My name is Reketta Nesmith and this is my final year as a MA student in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program at University of Redlands. My school is giving us the opportunity of a lifetime to share with students of the Philippines and learn about the education, mental health and counseling system. I know this will give me the opportunity to continue to grow and learn while being able to provide assistance to those that may not have had the same opportunities as others. I have always wanted to mentor, advocate and provide knowledge to others in a different demographic. I have always had the passion to lend a helping hand, to serve and to give hope to those that may not see that there is hope. I know this is what I was put on this earth to do.
Take a look at my story:
Growing up, I experienced a lot in my childhood. I was born and raised in Washington DC for majority of my life. Both of my parents raised me together until I was eight years old. They separated and finally divorced when I was ten years old. But before their divorce, there was a time that I was inseparable from my dad. I was definitely a "Daddy's Girl".
However, this all changed around the age of six years old. I started noticing some changes in my dad's life. He wasn't the same; his speech, tone, behavior, facial expressions and our connection changed.
One afternoon, this became very apparent. My dad picked my brother and me up from daycare and he told us we were going on a ride. I had no clue where we were going, but I trusted my dad, so of course we both went with him. We didn't know this would change our lives forever. He began having visual hallucinations and became very paranoid. In his mind, he thought he was protecting us from a witch that he believed was following us. My dad was so determined to keep us safe, that he began speeding on the freeway as fast as he could, not realizing he was actually placing us in more harm and danger than he could imagine. I was crying hysterically because I didn't know why my dad was being so peculiar and he was beginning to frighten me.
Ultimately, this is what led up to one of the most tragic car accidents in my life, and my dad's life was altered forever. My brother and I left the scene without a broken limb or scratch, and my dad's arm was dislocated. But the car was totally demolished. Eventually, my dad was clinically diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
As a child, I never understood what went wrong or what I did wrong to lose one of the most important male figures in my life. I couldn't grasp the fact that I had to have supervised visitations whenever I wanted to see my dad or just to have a conversation with him like I was so accustomed to before. I didn't know what the term schizophrenic was. I had no idea this label would cause so much separation between our family. This is something I was embarrassed to share with others for quite some time, in fear of being ridiculed and mislabeled.
During my adolescent years, it became even more difficult for me to accept the fact that my dad was diagnosed with Schizophrenia. I wasn't educated on what mental illnesses were. My family wasn't either, so it just caused everyone to be in fear for their lives and to isolate themselves from him. I don't remember being referred to anyone or given any advice on how we could help him. We became more distant as the years went on and eventually we just completely stopped communicating in general.
Sometimes I wonder how different my life or relationship with my dad would have been if we had support groups and advocates to help my dad and family during the period he was diagnosed with Schizophrenia. My dad is the catalyst of me pursuing a career as a Clinical Mental Health Counselor. I have encountered many individuals that have experienced trauma, mental illnesses or the lack of support that they need to progress and become stable in society. They deserve treatment, support, love and equality just as any other individual does.
All my life I have had a passion of not only helping others, but being able to provide the tools to maintain stability and progress. I have had the opportunity to work with at risk youth, the oppressed, mentally disabled, and individuals that others usually do not have the desire to help. I am able to not only sympathize, but also empathize with these individuals because I know what it is like to go through such an ordeal and not have the support you need. I have always been interested in mentoring, providing resources, encouraging, implementing interventions, modifying behaviors, counseling or just being there to listen.
Although I have had the opportunity to do this in Washington, DC and throughout Southern CA, now I am being offered the opportunity to share the same hope and love to other students in the Philippines. I will be trained with the staff and students of the University of the Philippines for an internship and earning credits for a Social Advocacy class, while providing the same support that my family and I once needed to other students. I will be learning about different resources, referrals, techniques and collaborating with the citizens of the Philippines.
Even though the class will already be paid for through financial aid, the travel and other expenses while I am going to be in the Philippines will be an additional $3,500.00, which include expenses for: Flight, Room & Board, Vaccinations, Miscellaneous Trip Expenses and the Gofundme fee. I am currently working full time and a full time student trying to raise the funds for my travel and additional costs. I know this is possible to raise awareness about clinical mental health issues and provide support in the Philippines, but I do need your support as well. I am asking if you can make any kind of donation to help me further my education and hands on experience with other individuals that may not receive the assistance and care they need.
Please donate any amount to this cause and help me become an advocate for the students and families of the Philippines. No amount is too small. I hope my story has encouraged someone and will allow you to also follow your purpose even when it may not always seem attainable.
I will be posting pictures of my 7 day journey in the Philippines and will constantly keep you updated on the Blog while I am in the Philippines.
I appreciate and thank you all in advance for giving me this opportunity and every penny counts, so please donate what you can, share/post on your wall and pray.
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