I had the opportunity this week to observe butterflies emerging from their cocoons at my daughter’s school. There were five of them in the net butterfly cage. When the teacher arrived at school that morning, one had already emerged and a second cocoon was wiggling. By the time the children all joined in on circle time, the second butterfly was visible from the cocoon as it worked to fully free itself, and two more cocoons were shaking as the insects inside struggled to finish their transformation. One cocoon was shaking so furiously back and forth, over and over, I was afraid it was going to fall. The other cocoon would shake a few times and then go still. The shakes themselves were so small, you had to look closely to even see the attempt. There were smears of red on the napkin on which the cocoons were attached, and the teacher explained to the children that the butterflies did bleed during the transformation, but they would be okay once they were free. As I watched this process, I found myself thinking of the Co-op. I thought of how we categorized our members into caterpillars, cocoons, and butterflies, and in that moment I realized just how accurate that truly is. The symbol of the butterfly stands for so much more than just a pretty and colorful insect, but of the journey and struggles our women face daily to truly metamorphosis into something stronger.

Many of the women that enter our doors are caterpillars. Struggling as they crawl through life, uncertain of where they are going, or who they are to be. They are taken in and encouraged to lean on those around them. Their only job at this stage in their life is to consume what they need from others to survive, not quite ready to be on their own or sustain anyone else. As time passes these women will grow and slowly weave a cocoon of support and friendship around them. Although we never leave their side, they must eventually enter this cocoon alone and begin an internal journey towards transformation.

Just as it was happening in the butterfly net, each woman carries out this process differently. Some women are fighters, they shake furiously past barriers and constraints, determined to bust through the cocoon and spread their wings. Others are more hesitant, they take steps slowly, at times it looks as if they are taking no action at all, but if you look close enough, you can see they are trying. We strive to always be encouraging them from the outside, telling them in so many words “you are going to bleed a little, but you will be okay once you are free.” For some that is enough to encourage one more shake, one more push, until their world cracks open and they are forever changed.

Once the butterflies were free, the teacher took great care in laying down flower petals and showering them with sugar water. She explained the water would give the butterflies nourishment and strength to successfully fly on their own and survive released. This is so important to the butterflies, if they are released before they are strong enough to fly, they will not survive. It is just as important to the women we serve. They work through huge transformations and appear to be a healthier stronger woman on the outside, yet many are still so weak and fragile. We shower them with encouragement, affirmation, and support until they truly are strong enough to fly. In addition, if we have nurtured them right, they will continue in the program, joining the flutter of their sisters to encourage the caterpillars coming in the door.

For many this process can take several years and we must wait. It is never easy to wait for a woman to see and embrace what we already know, to embrace how amazing she truly is, to embrace the potential of who she is to be, and what her life can hold someday. No, it is not easy, but it is worth it. Someday she will find the strength. Someday she will break through, and on that day I look forward to being there, to nourish her, to encourage her, to eventually set her free. This blog will be a place to share their stories and experiences, as well as my own, as I am privileged enough to be a part of this organization. I hope that you will be as inspired as I am by the strength and determination among the butterflies.

Woman's Co-op


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