I am a co-survivor. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was eight years old. Fortunately, she is still here with me today, twelve years later. Her strength and grace through cancer inspired me in countless ways. The journey we took together created a desire in myself to want to give back to the strong community of breast cancer survivors and co-survivors.
I am also a student. I attend Samford University where I am pursuing my dream of becoming a nurse. It is also where I am a part of the Micah Fellows Program, an honors program devoted to service. In this program each student chooses a nonprofit in Birmingham to serve over their undergraduate years. When looking for a nonprofit to serve, I really wanted to find somewhere that I could grow in experience as well as pour my heart into. The mission and staff at Forge were a huge reason why I ended up choosing to intern here. It was really important for me to work with a team that saw me for me and not just as an intern.
After working with Forge for over a year now, I have realized that they didn’t just see me as an intern, and they also didn’t just see me for me, or at least the me that I was. They saw me for the me I would become.
Now when I am asked to describe my time at Forge, three words come to mind: encouraging, meaningful, progressing. Let me explain how I came to choosing these words…
Coming from a nursing background at school, I have never worked in an office setting. When I first started at Forge, I spent a lot of time designing flyers, mailing packets, filing paperwork, translating documents, etc. Each time I was given a new task, I was able to feel confident in myself because the rest of the team felt confident in me as well. Forge gave me a place to learn and feel assured in areas that I did not know I had potential for. Not only did they have faith in me, but they constantly affirmed and valued everything I did, even the small things.
The mission behind Forge is one that I fully believe in. I have learned how valuable relationships can be. I see this in the relationships between survivors, and I also see this in the relationships between the staff and volunteers who truly show that they have a heart and passion for this population. I have also found joy in the times I have gotten to know the people we serve. These casual interactions are meaningful because I get to see these courageous women for who they are inside. I am so fortunate to be able to give back and serve the breast cancer community, which has had a piece of my heart for most of my life. Because of Forge, I know that there are people working hard every day to help others like my mom. That is pretty meaningful to me.
I spent most of my first months at Forge doing basic office work and learning the ins and outs of how Forge works. I got to learn so much from that time, especially how important even the smallest tasks are to an organization. Now that I have gotten to see all the different aspects of Forge, I am at the point where I am able to take on much larger tasks. I was even given the opportunity to work in an area of Forge that I thought could be expanded. I wanted to create more of a community for co-survivors. Over the summer, I spent my time diving into just that by researching, reading, and talking with co-survivors to find ways that Forge can better serve this population. This new project of mine is something that I am so excited about because it is very dear to me and my life. I am eager to work with my co-workers at Forge to expand our resources to more co-survivors and give them a place to feel safe and heard.
My first year at Forge has been nothing short of amazing. Looking back to when I was making my decision about which nonprofit I wanted to serve with, I know that I definitely made the right choice for what I wanted and where I saw myself growing in the best possible ways. Forge is a place where any survivor or co-survivor can find strength, and I am proud to be a part of it.