A True Metamorphosis: Danielle’s Story
For two decades Rainbow Village has been firmly committed to our mission to break the cycles of homelessness, poverty and domestic violence one family at a time. We have had great success and no doubt have a model that has proven effective. As a community Rainbow Village helps homeless families with children find refuge, regroup, rebuild and return to a life of self-sufficiency. Through the years we have witnessed time and time again God’s saving grace and miracles.
The stories we have to tell are endless, but there is one in particular I want to share with you today that will help you better understand what Rainbow Village is all about.
At every big Rainbow Village event, I always look around for Danielle. She graduated from RV a few years ago, and I always enjoy talking with her. These days she is a woman anyone would want to be around. She is confident and proud; she doesn’t need a man to take care of her; she’s independent, capable and she exudes a life that is “together”… A life that works well.
With great commitment and dedication Danielle successfully achieved the three key missions of RV. The first is to break the cycle of domestic abuse. Danielle was surrounded by it. We can get a person to safety in a matter of hours, but to break the cycle of being attached to and dependent on a man who is harmful is a major shift in lifestyle. To an outsider, it seems easy. But anybody who has been there knows that it is so hard to do.
Our second mission is to break the cycle of homelessness. A person can be poor for a long time and never really know what help is available and how to access that help. So their life is constantly in crisis. They are consistently vulnerable to the cycles that put them sleeping in their car again or shuffling from place to place to stay off the street. It takes some sustained effort, but with Rainbow Village to learn from and lean on our families can break the cycle of homelessness.
Still, some of us who grew up in Appalachian poverty remember that there is a wide chasm between being on welfare and being proud of your life. Schools, for example, make every effort to hide the identity of the students who get free lunches, but that’s a large, large secret for a child to live with—a secret that crushes tiny seedlings of self esteem. It isn’t enough to take a child off the streets; a child deserves the chance to grow up feeling good about themselves. So does an adult.
That’s why RV has a third mission, and Rainbow Village is the only organization in our community that sets this as a goal: to break the cycle of poverty. Complete the Rainbow Village program and you will still face the issues we all face—we wish we could afford an expensive vacation this year; our kids are being a challenge right now and we wish they would be perfect (the way we were perfect, of course!), how are we going to get everything done that needs to be done—we wish we had more time. But when you complete the Rainbow Village program, you will face those issues confident—firmly confident—that you can make it through, that you are successfully taking care of things, that you are guiding your children down the right path, and that you are somebody of great worth.
So recently I sat with Danielle at a Rainbow Village dinner. She and another RV graduate talked about traveling home to see their families. Louisiana is a long drive with kids in the back seat and a 15 year old with a fresh learner’s permit begging for a turn at the wheel! And you can count on every family offering up some strange characters—just ask Danielle about Aunt Lucille! But she knows that while she is there with them, Danielle will be a superhero to many of the children there, children who still live a life engulfed by poverty. They will stare at her in wonder, whispering, “Did she really break free? How did she do that? Could I do that someday?”
I’ve learned that Danielle isn’t one to brag about what she’s done. She simply lives by example and lets her light shine as a beacon of hope and promise for other families that are caught up in those same vicious cycles. She continues to stay involved at Rainbow Village even though she now stands on her own, because she wants to be living proof to those that come through our doors that they too can break free and start anew.
Most of us, with our appointed homes, our jobs and our college degrees, don’t give such things much thought. But when you become involved here at Rainbow Village and witness first hand how the chains fall off, how life is restored, and how families go through a true metamorphosis that breaks the cycles, it is beautiful to behold.