From Pain to Passion
Have you ever thought about what it means to be brave? I see the word every time I turn around - on moms' t-shirts at the grocery store, home decor at Hobby Lobby and bracelets in the jewelry department at JCPenney's, but what does it actually mean?
To me, bravery is recognizing the trials and hurdles that stand in your way, but deciding that what is on the other side of those dangers is more important! Oftentimes, we discount our ability to be brave because we may not see ourselves as such. We think the only way to to demonstrate courage is to be a fireman running into a burning building or a soldier charging into battle. While these are tremendous acts of bravery, I would submit that, under my definition, we ALL have the ability to be brave! We all have the ability to decide we are willing to walk through harm, suffer pain and battle uncertainty to accomplish our goal. Many times, our most painful life experiences afford us the greatest opportunity for growth and for realizing our own character and strength.
Some of my most painful life experiences have happened in the last 8 years. My freshman year of high school, I was thirteen years old - yes, thirteen. I began dating an upperclassman and within a month of our dating relationship, my innocence was in shambles as I became a victim of sexual assault. It took me 5 years to tell anyone about my experience. Not only was I victimized by someone I thought I could trust, but I was also victimized by shame and blame. I began to work through some of my pain by myself and felt I was on a good track to recovery, but that is when my parents sat me down one evening and told me my father was going to be deployed to Afghanistan for a year. The hardest trial of my life was no longer the pain I felt inside, but the anxiety I felt as I faced a year without my mentor, best friend and father. Upon his return to the states, we had almost exactly four more fun-filled years together as a family. On February 16th, 2017 at 3:32 PM, I received a phone call from my mother that has forever altered my life. Through her tears and shaky voice I was able to understand two sentences, two horrific sentences: "There has been a plane accident. Daddy didn't make it."
These three life-altering events have brought me more pain in my short, 21 years than some people experience in a lifetime. Over the past 8 years, I have struggled to gain perspective and understand how to process the emotions I feel. It is my definition of bravery coupled with these three major events that led me to found my organization, BRAVE, in 2015. BRAVE's mission is to empower others to make courageous choices in the face of life-altering events.
BRAVE seeks to be a sanctuary that helps bear the weight of victim's burdens. Through education, legislation, Twenty-Seven | Seventeen Mentoring, BRAVE Boxes and BRAVE Bears, my organization partners with victims of any life-altering event and travels with them on their journey to becoming a survivor. I believe BRAVE's message will truly alter the lives of those walking through a cold, dark pain only known to those who have walked the road before them.
BRAVE is now incorporated. Miss International will be filing BRAVE fr 501(c)(3) status during her reign.
- Self-Defense Workshop
- The BRAVE Don’t Bully (Anti-Bullying/ Cyberbullying Workshop)
- Grief Workshop
- Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Workshop
Meeting with Georgia Chief of Police Association Executive Director to discuss current policies for dealing with sexual assault and rape cases
I’ll be sure to keep you all updated on how this is going, but for the past several months I have been working alongside a U.S. Congressman, The Georgia Chief of Police Association Executive Director, and a variety of hospital staff members in an effort to tighten the judicial timeline for sexual assault and rape survivors. This is a work in progress, but an effort that needs to be moved forward so that these BRAVE survivors may gain closure.
I hope to expand this program to other schools, churches, and Boys and Girls Clubs around the world during my time as Miss International.
BRAVE Boxes & BRAVE Bears
Our BRAVE Bears are geared towards a younger population. The idea is to equip them with a tangible object that reminds them strength and bravery can come in small packages. I hope to deliver 500 BRAVE Bears to Guatemalan children for Christmas this year! (More to come on this!)
BRAVE is truly at the center of everything I do! I am humbled to have been selected as Miss International so that I can champion my organization’s vision and ensure I am equipping others with the ability to choose bravery regardless of their circumstances.
Miss International 2018