What does hope mean to you? For a long time, hope was the only thing I had…
As a young child, I didn’t have a stable life. I didn’t have supportive adults to care for me or friends to play with. I didn’t feel like I belonged. Anywhere.
Growing up with a parent in prison was incredibly hard on me. I went into the foster care system at a young age, and by the time I was 10 (the age I met my forever family), I had already lived in seven foster homes and been to nine different schools. I couldn’t read. I wouldn’t shower. I cried myself to sleep every night. I was angry, but still, I had hope.
I remember my first summer at Project Avary. Riding on the school bus to camp is a vivid and wonderful memory of mine. I made friends instantly, and we spent the whole ride smiling and laughing so hard. Suddenly I knew that I belonged, and that I was no longer alone. I still had hope, and I could tell the people around me did, too.
Summer camp ended, and I couldn’t wait to go back. It’s as if new life surged through me! Project Avary gave me so many experiences I would have never had. Kids in my situation don’t often get to go canoeing, surfing, skiing, or kayaking, and they certainly don’t get to go to summer camp. I felt so lucky, and my hope for the future grew even stronger.
Last year was a big year for me: I celebrated one year as an official child of my adoptive parents, and I became a Junior Counselor at Camp Avary!
I can honestly say that growing up in Project Avary has made me the leader I am today. At the fire circles, the Avary leaders shared their grief and challenges, and they showed me what it means to be vulnerable. Avary provided me with amazing role models, and because of that, I am becoming a role model for the next generation. Now, I am able to hope for someone other than myself.
I feel extremely grateful to have ended up with so many supportive adults in my life—my adoptive family, kind teachers, and my family at Project Avary. I am also grateful for YOU, people who don’t personally know me, but believe in my future. Your support has made Project Avary’s influence in my life possible. Now I don’t just hope, but I believe, too.
With Gratitude & Avary Love,
Dajon “DJ” Terrell, Avary Junior Counselor, Age 17