With your support, we can help homeless veterans, like Mapanga, continue their journey towards restoration and get back to doing what they love most.
I am known by the name of Mapanga. I am a U.S. Army veteran.
When I think about Orpe Human Rights Advocates at its counseling sessions, I think about how much I have changed. I also think about how much I have learned too.
Let me back up for a minute.
In late 2015, I lost my cab. After I lost my cab, I lost my home. When I lost my home, I had to move in with my ex-wife. I didn’t have anywhere else to go. I was using and addicted.
And I didn’t know that help was all around me. I couldn’t see it.
And it was about to get a whole lot harder.
Just as 2016 began, I felt like my world was ending. You see, January 6th is my birthday. Which for me is usually a happy day. But on this birthday, my best friend Derek was planning a dinner for me. But instead of dinner, I got a call from his sister saying that he had unexpectedly passed away.
It broke my heart.
That was rock bottom for me. And with Derek’s passing, it wasn’t the end for me, it was the beginning of my journey. I started going to the VA for programs because I knew I needed help. I also started schooling at Tri-C, in the upward bound program.
But all I could think about was I needed to get back to my cab. I thought that would solve all of my problems.
I was still using, didn’t have a home and was living with my ex-wife. On top of that I was still unemployed, I was heartbroken, and broken down. I knew then I needed more help than what I was asking for. So I called the VA.
They called me back, and told me about a program at the Domiciliary. I could go through the program and have somewhere to stay, and I could continue in the veterans business program. So on March 21st, I moved into the Dom.
It wasn’t easy. But I did feel some small relief.
The first 30 days I was at the Dom, I felt like I was in a trance. I sat in the back of the classes. I was headstrong and resistant.
I kept thinking, I need my cab. I need my cab. In fact, it was all I could think about. It was my priority. I didn’t realize it was blocking me from taking care of myself. Not yet.
Somewhere during my second month at the Dom, something changed. Maybe it was my case managers, Ashley, Yolonda, and Carvin that helped me, or maybe it was Drew, who pushed us to go out and explore the fun parts of life.
Or maybe it was something as simple as realizing, I needed to take care of myself, then I could get my cab back, and an apartment and reconnect with my family.
After three months at the Dom, the sessions felt different. I went from the back of the group to the front of the group.
Yolonda started calling me “Mr. Completion.”
Ashley helped me see that if I didn’t take care of myself, I wouldn’t get the things I wanted. She told me it was time to concentrate on me. She let me say what I needed to say. She helped me keep my word.
She trusted me. And I trusted her.
And finally, my thinking changed. I realized that I was broken. But I also learned that I wasn’t a bad person. With the help of the staff, I dumped the garbage, as I like to say. And I relearned the basics.
One of the things that sticks with me even today, is relearning how to process situations and most importantly, how to react.
Let me say this, when I was angry, I was angry. I would lash out.
It wasn’t my fault.
It was their fault.
It’s not my problem.
After the classes, I started listening from the front row, and I realized this was the missing link to my life. And it’s with me even today.
A few months ago, I needed to leave for work. Yes, I have my cab back. I am a cab driver for Americab.
Anyways, I needed to leave for work. This man was blocking my exit from the parking lot. And he wouldn’t let me leave. “There’s a marathon coming” he said. And I couldn’t drive on the street. I had to find a police officer to let me out of my parking lot. I needed my van after all, I couldn’t drive a cab with no cab!
For the next two hours, I really stewed on it. I had a job to do. He was trying to stop me. I am going to give him a piece of my mind.
The thing is, by the time I got home, and parked several blocks away, I started using my new processing skills. The guy was still there, blocking traffic, but what I saw was even more amazing. There he was, happy as can be. He was waving and cheering all the marathon people along.
So you know what I did? I went and got my lawn chair and joined him. And there we both were, waving and cheering for all of the marathon runners.
There I was, in my own front yard thinking:
I have my cab back.
I am drug free.
I am finally living my life.
It was the perfect moment.
Looking back over the past year or so, I can say it was a hard journey. But with the guidance of Volunteers of America staff like Ashley, Yolonda, Carvin, and Drew, and so many others, I found myself. Because of them I have a feeling of accomplishment and self-worth.
To me, Volunteers of America is like a buffet of food. It nourishes you, so take all you can.
But it wasn’t just Volunteers of America. It was the faith of my family and friends. Especially my Mom, who I talk to every day.
Mom, I wanted to make you proud. And today, I feel proud of myself. Thank you for all you do for me and all of your prayers. I know your prayers helped me.
And it was my sponsor Ralph, and my boss Pat, and my daughter Michelle. Thank you so much to each of you for believing in me.
And it was God. I thank God every day for the life I live today, for everything I have, and for everything I am. Thank you for not letting me stray away from you or the path you had for me.
And thank you to all of you. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your giving is what helped me … live.
With your support, we can help homeless veterans, like Michael, continue their journey towards restoration and get back to doing what they love most.