Rainbow Village… How Did I Get Here?

“There but for the grace of God go I.” Sometimes truer words are never spoken.

One of the Rainbow Village residents, Layla (name has been changed), seems to embrace these prophetic words. Layla grew up in a two-parent family, one of four children, in a household with parents who believed in raising their children by a strict code of conduct. In her own words, she was an average student in high school, but went on to graduate from Columbia College with a degree in Mathematics. Her dream was to teach secondary education, but after her first foray into student teaching, she quickly realized that teaching was not for her! During her senior year of college, her first child was born. She was dating his father, and they quickly moved in together while she finished college and he worked. Her second child was born about two years later and she found herself working at night while the children”s father stayed home with them; while he worked during the day she took over parenting duty. Her former dream of teaching turned into working in the field of customer service for two different companies. This period in her life was very tumultuous – yet not unhappy. In order to spend more time with her children, she took a lower paying job that allowed her to work during the day.

About this time in her career, she ended her relationship with the children”s father. She was committed to a lease and stayed in her apartment, still self-sufficient. While the children”s father did provide some financial support, he was inconsistent. The only thing that wasn”t inconsistent was the time he spent with them. He was, and still is, a good father. Layla was enjoying her apartment and her children when she met a new man, one that would soon become her husband. Despite the personal happiness in her life, she lost her job about this time, and spent a full year on unemployment and food stamps.

A year later, she married and moved from South Carolina to Cobb County. She was living a new dream of being a stay-at-home mom and home schooled her children until the oldest was in the eighth grade. She was ecstatic to stay home and raise and teach her children, but her father-in-law persuaded her that they needed to go to a public school. Although the boys were happy with the new arrangement, Layla wasn”t. She missed them terribly. To help ease her boredom, her mother introduced her to crafting, as she herself was an avid quilter. In addition to crafting, at which she truly excels, she contacted a temp agency and spent a mere three days at a job that was wildly not well suited to her skills. Rather than attempt to find a new job, she determined to make a career using her crafting skills. She and her husband were living in a rented apartment with the children at this time and one day, while he was at work, he contacted her, writing that he wanted a divorce and as well, did not want any contact with the children that he had been a stepfather to for 10 years. Her heart and the heart of her children was broken and she has never fully recovered.

Layla had been having some mild, but concerning health issues during her marriage, and right after her divorce, she suffered a stroke. Her children called her ex-husband who took her to the hospital. After several days in the hospital, doctors still could not determine what was wrong with her. She was still so devastated from her husband leaving her with no warning that she believed that the stroke was due to that shock. To add another burden on top of her illness, her ex-husband gave notice to the landlord of the house she and her children were renting that they would be moving out soon.

With no savings, when the time period he allotted was up, she was forced to move with her children into an extended stay hotel in Marietta. She spent eight months in an unsafe environment with two children and worried constantly for their safety. When asked how she coped during that time she says, “I was very worried. But what can you do?” Her parents and siblings were not in a financial situation that allowed them to help her. During the eight months in the extended stay hotel, she was still taking medication for the stroke she had suffered, but still having severe medical problems.

Finally, through a friend, she was put in contact with Visions Anew, another non-profit friend of Rainbow Village. Their CEO put her in contact with Rainbow Village and as God”s timing is always perfect, there was room for her here. Layla says that until she came to Rainbow Village she “didn”t know a safe place existed.” Less than two months ago, Layla had brain surgery to repair damage to her blood vessels caused by a rare disease called MoyaMoya. MoyaMoya disease is a rare blood vessel (vascular) disorder in which a ring of blood vessels at the base of your brain progressively narrows, causing blood flow to your brain to become blocked. The condition may cause a ministroke (transient ischemic attack), stroke or other symptoms.

The good news post surgery is that she has recuperated in record time and will find out soon if she will have to have a second surgery to repair the blood vessels in the other side of her brain. If not, pending doctors” orders, she will be released from required home stay and allowed to resume working. Her speech has already improved and she is feeling much better. When asked what she wants to do with the rest of her life after she graduates from Rainbow Village, she hesitates a minute. She”s not completely sure. What she is sure about is that her plan is to get healthy, attempt to start a business of her own, and concentrate on loving herself and making herself happy. As she puts it, “I don”t think I”ve really been happy my whole life.”

With the future tentative, but promising, she is about to embark on the beginning of her second year at Rainbow Village. Her advice to other women who have been abandoned is to “stay in touch with God, your inner self, and don”t give control to anyone else but yourself.” Her support system outside of Rainbow Village these days is her children, siblings and parents. She proudly tells anyone who asks that the best thing Rainbow Village has taught her so far is how to save. “It”s a hard program, but in the end, it”s really worth it, but make no mistake . . . it”s a hard program.”

We will take that as a compliment, because our job here at Rainbow Village is to change lives. And with change, comes discomfort. But also with change comes promise and transformation.