Live Your Dream Award Stories: Kamilla

Imagine yourself as a 7-year-old, moving in with different family members over the years because mom and dad are battling with addiction. You’ve gone without a meal most nights, but to buy food for your younger siblings, you stand outside of the corner store asking for money.

The night before you and your siblings are about to be separated into different foster homes, a drug dealer holds you and your sister hostage at gunpoint in the bathtub, demanding payment from your parents.

This is just a glimpse into Kamilla’s childhood.

Here’s a story about RESILIENCE.

live your dream award kamilla

Kamilla grew up in the foster system until age 15 before moving in with her aunt in high school. She dropped out of school in 9th grade and moved into a place of her own by the time she was 17 years old. She worked a couple of jobs at fast food restaurants to cover the bills.

Kamilla was dating a man ten years older than her. Together, they had two little girls. After getting married, she endured years of emotional and psychological abuse. Over the years, she isolated herself to their home to keep peace besides going back in forth from work.

The breaking point.

“He threatened to burn me up. I called the police and made reports throughout the years but it was just an intimidation threat. According to the police, he had not actually committed any crime.”

Any time the police arrived, her abuser was nowhere to be found. And so this time, she left. Kamilla took the girls and left everything except their clothes, heading to her sister’s small apartment.

When “help” comes at a price…

“I am not what studies and statistics said I could be… I am confident your past does not determine your future.”

At the time, Kamilla was working for a furniture company and her boss was eager to help her and the girls. He gave them furniture for free, but soon after, he sexually, verbally and physiologically abused Kamilla on the job.

“I cried most days after work… I endured the abuse because I had to provide for my children alone.”

Kamilla left her job and the city without warning after her abuser threatened to kill her and the girls.

A turning point.

She ended up at a family agency that offered safety and hope for Kamilla and the girls. After working through heavy trauma, Kamilla started to see herself as a survivor instead of a victim of her past.

“I am not what studies and statistics said I could be… I am confident your past does not determine your future.”

Kamilla discovered a deeper purpose and passion for advocacy. She vowed to help other families who have faced the trauma of domestic violence, homelessness and addiction.

Kamilla went from being a client to a former victim’s advocate for the family agency. Her determination, compassion and new found sense of hope helped her to “speak life into people who were hurting,” says one of her mentors.

When we met Kamilla…

“Becoming a survivor takes continuing support.”

She had completed her GED and was enrolled in community college to prepare for a bachelors program at the University of Memphis’ School of Social Work.

Her former abuser had refused to sign divorce papers, so when he was killed in 2016, Kamilla was legally responsible for carrying his financial burden. With a heavy heart for the father of her children and the only man she ever dated, she emptied her entire savings to cover funeral costs.

Social service providers, mentors, counselors, and grief camps had been instrumental to her family’s healing.

She says, “becoming a survivor takes continuing support.”

Kamilla received a second-level Live Your Dream Award for $3,000.

She continued to take core classes at the community college to reach her goals and has completed over thirty domestic violence trainings, seminars and conferences.

Her dream:

  • Graduate from the University of Memphis with a Bachelors in Social Work
  • Start a nonprofit providing services for victims of violence
  • Become a motivational speaker

Kamilla with daughterWhere is Kamilla now?

Literally, living her dream.

Progress doesn’t come easy, though, it’s a process. Kamilla is working hard. And while she’ll say over and over again how blessed she is, the universe is not cutting her any slack.

This year, she buried both her father and brother in the span of a couple months. Her family continues on the healing path to navigate the trauma of sexual violence. She’s working countless jobs to not only pay her family’s household bills, but simultaneously supporting fellow survivors transitioning to safety.

Recently she was driving for Uber and Lyft; running 12-14 hours a day registering people to vote; AND working as an Assistant for The Athena Project, a research clinic for women who have experienced intimate partner violence.

On track to Graduate WITH HONORS! 

Kamilla is not only enrolled in the University of Memphis, she is holding down a 3.9 GPA and is on track to graduate with a Bachelors in Social Work after three more semesters!!! She also qualifies for a one-year advanced-standing master’s program to potentially receive her Masters in Social Work by the end of 2020-2021.

Her beautiful girls are in middle school and high school, getting involved in sports and helping mom with awareness events like “Stop Domestic Violence” rallies and walks in the community.

Making BIG Career S.T.E.P.S.

Kamilla with students

In 2018, Kamilla was recognized as one of six powerful women leaders in the city by Women of Achievement with the Woman of Courage Award.

She continues to volunteer and serve on several Board of Directors for local domestic violence councils, homeless service providers and agencies supporting families affected by incarcerated loved ones.

Kamilla founded her own organization called S.T.E.P.S– Successful Transitions Empowering Permanent Safety–to provide individualized advocacy and support to victims of domestic violence transitioning to survivorship.

Motivational speaking isn’t just for life coaches.

When asked if she was picking up any motivational speaking gigs, Kamilla said:

Cue chills. She went on to say it’s happening right now, one-on-one. Motivation happens when we share our story. With our families, friends, fellow students… at church, in school, on the street.

You can catch Kamilla soaking up motivation from the “self-help” section of the bookstore; but, since she started writing her own motivational memoir, you just might catch her book on the same shelves in the not-so-distant future.

What’s next? 

Kamilla will dive right back into school in the spring and is determined to work hard to keep her impressive GPA. She’ll continue to volunteer and serve on the board of multiple community service organizations, while working at the research lab to learn about trauma caused by domestic violence.

When asked what she and the girls needed, she said, “a vacation, hah!” And so after hearing about a special from a local church member, she’s saving up to take the girls on a cruise in the Spring.

Kamilla’s also working on finalizing the business details to make S.T.E.P.S a fully operational 501c3 nonprofit.

Her faith is strong and her gratitude runs deep for the mentors, teachers, friends and wholehearted strangers who continue to send her love and light on a daily basis.

This is what the Live Your Dream Awards is all about…

live your dream award

When Kamilla received $3,000 from the Live Your Dream Awards, she invested in herself, her family and her community.

She was able to cover the cost of several certification trainings on trauma therapy, sexual assault and domestic violence workshops; shop for household essentials; cover family funeral costs; AND help a homeless mother and her five kids while they transitioned to a safe, stable environment.

Hearing her determination to help family and fellow survivors with everything and anything she has, had us floored, in complete awe of her strength, compassion and resilience.

We often hear that it’s not even the amount of money that makes a difference from the Live Your Dream Award, it’s the fact that a global community of real people actually believe in you.

Your gift not only offers temporary relief from financial burden, but represents sustaining moral support that lasts a lifetime!

Give to the Live Your Dream Awards!

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