Student helps women escape stress with retreat

Written by Muleskinner Staff

April Dion (far left) created a group for women to help them with life stresses. (Photo submitted)
April Dion (far left) created a group for women to help them with life stresses. (Photo submitted)

Story by Courtney Muns, for The Muleskinner—
UCM has a graduate student who has accomplished many things in her life, such as an internship with BET and an internship with The Style Network through NBC Television.
She has been a frequent Dean’s List student, and was initiated into the McNair Scholars Research program. She has a bachelor’s degree from UCM in political science, and is expecting to graduate in May with a master’s in communication.
Despite all of these achievements, what makes April Dion so special is her initiative to host a young women’s retreat, and her determination to make it happen.
Dion participated in a Music Mission for two separate terms, and after returning from her summer mission in 2011, she had the idea to start young women’s retreats.
“I saw the hurt, anger and frustration in the world, and knew the same had to be occurring in my community,” Dion said.
She proceeded to get in touch with an old friend and begin weekly Bible studies, which still continue today.
Although First Baptist Church helped to fund these retreats, she funded them mostly herself.
“The idea was to take the girls to a serene location away from life’s stresses and distractions so that we could pour into the young ladies with the word of God, mentorship and other inspiring and edifying fundamental lessons,” Dion said. “I wanted to create a community that superseded me because I knew soon I’d be graduating and someone else would have to continue to spread the love and sisterhood, and so the retreat idea began and it grew.”
Some of the young ladies who attended the retreats dealt with problems such as suicide, self-injury, eating disorders and loneliness, but Dion said the retreats are not solely for young ladies who have troubles. The retreats provide an environment filled with warmth, support and a safe place to resolve issues and get advice.
“At the retreat we don’t judge each other,” Dion said. “Instead, we support each other and learn that none of us are perfect.”
The retreats are typically two to three nights. They go on nature walks, have Bible study, watch motivational videos, participate in team building activities, play games, cook, and just have fun and relax.
In fall 2012, more than 22 girls attended these retreats. These girls came from Florida, Texas, Africa and Missouri.
Dion said she’d like to host them places outside of Missouri, such as Colorado or California, if there is enough budget. Future plans also include trying to collaborate with the Music Mission that she has attended.
“I’ve learned along the way the importance of positive fellowship,” Dion said. “As women, we have a mission. We are the caregivers of your family. We are usually the support of many. If you have a strong woman, she then can go back and pour into her community and the positive seeds are continually planted.”