to different community events. Because I believe that is part of healing by serving in the community and serving others. I just help and encourage, go to funerals, and give resources as they are going through their grieving process.
What made you want to apply for Collaborative Spirit?
Well, I’d been hearing about INRC. I probably went to many events about it, and saw others, so I believe the timing was right. And I felt like MAVHM fit the criteria. Cooperation means collaborating with other community partners. Or being with others in our communities. All across Indianapolis. All the criteria, the social, the coming together, the neighborhood. I just felt like that was a good fit because we are involved in the neighborhoods. So yeah, I was like give it a shot.
What was the process like for you creating the video that you submitted for the Collaborative Spirit Award?
Well, to do the video, the process was first getting somebody to help me with it. And to put it together and make sure that I’m saying the right words. I’m a fast talker because I like to get it over with. It was a good experience, a learning experience, another learning experience of putting things together in an order.
What were some challenges that you ran into applying for the award and going through the process?
The challenge was getting people to vote. And since I’m not a big social media person, I had to have all the platforms with it. So, to try to get people to vote and share — that was like a big challenge for me.
What did others say in response to you applying?
They said, “Awesome”. “Great”. Yeah, “You deserve it”. I like to say “we”; I don’t like to say “I” because I can’t do it by myself. I need my mothers that we have. I need my volunteers. I need my family. So, I’m gonna say we, as Mothers Against Violence, is not just me.
How did you feel when it was announced that you won and that you finally got to the finish line?
Well, I had a little funny feeling because I try not to be big-headed. And I try to stay humble as much as I can. So, and the funny thing about it, I was the last one, right? I thought it was all over with. So, I was the last one. And when I heard, I was just numb. Tears kind of came. And I was like oh my god. Oh my god. And then I had to realize with others who were really excited for me that was there. It was nothing little, it was something big. And it was something national. So, all of those different feelings were coming. And I said yeah, I need to own up to this. I need to stop being so, not deserving. So, I had to appreciate it. That I do deserve it!
And then to hear them. They came in and said, “You do awesome work, and we really love what you do”. Because a lot of times what Mothers Against Violence do is kind of different and a lot of people don’t understand it. And I don’t want anyone to lose anyone to understand it. You know, so I try to do as much as I can to explain what we do, why we do it. Mothers do get lost in the end. They forget. A lot of people forget, when you lose a child or really any loss. And so, people forget, and it’s not that they mean to, it’s just the way it is. And then mothers end up being alone. Going through the grief with no one to there to talk to, even with family.
Can you tell me a little bit about your experience going to Neighborhoods, USA, and if you have some highlights from that that you’d like to share?
That experience going, I was a little excited. The plane was good. The seating was good. They planned it so well. And getting there and meeting all the different people from all over. I like to meet a lot of different people and to see what they are doing, and, to hear what they are doing — and can I even collaborate with them? So, the people there were nice and awesome. Oh my god, the workshops were so good. Like different workshops. The police officers were there, what to do and how to secure your neighborhood and what kind of locks to have in your door. That’s some stuff you really need to hear. So, and then there were other workshops, where they talked about the neighborhoods and their neighborhood watch. The seniors, how they came together. As one older elderly man, he stepped up and wanted to make the seniors safe in the neighborhood. It was a rough neighborhood. The different types of workshops that they had — it was so educational, and a lot of learning that you can bring back. I could bring it back home, to our mothers and just share a lot of good things. We think we know it all or we think we know about our neighborhoods, but there’s always something new that we can bring back. I’m an information person and I love resources. So, I like going to workshops and seminars just to learn and bring back. That’s so important.
I went on a tour. They took us around to a few neighborhoods and so, so it was awesome. It was a lot of information and also a lot of seeing different people and good attitudes.
What would you like others to know about the Collaborative Spirit Award?
I would encourage them to apply because you get good feedback. And INRC employees/staff and community workers are always willing to help you. Any questions, anything you feel like that you need, or anything that you even think that’s a dumb question — it’s not. And to get the response back. It’s very easy when you have someone to help you and answer the questions that you need. You know, so no question. Think you got a question. Just email or call and ask and always get good feedback on what to do and how to do it. So that’s, that’s really good. They really want to see you prosper, to see you get your application in, and they are right there to help you. That means a lot.
Watch MAVHM’s Collaborative Spirit Award Video here: 2022 Collaborative Spirit Award Submission: Mothers Against Violence Healing Ministry