Meet survivor and #Soulfire2014 participant, Alissa Folger. She is a Spartan Alumni who is currently a Practice Consultant for a healthcare consultant and management firm in East Lansing. In her spare time, she is a Skating coach and skater at the Lansing Skating Cub and an English as a Second Language Tutor for the Capital Area Literacy Coalition. Most recently, she joined The Firecracker Foundation’s brand new Volunteer Committee.
We are so excited to be able to share her reflections on #Soulfire2014. Enjoy!
As I walked up to the door, my mind started flooding with thoughts.
What am I doing here?
What am I thinking?
I can’t let people into the secrets and stories of my past that I’ve worked so very hard to bury.
I’ve made a huge mistake.
My thoughts were interrupted when the door opened and I was greeted with the kindest of smiles. I walked into the room and found a seat, still feeling very unsure about myself and what I was doing. I looked around at the faces gathered about the table…and then it happened.
I locked eyes with a young girl sitting next me. She was by far the youngest in the room and was seated next to who I would later learn was her grandmother (although you’d never know it by looking at her). I’m sure the gaze only lasted a few seconds, but in those few seconds time seemed to stop, the rest of the room faded away, and I felt something- a deep connection of some sort.
I couldn’t explain it and didn’t fully understand it at the time. It was like I was looking at myself at twelve years old and it was in that moment that I suddenly remembered why I was choosing to do this. I would later learn that her story was strikingly similar to mine. Was that what had caused the connection I felt? I’m not sure. But I do know that if this young girl could be so brave, then I could too. After all, I wasn’t doing this for me.
When I contacted Tashmica to find out what I could do, I never imagined what it would turn in to. I read through the website and listened to Tashmica describe her vision and dream for the foundation and it really resonated with me. There were two things about the foundation that really spoke to me:
The first was combining artistic and physical outlets with therapy to aid in the childrens’ healing. I feel so strongly about the importance of this because it has been so instrumental in my journey. If someone were to ask me what the most difficult part of healing has been for me, it would be communication and learning to express myself. Being forced into silence for so long, I couldn’t seem to find the words anymore. They just seemed so out of reach. I struggled to find ways to express what I was feeling, to find an outlet for it all and I kept coming up short, lacking the knowledge of what it was that I needed.
Until I found one thing: figure skating. I stumbled upon the sport by what seemed like an accident at the time but that I now believe to be fate- and I fell in love. Skating soon became my outlet, a means of expressing myself when words failed me. Not only did I find an outlet in skating, but I found a supportive environment that helped launch me into the journey of discovering what I was capable of, not just in skating, but in life. In skating, I found a home and something that I thought I would never find again – my voice.
As I read these statements in The Firecracker Foundation’s mission statement, I felt empowered to help these young survivors find something like what I had found that would help them as they tried to move forward. Maybe, with an organization like this, they wouldn’t have to wait so long.
The second thing that really spoke to me about the foundation was the role survivors could play in advocating and mentoring the kids. This is a piece that I didn’t realize was missing for me until I got involved with The Firecracker Foundation. I never realized how much power that hearing two small words- “Me too” could have.
Participating in this project started out as way for me to help the kids in this community who had survived so much and to give them the support and opportunities I have been so blessed with. What I didn’t realize was how much this project was actually giving me. The calendar project has given me the opportunity and the bravery to share my story for the first time and it has been more liberating than I have the words to describe. A weight has been lifted. There are no more secrets- only love. Love and a community of survivors willing to pool their love and raise their voices to fight for those who are still in the darkness. As I look through the images of this project, I see each individual’s story and journey represented in a way that is as unique to them as the beauty they hold and I am inspired.
“The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.”
– Neil Gaiman
I love your voice, Alissa. The world would not be the same without it. Love, FC.