She walked in the room with the other women as a caterpillar. Those insects crawl on the ground, they are fuzzy and slimy, and for all practical purposes, they're pretty disgusting looking creatures. But they don't remain that way.
Her demeanor displayed a broken spirit, despair, and hopelessness. She didn't open her mouth that night or at the session the week after. And we didn't pry, nor did we push her. It wasn't time. Just like the caterpillar, within weeks or even months they transform, after a brief time nestled in a cocoon, into a beautiful butterfly. If the cocoon is pried open before its time, the butterfly can die.
This young lady, after seven weeks, has become a butterfly, soon to have her second child; is taking care of herself; is working; and is planning to pursue a degree in 2009. She's talking, trusting again and smiling. What a transformation!
The butterfly metaphor truly describes the impact we have made on this young woman and many others who have gone through our program, "Hope IS Possible."
HOPE IS POSSIBLE , a Southeast Enterprise Institute Inc. program, is a women's self-help talk therapy support program inspired by two beautiful children who lost their lives at the hands of their mother in November 2007. This philanthropic initiative is an innovative, proactive and positive approach to self-help for women. We help enhance their emotional, spiritual, economic and physical health.
Sometimes there are incidents or circumstances that happen in one's life, directly or indirectly, that compel her to make drastic changes in her personal and/or professional life. In my case, the incident was last year's tragedy. It changed my life.
As a radio talk show host, entrepreneur, community activist, and former political candidate, my world, as it was, turned upside down on Friday, Nov. 30, 2007. I was taken out of my comfort zone and thrust into a world of hurt, pain and despair.
During the 10 days of publicly raising money so that these adorable babies could have a Christian and proper funeral and burial, women I did not know approached me -- in person, via e-mail and my radio program -- to share their concerns, trials and hardships. Some of them sounded like challenges and hurts I've had in my life.
WHAT I HEARD in the women's voices and read in the e-mails was despair, brokenness and suffering. There's a stark difference between despair and hope. Despair means "to lose all hope; to be overcome by a sense of futility or defeat." Hope means "to wish for something with expectations of its fulfillment; to look forward to with confidence and expectation."
Suffering is real. All of us have suffered at some point in our lives. Some more than others. Some more severe than others. This is precisely what Hope IS Possible is all about.
Did you know that almost three-quarters of children in Georgia living with a single parent live with a single mother? In Richmond County, a single female parent heads up 20.8 percent of households. Almost 50 percent of ninth-grade high school students drop out. Young people are joining gangs (or want to) in droves. Family fragmentation has a tremendous impact on teenage crime, gang activity and school dropout rates.
OUR AUGUSTA juvenile courts are overflowing with young children who ought to be in school. Mothers sitting in the courtrooms are filled with despair, many are tired and many simply do not know what to do.
A recent headline in another newspaper read, "Lack of love strengthens gangs." That headline, says it all, doesn't it?
For several months after that November incident, I kept asking myself "what about the mothers? Who's helping the women?"
We believe our program helps to deal with the root of the problem. We can provide all of the help and mentoring programs for our young people. But what if they're going home every day to a mother who needs help, who is reaching out but no one is there, who feels despair and helplessness, but wears a mask to make it appear that everything is alright?
The problems are not going away. Our goal is to tackle some of the social challenges facing us today by helping women, especially single mothers.
THE TALK THERAPY approach, led by a facilitator in a non-threatening environment that strives on building trust, is the key to our success. Our seven-week sessions, also known as tracks, focus on principles that develop integrity. Each session lasts one hour and builds on the one from the previous week. At the conclusion, the women are connected with a mentor who has previously gone through the program, and a graduation ceremony is held where they receive a Certificate of Achievement.
We believe Hope IS Possible will help reduce high school dropouts; minimize the need for the child to want to join a gang; and strengthen the family.
How? We believe with all our heart that if we help women strengthen their mental health and emotional well being, serve as a resource to help them embrace personal responsibility and become more productive citizens, we will have strengthened families.
AS A RESULT , there are reduced high school dropouts and less gang involvement.
Having served and impacted over 40 women from all walks of life and ages, in seven months, including several who are or have been in Safe Homes of Augusta, I'm pleased to say that the young woman I mentioned at the beginning of this column is one of our many success stories.
(Helen Blocker-Adams is executive director/founder of The Southeast Enterprise Institute Inc. For more information on how to enroll in its next free seven-week session, or for more information on "Hope IS Possible," visit www.seenterpriseinstitute.org, or call 706.796.8544.)