Student intern helps plant seeds of hope and empowerment

August 2023
By Erika M. Hirschman, Contributing Writer


When Sarah Torres looks into the eyes of the women at Mustard Seed Shelter, she sees herself.

Years ago, Sarah’s own life was not that different from these women (called guests) at our cozy home on Cherry Street. Sarah is a current student enrolled in a Masters in Social Work online program and is interning this summer at the shelter. She works to counsel, encourage and empower the women she’s had the pleasure of meeting.

What makes her internship experience at Mustard Seed profound is that she is a survivor of domestic violence, substance misuse and mental health issues. Sarah, now healed, can empathize with the guests’ struggles in a way that others may not.

Given her own tough experiences, Sarah says she has a deep understanding for what the guests may be going through personally, which in turn allows her to better relate to those women. When Sarah graduates this December with her MSW degree she would like to work as a clinical therapist.

Sarah has chosen to use her painful past for good, and has enjoyed interning this summer and giving back to the shelter’s guests in many ways.

“I teach a parenting class, run a roundtable discussion and a support group. I encourage the guests at Mustard Seed to pay it forward. I think through these discussions the guests have gotten closer. The love and care here at Mustard Seed is contagious,” says Sarah. “Everyone meshes better and gets along when there’s an understanding among the guests.”

Part of being an intern also means Sarah drives guests to appointments, and attends local field trips. Small gestures can mean the world to the women at Mustard Seed.

“I don’t want other women to feel helpless. I fought for my life. I gained strength for me and for my son,” she says proudly. “I want to empower the women here and give them strength and encouragement – light a spark and plant those seeds.”

Years ago as Sarah was overcoming her own difficulties, she decided she wanted to counsel and help women. The love she has for her son, Oliver, was also an incentive and a reason to turn her life around.

Sarah – an honor student at both Delta College and Wayne State University – feels she gained the strength through therapy to overcome her struggles, and will make therapy her life’s work.

Sarah is proud of how she’s turned her life around, and acknowledges that it takes perseverance, support and guidance from people who care.

“My calling is to help other women in any way that I can,” she says.

Mustard Seed Executive Director Amy Bartels Roe says Sarah exudes an invaluable sense of peace and calmness.

“This is really great for our guests, many of whom have suffered trauma and/or have come from places of chaos,” Amy says. “Sarah is an excellent listener and is wonderful at guiding our guests in creating and achieving goals that will improve their lives.”

Amy continues to say that the guests trust Sarah, which is HUGE. “Many of the folks we serve have lost trust or perhaps never had it,” Amy explains. “It is a pleasure to observe that each and every time following a meeting with Sarah, our guests are wearing big smiles.”




About Erika M. Hirschman

Erika M. Hirschman lives in Saginaw and is a veteran freelance writer. She has enjoyed meeting and interviewing the amazing, strong women at Mustard Seed Shelter. Erika is inspired by the stories she’s heard and feels grateful to those women who have trusted her to write and share those stories with our followers and supporters.