The Dealer of Hope

kamilah largeI once read a quote that stated, “A strong woman loves, forgives, walks away, lets go, tries again, and perseveres … no matter what life throws at her.” By that definition, I am a strong woman. My mother is also a strong woman, and I love her more than I can fathom, but when she became too weak and life’s burdens were weighing on her, I had to leave with my siblings.

I’m a survivor of an alcoholic, abusive parent. I’ve been beaten on, broken down, and have suffered emotionally at the hands of alcohol. But one thing never changed: my hope and my determination.

My sister, at the age of 24, took me and my siblings in after two years of intervention by the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), when my mother’s alcoholism got the best of her. At 24, I don’t think most people have their lives together. I mean, they’re just starting their careers, they’re still going out to bars and clubs every now and again, but to take in and care for three of their younger siblings? That’s not on anyone’s list.

It was rough at first. We lived in a small, suffocating apartment. We didn’t have any money to get a bigger one, and our other relatives were very unsupportive and unhelpful. But with hard work, determination and perseverance, we got a nice two bedroom that we now call home.

At first, I couldn’t forgive my mom. How could she allow things to get this bad? But understand that taking care of three kids–one a rebellious teenager, and two middle school kids, one of whom has autism–living in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Brooklyn, constantly facing eviction, and a thousand and one other problems that you feel are unfixable, can break the strongest camel’s back.

I tried to keep that perspective in mind, but I also thought about how my mom made me laugh. How I would sit in her room, and rant on and on about my thoughts, hopes, and dreams. With each tangent, my mom had her own stories, her own experiences, and we’d share them until the wee hours of the morning. I smile at those thoughts. My mom isn’t a bad person, not even the slightest.

Still, I feel very fortunate to have entered foster care. I have a super-supportive law guardian, an attorney appointed to look out for the best interests of the child. She resembles the beautiful and intelligent Amal Clooney in my opinion. When my foster agency refused to reimburse me for a semester of room and board, my law guardian made phone calls, sent out e-mails, wrote petitions, and endured backlash and criticism, just so I could get that funding back. When I was going to give up, she kept trying, and eventually we won! She helped me get my passport after I told her that one of my dreams in life is to travel. My law guardian has been rooting for my success since I stepped foot in her office, and I thank her for that.

I’ve also found support in a program called Education and Training Voucher (ETV), which annually provides college students who are in the foster care system with a grant to either pay tuition or to cover living expenses. Each month the student must make contact with a coordinator to talk via phone about academic goals, challenges, and ways to overcome those challenges. Through ETV I participated in the Academic Success Program, which provides each student with a mentor. My mentor Jane has encouraged me to be a winner, when I felt the opposite at school. She encouraged me to go to a National Broadcast Society convention in Atlanta, which my foster agency graciously paid for. She reassures me that I don’t need her as much as I think I do, because in her eyes, or should I say ears, she sees me as the strong, resilient woman I am.

Currently, I’m working on my Bachelors of Science in TV and Video Production and I minor in Broadcast Management and Radio at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh. I am the curator for Urban Royals NYC blog, which provides a unique perspective on social injustices, as well as lifestyle advice and commentary on pop culture, while providing a space for artists and entrepreneurs to gain exposure. I turned my pain into a way to connect with other young people who’ve experienced similar circumstances, but I’ve also become a hope dealer in the process. I want everyone to know that their narratives don’t end with foster care. Life gets better, and what may feel like weakness now will only make you the strongest solider later. Hang in there and keep believing.

Published on May 26, 2015 as part of Children’s Rights’ “Fostering the Future” campaign. The opinions expressed herein are those of the blog author and do not necessarily represent the views of Children’s Rights or its employees. Children’s Rights has not verified the author’s account.