Below are stories of strength, respect, and love from women who each came to Women in Need when it was time to change for their families and most importantly, for themselves.
"Monday, Wednesday, Friday is class.
We take UA's, we know we pass.
Once or twice some have slipped,
Just a mistake, a relapse trip.
In our class there's no frowns or pouts.
Highs and lows is how we start out.
Erica, our director, is like the sun,
A force of strength that grows each one.
Joy is a woman, who meets her name,
From our faults, she describes our gain.
Sina, the heart, that understands.
She teaches us how to humble demands.
To any one woman who is trying,
This poem is description of a need thats driving.
This program works, I promise its true.
Because once upon a time I was you.
Doing drugs with the sisters in crime,
Letting addiction control my mind.
Time goes by and there will come a day,
When you close your eyes
And your heart will pray.
That's the day you save your self,
And remember, Women In Need, is here to help.
- Poem by Courtney, a WIN client
A letter to the WIN Family
"Just because...Friends like you all make life sweeter with a simple act of kindness. I am truly grateful and appreciate, all of you believing in me when I couldn't believe in myself. When WIN accepted me into their family; I was broken, homeless, lost son to CPS, and lots of baggage, with anger issues. My life was hopeless I couldn't think of living, I just wanted to give up and end my life. But my son wouldn't have a mom. So I decided I going to do whatever it takes to get him back and surrender. Which then I met Annie who was truly my inspiration-full of love, understanding, and compassion. I was at my level of hurt, and pain and [WIN] gave me hope and inspiration and made me laugh with no judgement. She accepted me for who I was and showered encouragement of hope and didn't change me, but gave me a new way of living. I was kolohe but never disrespected. Annie, she walked me holding my hand even when I couldn't. She new exactly what to say and how to say it. That motivated me and my life was changing for the better but I still had anger and emotional issues that flared up, and Annie always had the words of love. She made you feel motivated and inspired.
It takes one person to show another human being that a simple act of kindness has a beauty all its own.
But thank you all for accepting me in the WIN family and helping me peel the onions of my past and regain my life back. WIN, I am filled with gratitude and thanks for your program that have helped me to heal and regain my family back. Thank you all for being a part of my recovery..."
Friends 4 life, Kealii + Corinthia
Jadine Rodriques, was sexually abused by her stepfather as a child growing-up in San Diego. The abuse is the reason why she had a difficult time trusting men for many years, and why she turned to marijuana and alcohol at 13, and downers and cocaine at 17.
It’s also one reason why she entered into a mentally and physically abusive relationship, also when she was 17, and stayed in it for 23 years. I was with him because I didn’t feel good about myself, she explains.
“When I was 23, I found meth and I did it for 10 years”, she continues. “I did it as much as I could. Every day.” By then, she was the mother of a 3-year-old boy, and when she was 26, she had a daughter.
“I used all the Welfare money and food stamps to buy ice,” she says. “And then we’d go to the food bank because there was no more food.”
“We were all over the place,” Jadine says about the family. “We were evicted from our house because we spent the rent money on drugs. My oldest boy had it the hardest. I’d take off for a couple of days and I thought my ex was staying with the children, but then he would take off too and my oldest boy would have to take care of his sister.”
When Jadine’s youngest son was born in 2000, both she and the baby tested positive for meth. When it was time to leave Kapiolani Women and Children Hospital, Jadine was told she couldn’t take the child with her and to contact Children’s Protective Services the next day to see about picking him up then. But instead of getting her baby, CPS forced her to sign papers giving up her two other children as well. Fortunately, Jadine’s sister was there to take them. “When they came home from school that day, I had to tell my 11 year old and my 17 year old they were going to live with Auntie. I didn’t get to raise my baby for ten months.”
Jadine went to an outpatient treatment center, but was unable to get clean, “because I’d go home and smoke.” she says. “So after four months of that I voluntarily put myself into residential treatment.” It was here, at the Ho’omau Ke Ola Treatment Center. It was here that she met Mary who was teaching classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“Mary was a big inspiration for me. She always had a smile on her face. Even when things were not going well, she would make us feel good about ourselves. She’d make us feel good on the outside. She’d take us to a cosmetic counter where we’d put on make-up. She’d let us go into the clothes closets and pick-out what we wanted and put it on.”
Finished with treatment, Jadine was eventually hired at Ho’omau Ke Ola and worked there for five years until she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. After moths of chemotherapy and radiation, she began working at Wal-Mart in early 2009.
Jadine, like all women who are part o the WIN family, is still more than welcome at the clothes closet. When she runs short on food, she drops by WIN to pick-up items donated during WIN’s annual canned food drive. Beginning in 2008, Jadine’s family joined the Lokahi Giving Project, a WIN-affiliated program where families in need put themselves up for ‘adoption’ by donor families. The Rodriques family was adopted by a family in Nanakuli.
“On Mother’s Day, they gave me a basket with all kinds of things. Towels, pots and pans, a new couch, toys for my son, a watch for my husband” Jadine says thankfully, noting that as a gesture in return, Jadine donates everything she can’t use back to WIN, including toys and clothing her children no longer use, and household items she no longer needs.
Although she never married the father of her children, Jadine has now been in a strong marriage since 2006. “My husband now has 5 years clean,” she explains. “I wanted to end up with someone who relates to me without drugs.” Her oldest son is in the Air Force, stationed in Florida, and her daughter lives in Honolulu. Both are married and have two children, Jadine enjoying life as a grandmother because “I can spoil them and give them back to their parents,” she says.
"The best part? My 8-year-old has never seen me drunk or using. I’m eight years clean.”
MARIAM "LEI" AUWAE
Both of Mariam ‘Lei’ Auwae’s parents were incarcerated most of her growing-up years. She was raised by her grandmother, and, unfortunately, by her seven uncles. They were not only violent men prone to beating on each other, one uncle sexually abused Lei when she was still in elementary school.
Lei began using at the age of 11 because, “drugs got me out of the house,” she explains. “I’d stay with friends, I’d stay on the street. I went in and out of detention homes.”
Although Lei completed two 9-month treatment programs for teenagers, neither worked. “I still wanted to use drugs and I did.” Lei says. Just before she turned 18, she was caught in a stolen vehicle and was sentenced to Habilitat, which turned out to be ‘worse than jail,’ she explains.
“I went on the run, not a very long run, but long enough to get caught with new charges,” she says. An adult at this point, “there was no second chance for me, it was straight to jail. And that’s where I met Mary, thank God.”
As a participant in one of Scott-Lau’s classes at the Women’s Correctional Facility on Oahu, Lei finally unburdened the secret of what her uncle had done to her as a child.
“A majority of women in prison had some kind of sexual abuse in their childhood life,” Lei explains. “Mary gave us all a forum for talking about it. She helped us with our image, helped us not to be ashamed of who we are, helped us to understand that whatever had happened wasn’t our fault.”
Lei kept in touch with Mary after the course was over, calling her collect when she had something to discuss. “I tried not to burden her too much,” Lei recalls. “Everyone else in the prison was calling her too… hundreds of women. Mary was our voice to the outside world.” In fact, Mary functioned as an advocate for Lei and her fellow inmates, contacting the warden’s office to complain when the women failed to receive their mail or if they were verbally abused by the guards. “She’s not too welcome in the prison anymore because they don’t like her,” Lei says. “They don’t like anyone who goes against them.”
In 2007, when Lei was released from incarceration for the second time, Mary invited her to become the first resident of WIN’s transitional home on Oahu. Lei appreciated the largesse, and enjoyed living at the home, but after four months, she relapsed into narcotics use again. When Lei phoned Mary to let her know, “she just told me to call her when I stopped,” Lei explains.
She did stop at the end of 2008, beginning a rehabilitation program, as well as, attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and Mary’s classes at the Waianae facility on a regular basis. “It was the first time I did all of those things willingly,” Lei explains.
Lei’s mother, released from incarceration several years ago, cared for Lei’s daughter for many years, but the three of them are now living together. In order to fulfill her desire to begin attending college classes, Lei had to overcome bureaucratic obstacles due to her status as a convicted felon.
“Society demands that everybody be a law abiding citizen,” she explains. “For people coming out of jail, it’s not easy to get jobs. Doors just don’t open for you.” As always, Mary helped with her college goal. “Mary has this aura about her,” Lei says. “She just glows.”
Marcia Bermoy, the Program Manager for Bridge to Success, WIN’s Transitional Home for Single Women in Wai’anae, facilitates a spiritual support group every Thursday night at 6. “At times there’s just stuff women need to share,” Marcia says. “I’ll give them inspirational thoughts, anything that will give them hope to move forward.”
Marcia is an expert at moving forward. She’s been doing that ever since she embraced sobriety in 2001 after over 25 years of narcotics use.
A native of Wai’anae, drugs came naturally to Marcia. Her parents introduced her to marijuana at an early age, to cocaine when she was a freshman in high school, and to crack in her senior year. “I thought it was cool to get high with my parents,” she explains.
The drugs helped Marcia to escape the pain of her father’s beatings and molestation, both of which he inflicted on all three of his daughters. With Marcia, the molestation began when she was in the fifth grade. “My dad would say, ‘Don’t tell nobody, because I’ll go to jail, I’ll get locked up,” Marcia recalls. “He planted those thoughts in all of us. There was a lot of fear hanging over our heads.”
As a junior in high school, Marcia finally told her secret to an aunt who called in Children’s Protective Services. But Marcia’s siblings were too afraid to speak against their father, and CPS concluded that Marcia was fabricating the story because she was mad at him. They sent her home. Two months later, Marcia’s father began beating her severely for ‘betraying’ him.The molestation continued unabated as well. Marcia had her father’s child, a son, when she was 21. It was then that I finally had the courage to move out,” she explains. “I took the child and left.”
Marcia hooked-up with a man who is the father of her second child, a daughter. “I was in that relationship for 10 years,” she explains. Unfortunately it was based on drugs as well as violence. “I used to think that was the way to live‚” with domestic violence. That’s the pattern I’ve seen, how my Dad had beat my mom, how he’d beaten us.”
When it came to drugs, Marcia was determined to avoid continuing the cycle her parents had began. “I thought, I’m not going to get high with my kid. I have to stop that cycle.” Nevertheless, the children certainly felt the effects of their parents’ drug use. “We went down to living on the beach in a shack, in the car,” she says. As a result, “my daughter and my oldest son are totally against drugs. They know what crystal meth does to a family.”
Eventually, Marcia’s oldest son went to live with her sister. “I still hung-onto my daughter, kept her out of school. I’d lost Welfare and we were eating at a food bank, staying in my truck. CPS was following us, but they kept missing me. I didn’t want my daughter to be traumatized by being taken away.”
“Something made me turn around and surrender,” she says, “CPS caught up with me. I was willing to let go of my daughter by then because I couldn’t even actually feed her. They said I needed to get into treatment. My daughter went to live with my Aunt.”
Marcia entered the Ho’omau Ke Ola Treatment Center, first encountering WIN’s life skills classes there. When her treatment period was over, she entered Ohana Ola Transitional Shelter for women with children, and was able to have her children move in with her. Because her boyfriend was still not sober, she was not allowed to have him stay there.
Marcia’s attendance of WIN classes continued at the shelter. “My self-esteem was really low. With the classes, I opened up so I could begin the healing process from my molestation,” she says. “Women In Need gave me the tools to take care of myself and pamper myself.” she says, pointing to the class on make-up application as an example. “I was someone who didn’t know how to put on make-up before.”
More importantly, “we were able to share what was really going on within ourselves, the burdens that we carried,” she explains. “That’s when my healing process started. I had to learn how to forgive myself and then forgive my Dad,” who had passed away by then. “At the time, I couldn’t understand why I had to forgive myself, because I kept thinking, ‚’I didn’t do it to myself,’ but I had to go through the process in order to move on.”
Sharing the secret about her molestation within the WIN circle enabled Marcia to finally tell her son about the identity of his father. “When he was growing up, my son would ask, who is my Dad? And I couldn’t tell him. What God did for me was to allow me to do that. I told my son, ‘Don’t feel ugly because of it. Don’t feel less of who you are because of where you came from.'”
“Today I’m free from the burden of the secret,” she explains.
Around the same time that Marcia connected with WIN, she married. She now has a 3-year-old son with her husband, a truck driver on O’ahu. “This new baby is a blessing in our lives,” Marcia says, explaining that in addition to remaining sober, she has broken the cycle of domestic violence. “My husband and I sit down and listen to each other when we have an argument, and come into unity and apologize.”
Marcia began working for WIN in 2007 as office support staff. “I didn’t even know how to start a computer before,” she says of the skills she’s learned. She also runs the clothes closet, where WIN clients select donated items to wear at job interviews, and she is acting as an outreach specialist at area beaches.
“It’s important for me to give back to the community,” Marcia says. “I can pass on my testimony, sharing it with people to let them know things will be ok, that you have to continue to press forward and forgive and move on, that if you don’t forgive, you just hang on.”
“God has just continued to expand my horizons,” she explains. “It’s like a rubber band that stretches. It’s stretching more. There’s a purpose in our lives, that we’re able to continue to help people.”
“Mary teaches a class called, “Walking on the Path,” Marcia concludes. “When I look back, that path was really dark compared to the path I have today in my life. Back eight years ago, I wanted to die. I’m just so blessed today that I love to live.”