Nishauna Ball joined the Sojourner House board in June 2019 and joined the Sojourner House MOMS board in November 2019; however, her relationship with Sojourner House is a lifelong one and one that has played a pivotal role in the course she has taken in life.
Nishauna is Program Development Manager at Pennsylvania Organization for Women in Early Recovery (POWER). In addition, the Penn Hills resident earned her Master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh with a focus on Social Work, and in January 2020 she passed the Social Work Boards examination earning her licensure in social work.
How did you first learn about Sojourner House?
I am a former employee. I’m a former volunteer. And I am a former child that lived there.
I’ve been a part of Sojourner House my entire life. And being on the board is a truly humbling experience. It’s surreal.
What do you remember about your experience at Sojourner House as a child?
As a child, before coming to Sojourner House, I had family members taking care of me. So when I went to Sojourner House, a family member dropped me off and I was with my mom, who I hadn’t seen in a while. I didn’t necessarily understand everything in the moment, but I feel like it is where my mom and I bonded for the first time. It was a big deal that we had an apartment and made dinner and spent time together. I remember kind of, in a way, feeling love for the first time from her. And being in a stable situation for the first time.
How did you reconnect with Sojourner House as an adult?
When I was in college, I realized that I wanted to do social work and was told that it’s a good idea to volunteer to get an idea of which area you want to work in. So my first thought was to volunteer at Sojourner House.
I volunteered for at least a year and then an opportunity to become a Program Aide opened up. I was so excited to get experience in the field before I’m done with school, and be at a place that I love. I finished up my bachelor’s while I was working at Sojourner House and moved on, but I never lost the relationship.
Nishauna Ball as a child while at Sojourner House
How did you become a Board Member?
I kept in touch with staff and would go to the Victorian Tea every year and then I was asked to be on the board. I agreed because I feel like Sojourner House is a part of what saved me. I really don’t know what my story would look like otherwise. It is where my mom was able to keep clean for the most time. So any time I can give back, I will. If my story is going to inspire a mom or a child or a donor, then I feel I need to tell it. I feel like I had to go through these difficult times being a child of an addict for a reason and now I need to use that story and use my life to give back whenever I can.
About Your Role
What do you find the most rewarding about working with Sojourner House?
I really believe in Sojourner House. I believe in the mission, I believe in the staff and the board and what they’re doing. This place has been open for over 20 years now and I just feel like I wouldn’t be talking to you right now if it weren’t for them.
I have those memories of being at Sojourner House, walking up the steps and going into that apartment with my mom. I also remember how horrible it felt, to not understand what was going on when she left me with family, but then I got to see her again at the steps of Sojourner House.
To sit on the board and help them continue to grow and keep children with their mothers, means so much. I see the women and the kids, and it is almost always an emotional moment for me. I think, “I was that child with their mom.”
What do you find most challenging about working with Sojourner House?
Honestly, my memories are a little double-edged. Sometimes it’s tough to see that these women and children have been through so much and I know that feeling. The mothers don’t want to be sick. They don’t want to have the disease of addiction. And it’s hard because my own mom is still struggling. Every once in a while, it can hit a nerve, and at the same time, it’s still a beautiful and powerful thing.
So what do you like to do in your spare time?
I’m obsessed with traveling. I want to do it more. I take several trips a year. I love traveling because it’s just a chance to unplug from everything. The place that I get the most peace from is a beach to me. I went to Puerto Rico for my birthday. I have friends in Florida, so I usually go to Florida a couple of times a year. And I’ve been to Germany and Spain.
Two summers ago, I went on a 14-day trip to California and Seattle with about 6 family members. We did a two-week trip, one week in California and one week in Seattle, that was really awesome.
So how would those closest to you describe you?
Probably they would say I’m a serious and in-control person. I’m not like a silly person. They would say that I’m a planner. I’m the person who, if we said we were leaving at 5:30 and it’s 5:31, I wonder why everyone isn’t ready.
They would say I’m loyal. People know that I will hold their hurt or hold their secret, or hold their pain. I’m the helper. I’m the one who if I can do something to help, I’m going to do it.
What is your motto or personal mantra? Do you have one?
It changes and I’ve had different ones throughout the years.
One is, “People are in your life for a season, a reason, or a lifetime.” That has helped me during times when someone I thought was going to be in my life forever hasn’t stayed. So I ask myself what have I learned from them and what can I take from that relationship.
Another is along the lines of “You Only Live Once.” My friend and I share this one, as a reminder that we have this one life to live and let’s live it to the fullest. Take advantage of every day. Yes, some days are hard. Yes, some days suck, some days are sad and that’s going to happen. Let’s go on the trip. Let’s plan the party. Let’s do it because we’re not promised tomorrow.
What is one thing you can’t live without?
Coffee is a hundred percent. I’m obsessed with it. I drink it — cold, hot, iced, all day every day. I love coffee. I really don’t think I can make it without it. I don’t care where it’s from. Just give me coffee.
So you said you love to travel. Do you have a dream vacation in mind?
I absolutely want to go to Italy.
Is there anything else on your bucket list?
I want to go to Mexico in the next two years.
I want to live in another state as an adult. Not necessarily a specific state, but I want to experience another state.
I just checked off a bucket list item a few weeks ago — to take and pass my licensure exam. I’m now a licensed social worker. I’m very happy to finally check that off.
And I think I want to skydive once.