My name is Vanessa and I would like to share my testimony with you and to say thank you to this incredible organization for helping me become the person and mother I want, more then anything, to be. This organization has done more for me then I could ever possibly say. I never would have been able to provide my son with all of the amazing things you have given me. Not only the invaluable education but essentials like diapers and a crib and stroller are things I am not able to provide for my son at this time due to medical issues I suffered in a car accident. What you have done and are doing for me and this community is priceless and I jumped at the chance to come and tell you all how I have benefited from your kindness, generosity and compassion.

031-800A little more about me and my journey… I grew up in Northern California and went to college in Santa Barbara at my dream school Brooks Isnt. of Photography/ I majored in visual journalism and graduated at the top of my class. Since I was ten years old I have had a camera in my hands. My first job was at Expressly Portraits when I was eighteen. My early training is in portraiture so I have adopted both into my own work. I consider myself a journalistic portrait artist and aspiring travel writer. My grandfather Thomas Earle Stevens was my greatest inspiration as one of the very first news cameramen for ABC news in Hollywood, Ca. I know I got my sense of adventure from him there is no doubt. I can’t help but long for places I have never been. For me the ultimate places are one’s I have nothing in common with and learn from the most. It is my true passion and you have given me the skills I need to take my life and profession to next level. It is hard to put into words how truly grateful I am.

Before I get into all of that I have to tell you a little more about some of the struggles that brought me to your door. Unfortunately I have battled for many years to over come the mental and physical trauma I sustained in my accident on May 14, 2001. About 6 months before I started at Brooks I was ejected out the driver side window of my jeep going 70 mph. At the time I had my two dogs Benny the beagle and Lancelot my golden retriever with me. On that day we should have all perished but by the grace of God and his angels (who were there I have no doubt) we did not.

I can recall it like it was yesterday. I was driving on the open road, cruise control set to 70 (that was the speed limit) with my dogs by my side. We were heading to our new lives in Colorado. I had secured a job and a place to live. My chance to start over after a long relationship had ended. Unfortunately we never made it.

On that bright sunny day I simply took off my seatbelt and leaned over to grab a bone for the dogs, By the time I came back up I had ventured into the dirt center between the lanes. I over corrected and the car flipped (God only knows how many times) and I was ejected (more like catapulted) out the driver side window. It was actually the fact that I was not wearing a seatbelt that saved me. Had I been left in the car I would have been crushed.

I believe angels pulled me out of the car and that I was saved for a reason. It has haunted me for many years. I have met with many different kinds of religious practitioners and spiritual leaders who have all said the same thing. Your angels were with you and it was not your time. Well I believe those same Angels guided me to you!

Yes the dogs survived in fact Lancelot was picked up on the side of the road and brought to me in the hospital. Benny had a bit more of an adventure. A family picked him up as they were driving to their home in Washington. Luckily we had both dogs chipped so they finally got in touch with us. After about three weeks they actually drove down and brought him to me.

I have always known how lucky I am to have survived the accident so any injuries I sustained were nothing compared to what could have happened. I did break my pelvis in half and almost lost my left hand amongst other injuries. I was on disability for about 6 years up until recently. I have always thought of it as Gods way of waking me up. I realized a long time ago that unless I learn a lesson the hard way it just doesn’t stick.

Before I met my husband about four years ago I was definitely in need of a one of those hard lessons because my life was going no where fast. I was living in a cockroach infested apartment, sharing a room, drinking everyday and barely able to survive. For me, a professional photographer, dropping everything and moving to Africa was a dream come true.

All I know is it was love at first site. The moment I saw him I had this kind of life review seeing our entire future all in one moment. It was crazy! I also had a dream about him the night before we Skyped for the first time. I didn’t realize it until I saw his face. He was the man I had dreamt of the night before. My soulmate was sitting right in front of me as we spoke on Skype for the first time. Meeting my husband Hassen was a shock more then anything else. I knew right away God was speaking to me and I had better listen. Who knew I could have so much in common with someone I could barely speak to. In any event it only took me three months to pack up my entire life and leave the United States for Tunisia, Africa.

To make a long short we are now waiting for his Visa and he should be here by the end of Oct or beginning of Nov. For the past almost 2 years I have had to live with my parents in the US because of our son and the medical treatment is just better here. I did get to take my son (at 3 months old) to see his Dad and family there. But my husband has missed so much, his birth and his first words and steps. In fact I have only been with my husband a month and a half in the last 18 months. If it wasn’t for the love and kindness you have shown me on top of everything else, I really don’t know where I would be today.

After having my son (who is also a miracle since I did not think I could have children) it became my mission to get healthy again! Now I work out every day, eat healthy, and recently went through 6 months of physical therapy. Every week I see therapists and doctors and attend groups and mindfulness classes in addition to this program. You are all truly building my dream with me and helping me make it a reality.

I truly believe there is a reason I went though all of these hardships. I never would have met any of you had I not been through them. This program has me has made me smarter, kinder and more fearless. The education you provide new mothers is invaluable. I have learned how to be a better parent and a better person! You opened your arms to me during a very difficult time and never pushed me away. You saved me from loosing myself and from falling back into my addictive habits like drinking and drugs. More then anything you empowered me to make better choices and live a better life.

I started coming to ‘the center’ I call it about a year and a half ago. I come almost every week. The skills I have learned from all the amazing classes are immeasurable and I honestly could not be more grateful for the love and kindness everyone has shown me. I have learned about so many wonderful parenting techniques and I truly believe that everyone needs to take these classes they are such a benefit and a saving grace for me.

It was, I believe, God that sent me to your door. I just happened to be driving by one day and saw the sign. You have truly saved me from being unable to care for my own child. Without you (and my parents of course whose home I have been living in for the past 4 years off and on) I never would have been the person I am today. My parents are already on a tight budget so having to take care of all of us is almost impossible. Buying diapers, formula, new clothes, a crib and stroller would have never happened without you guys! Every week you give us more then we could ever ask for! You have saved me and you have saved my family.

Your patience and wisdom have been so much appreciated during this difficult time. I love having open talks with you about my life and the situation I’ve been in. I never feel judged and always feel supported and loved no matter what. That to me is what God is all about. I have studied many religions, my husband and his family are Muslim, The one thing all religions have in common is love, acceptance, and God of course. I think it is what brings us together and makes us more alike then we are different.

Thank you so much and God bless!