Kelsey Hitchingham is the Founder and Executive Director of The Hitchingham Group, a data and finance analysis consulting firm for small and mid-sized Austin-based nonprofits.Kelsey is passionate about progressive and social issues. In 2006 she founded a small nonprofit that funded the construction of a school in the village of Mae Sot, Thailand, which borders what is now called Myanmar and is home to thousands of Myanmar refugees. Kelsey was a 2018 fellow of New Leaders Council, the country's largest Millennial Leadership Training Institute, and now serves as Co-Director of the Austin NLC Chapter. Additionally, is the Board Chair of Lone Star Victims Advocacy Project and is Vice Chair of the Austin Young Chamber's Economic Development Committee.
Why did you join the LSVAP board?
I joined the LSVAP Board as a way to help support a newly formed nonprofit in Austin with an established track record and clearly defined mission to help immigrant victims of domestic violence. I consider board service to be a critical component of my civic engagement and was excited to be a founding board member for this important organization.
What does LSVAP’s work mean to you?
LSVAP provides safety and hope for victims of domestic violence who are facing deportation in addition to the trauma of DV. The team’s compassion, empathy and expertise in handling these cases is a major component of healing for any victim of family violence, especially for those who are in already vulnerable situations by way of immigration status. In addition to these crucial services, the trainings provided by LSVAP to first responders in rural Texas bring an empathetic, humane perspective to law enforcement that is sadly lacking in many communities. By bridging the divide that often exists between social services, immigrationa nd public safety, LSVAP is creating cultural shifts and maintaining the integrity of families who have experienced trauma.
What are the greatest challenges you face in your work?
Many entrenched politicians and political institutions are steeped in anti-immigrant, nationalist ideology and as a result, systems are built to disempower and dehumanize immigrants. Unjust police tactics, the refusal to bridge the language barrier, and the subversive tactics taken by ICE present threats to the lives and livelihoods of all immigrants. LSVAP serves clients not only facing these threats, but those who have also experienced domestic violence who are typically re-victimized many times over if they are bold enough to report abuse. Many victims are forced to stay with their abusers under threat of deportation and family separation, and these laws and their practice by law enforcement officers compounds the trauma and terror experienced by the LSVAP clients.
What empowers you?
Watching the LSVAP team move through funding crises, legislative blows, a global pandemic and economic recession, and still maintain a fierce and unwavering dedication to ensuring that the clients are served. .
What have you learned that you didn’t know before joining the LSVAP board?
I have learned exactly how much a nonprofit can stretch a dollar, and how shameful it is that an organization like LSVAP, that provides critical- and often, the only-legal services available to their clients in rural Texas, should have to rely on grit and moxie to keep the lights on. I have learned the strength not only of the LSVAP staff, but of their clients and their families, who are strong and fierce men, women, and families fighting for their for their chance to live a better life free from fear.