Author Stacy Munn-Habersham, B.S, Family Literacy Advocate, shares her story about learning to overcome adversity as a single mom.
When I first became aware of The Mission Continues, I saw it as my chance to engage my eldest child in sustained service beyond the small acts of kindness people do on the holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving. Including him in the mission made me more than elated–this was an opportunity for my son to engage and observe individuals that share our family values. Seeing my son interact with active duty members and veterans at various project sites filled me with pride.
But then I realized I wanted more. Learning about The Mission Continues’ Fellowship Program absolutely changed my world, to say the least. It was a daunting, humbling and amazing six-month experience. Would I take this journey over again? Yes, in a Navy minute.
At my fellowship host organization, the Women’s Center of Jacksonville, I worked tirelessly to enhance the lives of traumatized women. I always had my son and daughter in mind, because feeling that my life was completed by them let me share that love and care with others. After this whole experience, I can say I have gained a new sense of purpose. Volunteering with individuals who think the same way I did made me feel renewed.
Was it difficult? Yes. During my fellowship (while being the sole caretaker of my children) my daughter became sick and had to be hospitalized. I was completing my undergraduate studies, applying for a graduate program and staying on track in my fellowship. There were moments when I questioned whether graduate school was appropriate, considering everything my children and I were going through.
Yet, there was one woman in particular who inspired me to not give up on my goals. Every day she would come to my host organization to work toward her goal of earning a GED. For years she had put her dreams on hold to raise her children. I waited for the appropriate moment to ask her, “Why now?”
She replied, “There comes a time when it is ok to take care of yourself.” She told me how she endured traumas in her life, but she nonetheless provided for her children so that they could grow up to become professionals. Now it was her turn to come to the Women’s Center of Jacksonville three days a week to work on her own education.
I spoke to this woman again after I became employed and was accepted to graduate school. I told her how powerful her words were to me. She had empowered me to move forward with my education and career, and most important, to show my children that in the midst of adversity, when we believe we are our weakest, we are our strongest.
This experience truly has made me and my children much stronger individuals and a stronger family. I graduated in December with my bachelor’s degree and completed my fellowship. I am now employed at my host organization and completing a master’s program, where I am studying to be a crisis and trauma counselor.
During my fellowship I began with my eyes wide open, or so I thought. I believed I was going to educate women, many of whom had endured unspeakable hardships. While my children and I overcame adversities, I gained wisdom and strength from these women. I was supposed to teach and assist them, but in reality, we taught each other.
Written by: Stacy Munn-Habersham, B.S, Family Literacy Advocate