From homeless and pregnant to serving to others: A lady’s inspiring journey


By Blue Cross NC | April 17, 2023 | 5 min min learn | Changemakers, Neighborhood Well being, Neighborhood Companions

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For a lady, double traces on a being pregnant check can spark a flood of feelings, starting from instant and immense pleasure to shock and concern. Changing into pregnant is life altering. It impacts your priorities, your well being, your funds and your life-style. However, for pregnant women of their teenagers, the influence might be life-threatening, too.

Cassie Ward can relate, as she had a high-risk being pregnant at a younger age. She was additionally homeless and alone. Nonetheless, her energy, dedication and hope pulled her by way of. As did a serving to hand.

Not everybody will get that assist, although, as companies for pregnant teenagers are few and much between. They’re in determined want of shelter, well being care and help. Ward, an worker at Blue Cross and Blue Defend of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) and a church pastor – is aware of this firsthand.

Ladies who develop up in poverty or that suffer childhood abuse, neglect or household instability usually tend to change into pregnant as teenagers. In sure settings similar to foster care, teenagers are greater than twice as probably to change into pregnant than these not within the foster care system.

After which, there are those that haven’t any place to name house.

A 2018 examine by Chapin Corridor on the College of Chicago concluded that “many pregnant and parenting youth are experiencing or in danger for homelessness.” Fifty-five p.c of ladies aged 13-17 experiencing homelessness, reported being a guardian or being pregnant.

Moreover, teen being pregnant brings larger dangers of life-threatening situations similar to eclampsia, systemic infections, low beginning weight, preterm beginning and a slew of neonatal points.

These environmental and medical elements are an enormous a part of Ward’s personal expertise.

Cassie Ward is paying it ahead, serving to younger ladies carve out a wholesome and promising future for themselves and their kids.

Rising up in Wilson, NC, Ward’s father deserted her household whereas she was younger. She and her two brothers had been raised by a single mom, who endured home abuse in relationships. As a younger baby, Ward was sexually molested, inflicting trauma, disgrace and melancholy that lasted for many years. She coped by holding tight to her Christian religion and striving for perfection by excelling in lecturers and sports activities. “That’s how I escaped from what occurred to me – ensuring I used to be the very best at no matter I put my thoughts to,” she mentioned.

With all indicators pointing towards a brighter maturity, Ward nonetheless discovered herself weak to the cycles created by childhood trauma; falling into abusive relationships, simply as her mom had. She grew to become pregnant in 1996 on the age of 21, welcoming a son. Regardless of her happiness at turning into a mom, it added immense pressure to the already dysfunctional relationship she had along with her soon-to-be husband. By 2000, she was homeless, dwelling in her automotive along with her younger son, pregnant with a child lady. The stress of juggling motherhood, work, and a unstable marriage finally landed her within the hospital through the fifth month of her being pregnant. When it got here time for her discharge, she had no house tackle to supply. So, she phoned her buddy, Lelia Brewington, who welcomed her into her own residence.

Ward and her kids stayed with Brewington’s household for six months. Throughout that point, she was working for Blue Cross NC as a Buyer Service Advocate, saving sufficient cash to safe her personal condominium, however nonetheless struggling psychological and verbal abuse by the hands of her husband. “I used to be satisfied that it doesn’t matter what occurred on this marriage, I may repair it. I didn’t need my kids to develop up in a one-parent house like I did,” Ward says. “I used to be in my thirties earlier than it lastly hit me: ‘This isn’t your fault.’”

She credit her kids for serving to get by way of her darkest moments.

“All these instances I felt like I wasn’t cherished… my son would leap in my lap and simply hug me, kiss me throughout [and say], ‘I like you, Mama. I like you.’ That is the explanation why I wish to hold happening and do nice issues. As a result of I need him to in the future have a look at me and say, ‘Mama, you probably did that’.”

In 2013, divorced and wanting a contemporary begin, she moved again to her hometown, nonetheless constructing her profession at Blue Cross NC. She additionally continued her church ministry, the place she met many younger ladies scuffling with the identical type of ache she had felt. She enrolled in free enterprise programs at the local people faculty, taking each class she may, readying herself to execute a choice that she had made way back – to pay ahead the generosity that Brewington had proven her years earlier than.

“When Lelia welcomed me into her house, I felt prefer it was heaven itself coming down, rescuing me. That’s why I got here up with Heavenly Rescued,” Ward says. Based in 2018, the nonprofit offers help to pregnant females from the ages of 13 to 23, experiencing homelessness, displacement and abuse. Via steady dwelling environments, academic development help, parenting abilities and job coaching, Heavenly Rescued teaches teenagers and girls simply coming into maturity to change into self-sufficient and useful moms.

Ward started by housing mothers-to-be in her house. Two years later, she rented a bigger four-bedroom home – generally known as the Maternity Dwelling – a spot crammed with stuffed animals, blankets, clothes and different small comforts for soon-to-be moms. Right here, residents can expertise stability and care all through their being pregnant and as much as six months postpartum.

Chavis and her daughter, Indya, spend time with Ward. “Pastor Cassie informed me that she would do as a lot as she will to assist me…that a very powerful factor was having a wholesome child,” Chavis says.

To this point, Heavenly Rescued has had greater than 30 teenagers and younger ladies move by way of its doorways, bringing with them their very own horrible baggage: poverty, abuse, rape and the psychological injury that comes with every.

“The youthful the teenager, the extra consideration is required,” Ward says. “Most of them have both dropped out of faculty or aren’t doing effectively in class; due to this fact, tutoring is a should. They’re additionally extra mentally and emotionally scarred than the older moms. They require extra household and one-on-one counseling, in addition to parenting and developmental abilities.”

Via a community of assets that Ward has created, these mothers-to-be obtain remedy, profession coaching, parenting programs and monetary schooling. Ward additionally helps younger moms in acquiring their GED by way of the local people faculty’s program providing. And, alongside the way in which, Ward and her workforce step in to show these younger ladies self-love and self-care that they’ll then move on to their baby.

Pleasure Chavis is one in every of many ladies who’ve discovered a brand new path by way of Heavenly Rescued.

Recent out of highschool, Chavis came upon she was pregnant. Her child’s father instantly left her, and she or he was kicked out of her household house. “I had no job, no cash and solely a highschool schooling,” she says. Chavis’s grandmother, Betti Brown, was a member of Ward’s ministry and launched the 2.

With help from Ward and Heavenly Rescued, Chavis welcomed a daughter, mended her relationship along with her mom, discovered a safe job and saved sufficient cash for her personal condominium. “I may by no means repay Pastor Cassie,” she says, “I really feel like there may be hope for me.”

Via donations from organizations, congregations and people, 5 younger moms have acquired their GED, and 5 others have obtained jobs primarily based on the group’s coaching program. Twelve are actually dwelling independently. As Ward notes, it’s merely “one particular person at a time.”

Lots of Ward’s co-workers have contributed to Heavenly Rescued by way of Blue Cross NC’s GivingWorks program, which matches particular person donations to maximise an worker’s influence on their neighborhood.

“GivingWorks is among the most tangible methods our workers join with our function,” says Sophie McMillian, a member of the Neighborhood & Range Enagement workforce at Blue Cross NC. “People will share tales about how a nonprofit modified their life, or the place they offer in honor of a member of the family, or, in instances like Cassie, the place they spend all their free time serving to their neighborhood. Over the previous 10 years, GivingWorks has raised $17.2 million {dollars} for a wide range of organizations, together with Heavenly Rescued. That’s unimaginable to see.”

Ward, who has labored at Blue Cross NC for greater than 20 years, is now a compliance officer within the Company Pharmacy division. She praises the corporate for permitting her to commit extra time to Heavenly Rescued and obtain a doctoral diploma in theology from Manna School. “If I didn’t have that flexibility, I actually don’t assume I may even do that.”

Ward’s dedication to the younger ladies she helps is eternal. Her deep understanding of their trials, fears, disgrace and brokenness is what retains her welcoming them in with open arms, an open coronary heart and an open door – in order that when their infants arrive, they’re swaddled in hope.


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