By Ashlee Donnaud
2016 ARA graduate
My life started off having a terrible childhood. My dad went to prison when I was 4 and remained in prison throughout my childhood. I got put in foster care at the age of 13. Then I got abducted and raped, after a year of being in foster care, while walking to a friend’s house.
I started experimenting with drugs and got very depressed and started cutting myself. I went in and out of mental hospitals as a teenager. I got kicked out of school around 7th grade for cutting while I was at school. Then they sent me to a school for behavior children and I soon got kicked out of that school as well.
I started to do drugs and hooked up with this guy. I got beat up and every bone in the side of my face got broken. I felt like I was dying. I laid down and didn’t know if I was going to make it or if anyone was going to come help me. I was living on the streets and I was selling my body just to get by. I was lost. I didn’t think there was any hope. I ended up in Florida homeless with $5 in my pocket.
I moved to Shreveport in 2014 and that’s when my life started to change for the better. I got off drugs and started surrounding myself with better things. I started the Adult Renewal Academy and started having positive people around me. I met a friend when I started the ARA and it was my first friend that didn’t do drugs. The structure of the program helped me and, having the staff to talk to, the program really has changed my life.
I started to do the anger management class and realized when I needed to do to cope. Now I handle my anger in a different way because people at the ARA were there for me. I never had a support system so strong. They showed me I was capable of something. When I passed my first test, that really shocked me. Then I knew I could really do this.
I started volunteering with Samaritan’s Purse because I want to help people. I want to become a paramedic. God has His hands on me and I can feel it. God was setting me up with such a bigger future than I could ever imagine. I am planning to start ministering to help other women who have fallen victim to sex trafficking.
I have noticed with every loss I had in my life, I have gained so much more. I stopped focusing on my old life and started focusing on my new life. I used to be a hermit. I didn’t want to talk to anyone and I didn’t want anyone at my house. And now I’m like, ‘Hey, come over and I will cook dinner and bake cookies!’
Don’t look at the negative in life. Even in the worst situations, you have got to look at the best. You may think there is no hope, but there is hope. You can’t give up. I didn’t know I would be smiling as much as I do now. I want the world to know there is hope!