Jasmine Williams was the keynote speaker at Tuesday’s Fundraising Gala, hosted graciously by British Ambassador and Lady Westmacott at their residence.
Applause from the 120 guests who attended this event rained down from chandeliers. Our first event marking our 40th Anniversary raised over $300,000.
Here is Jasmine’s speech:
Thank you, Ms. Stevens, and thank you to all those in attendance tonight. My name is Jasmine Williams. For those of you who I have not met, allow me to tell you a bit of my story.
I came to Sasha Bruce under very difficult circumstances. I was coming from a broken home, looking to escape the sexual abuse I was experiencing there. I suffered from this abuse in silence for four years, until an even bigger blow came — I was kicked out of the house about a month before my 18th birthday. At this point in my life, I was a high school dropout with no source of income, or any other resources I could tap into to get help – not even other family.
I found Sasha Bruce by accessing the internet at my local library and was immediately placed in their emergency shelter once they learned about my situation. After a short stay there, I was moved into The Independent Living Program, and that is where my life began to change. Finally I had a place to lay my head so that I could focus on something else besides where I would sleep that night. My next steps were to get a job and a GED, in that order, but after continuous encouragement and support from ILP staff, I felt motivated enough to go back to high school. Despite being a year behind, I utilized DC’s night school program to complete both my eleventh and twelfth grade year in one school year so that I could graduate in time — and I did, on honor roll. I went on to college shortly after, and I am halfway through my sophomore year at Montgomery College, studying communications. The program helped me find my first job and taught me the skills I needed to get and keep it, and I have been employed ever since. I left the care of Sasha Bruce and went on to get my own apartment. Last but not least, through this program I found peace, both with myself and with the people who wronged me. I have no intention to reunite with my abuser, of course, but I am starting the reunification process with my mother and sister, both of whom I am now beginning to get close to for the first time in my entire life. I look forward to moving in with them again early next year.
There are many young people who desperately need the same kind of love and support which I received from Sasha Bruce Youthwork. Literally hundreds of young people are living on the streets every night in Washington, and truly Sasha Bruce Youthwork is the only place where they can be both safe from the dangers of the street and then make progress to self-sufficiency.
What I received at Sasha Bruce Youthwork was more than just a place to lay my head, and more than just the help I needed to finish high school. This is a life changing organization, plain and simple, and one of the pillars of my success. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for helping and the many kids like me who really need this. Thank you all so much for listening.
Check out our Facebook page for some photos.