The project begins

 Keeping the heart beating within every community is the dedication of a core of volunteers and service workers. These are the people making sure resources within all of our communities stay as strong as possible, even if there is a vacuum of lack of funding making the work they do even more important for the health and security of our neighbors. These selfless people give of their time, their expertise, and their wisdom. The services they provide are endless and can include handing out food at food pantries, answering phones at shelters, making sure every child has a present during the holidays and warm coats to wear on those cold bitter days. This core of amazing souls are the strength of any given community.
What many do not realize is they do this work with not only love in their heart but also because the road their life has taken has brought them there - to give back while paying forward and ensuring better tomorrows for all. At one time during the path they have walked they may have been viewed as weak and meek. If you take a moment and get to know these treasures you may just find out a vast majority have been someone’s prey.
How do I know this you may ask…I know this because I have taken those steps in my own life and through my own experience have gotten to know others and their stories. More times than I would like to know I have shared a common bond not only with those I was volunteering to help but also with those I stood with while we were there for others.
Regardless of the the type of abuse they have survived, child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence or otherwise, the passion to make changes and plant seeds of hope are the same. It doesn’t matter where they are financially - some may still be struggling to get by and others may live a comfortable existence, that bond of survival is one which crosses all lines- racial, financial, gender, and faiths.
It for these very reasons I have decided to move forward with a project that I have been thinking about for years - to tell the stories of those who are living free from a past where they once were living a nightmare. More often than not society’s knee-jerk reactions when they learn someone has been abused is to focus on the victim in a negative viewpoint rather than in a positive one. In domestic violence cases questions of why someone stayed are often asked, judgments of how they deserved the abuse if they did stay, are soon to follow. For that matter just the word “abused” creates a picture of wounds and damage -scars that cannot be healed. Those who have lived that life and have survived to carry on stronger than ever know that while the memories and life lessons will always remain, the wounds do in fact heal.
#WhenIBecameFree - The Heartland Project is a work in progress with one goal, to shine a light on the survivors making our world a better place to live. The project focuses on rural communities in the heart of the Midwest. The reason for this is there are often unique hurdles within these communities victims must get over that their counterparts in the more urban areas do not have to conquer. Those hurdles can include lack of transportation due to no public transportation; isolation in a place where everyone thinks they know everyone else’s story; extreme poverty; and of course, dwindling resources.
Over the cold weather months of 2014/15 the team working on#WhenIBecameFree - The Heartland Project will be reaching out to these amazing people and sharing their story. We will also focus on the resources in the communities we visit. We will compile the stories into a book, and the videos we take along the way, into a short documentary.
Working with me on this project is a group of high school students from theiLEAD Charter School in Mauston, Wisconsin. They will be helping with research, editing, filming, and art design. Each of the three students come from a different background and perspective about abuse. Max Nelson is a senior at iLEAD Charter School. Max has stated that his interest in the project stems from being raised by a mother who had grown up in an abusive household. Gabriel Brown is a junior at iLEAD Charter School and is the main researcher for the project. He stated he is interested in learning about the psychology of abuse and survivors. Gabriel stated that he is looking towards a future in the legal profession. And,then there is Kyle Roberts -my son who is a junior at iLEAD Charter School. Kyle knows what it is like to live in a house where there has been domestic violence, including going from a two parent middle class home to a single parent home living in poverty in what seemed like to him, overnight. Kyle will be the man behind the camera.
The goal is to have this project completed by the end of spring 2015. Any proceeds raised from the book and video will split three ways; to an organization working with survivors (yet to be determined); iLEAD Charter School ; and myself to fund future projects.
To learn more about the project visit the website -
You can also keep track of the project’s progress on Facebook
To help fund the project visit the #WhenIBecameFree Go Fund Me page 


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