What Do Downtown Abbey, Adventures in Odyssey, and Healing Abuse and Exploitation Have in Common?

I am privileged to be part of this cutting-edge project for bringing healing to survivors of abuse and exploitation. I am also excited to begin the process of producing it in Thailand and Asia.

Listen in as an experienced caregiver (voiced by Cathy Sara – Mrs. Drake from Downtown Abbey) guides listeners in best practices for aftercare using the power of story. The script was written by Kathy Buchanan from Adventures in Odyssey, based on core content that I developed. 

Holding Esther: “New Christian radio drama trains caregivers to help abused children”

“You can’t stay here … he’ll be back any minute.”

“He’ll kill you, he’ll kill us both!”

“I’m not going to let this keep happening. Hurry, hurry! He’s coming!”

The excerpt, presented in rich, British-African accents, is from Holding Esther, an audio drama written to help train caregivers of children traumatized by physical or sexual abuse. It’s the debut project of Rivercross, Inc., which announced last week it is coming under the umbrella of TransWorld Radio to broadcast the program internationally.

“I went after this subject matter because … I wanted to go after the worst,” said Susan Vonolszewski, president of Rivercross and Holding Esther’s executive producer.

The drama tells the story of two orphaned sisters,12-year-old Esther and 10-year-old Sarah, who face betrayal and sexual abuse in their own family. They escape, only to find themselves suffering more hardship on the streets. Eventually, the girls find a safe house where caregivers help them on the road to emotional and spiritual healing.

The story models proven methods of care that national workers in Africa and elsewhere can imitate to help open children’s hearts to the gospel….Vonolszewski pulled together a team of experts in trauma care, child development, human trafficking, and other areas to consult on the project. She chose radio drama because studies suggest that, in an oral culture, stories can spur more change than pamphlets or other written materials.

Kathy Buchanan from Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey developed the script and Cathy Sara, who played Mrs. Drake on Downton Abbey, is the featured actress. Director Todd Busteed has worked on other faith-themed projects, including Amazing Grace, Narnia, and Left Behind. John Campbell, a composer for The Walt Disney Co., wrote the original music score.

When she started the project, Vonolszewski didn’t realize caregivers often struggle with loving the children they deal with daily. Some have unresolved abuse or trauma in their own backgrounds, and most have little formal education or training…. Vonolszewski heard of one orphanage in which workers knew girls were being systematically raped in the bathroom but never told the director because the subject was taboo.

Holding Esther can help bring these issues into the open and, more importantly, help national workers view caregiving as something more than a job, Vonolszewski said. One early showing got a very positive response from workers because they “considered the caregiver the hero,” Vonolszewski said. “I didn’t think we were going to accomplish that in three episodes. But that’s what we ended up accomplishing; the caregivers realized they needed to love the children.”

To reach a wider audience, Rivercross joined forces with TransWorld Radio (TWR), the most far-reaching Christian broadcasting network in the world. It reaches 160 countries in more than 230 languages. TWR has already translated the production into several different languages, including African-French, Swahili, Spanish, and Ugandan. [We have just started working on the process of translating it into Thai and other languages in the region.]

Listeners can access the first three episodes of Holding Esther online and over satellite phones. Writing and production for the remaining episodes are in the works but waiting for more funding. Although the program can’t make abused children whole, Vonolszewski hopes it will help point them and their caregivers to the One who can.

[Excerpted from “New Christian radio drama trains caregivers to help abused children” World Magazine, January 27, 2015]


2 thoughts on “What Do Downtown Abbey, Adventures in Odyssey, and Healing Abuse and Exploitation Have in Common?

  1. May the Lord bless you with His peace, protection and powerful responses to this project. I am praying for you.

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