Kisha's Story

Kisha Smaw
Hearts & Hands of Care, Inc.

Kisha’s Story

At a very young age, a mere 12 years old, I started my life in the direction of a juvenile delinquent. In fact, by age 14, I was on juvenile probation and in and out of McLaughlin Youth Center several times. This was an awful experience, but one I truly deserved and one that should have changed my life, or at least my actions.

However, by age 15 I was pregnant and back in the system again. I thought my life was over because this time my probation officer was going to send me to McLaughlin while I was four months pregnant and wanted to sentence me for a stay of two years.  But someway, somehow, somewhere she had a change of heart. I was in McLaughlin for two and-a-half months before my probation officer granted me a second chance. I don't know what she saw in me, but this was indeed my second chance at life and a new beginning.  At age 16 I was living temporarily at Booth Memorial Home and going to school. This is when I made an application to a new program in Anchorage for teen mothers, Covenant House Alaska’s Passage House program.

On January 5, 1994, my life changed forever. I gave birth to a beautiful 6 pound 6 ounce baby girl, but not without complications.  37 weeks pregnant, I noticed early that morning that my baby daughter "Kadijah" was not moving as she did every day. So I went to the hospital to find out what was going on. I believed everything was going to be okay, because at age 16 you think if you have a doctor and you’re at a hospital, it’s all going to be fine. Well I soon found out it wasn't. My daughter, who recently celebrated her eighteenth birthday, was delivered by emergency C-section due to a significant change in her heart rate.  As it turns out, she had the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck three times. The doctors explained her father and me that she was going to be okay and would be staying in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for four weeks. At this time, they did not know the long term effects that the lack of oxygen would have on Kadijah, but suspected she may have Cerebral Palsy. I never took to heart the impact of this – it did not set in. You see, at the age of 16, I assumed that because she looked normal and wasn’t disfigured, she was going to be just fine. But little did I know, my daughter would never walk or talk or do the things a normal child would do. It was later confirmed Kadijah has Severe Cerebral Palsy.

Shortly after the birth of Kadijah, I received a call from Gena stating that Covenant House Alaska had an opening for me at the Passage House program. I was ecstatic to be moving forward and moved into Passage House. This was when my life really began. At this time in my life, I was in an abusive relationship with my daughter’s father. My self-esteem was gone, my confidence wasn't there and my ambition and drive were lacking.

Once at Covenant House Alaska, the staff immediately saw things in me that I didn't. While living at Passage House, I learned daily living skills, financial skills and parenting skills. They even taught me cooking skills (though in all honestly, if you ask my husband, he will share that I never really mastered that skill).  I will say this- there were times that I couldn’t understand why they were pushing me so hard, why they were wanting me to do so many different things. What did they see in me? Well, today I understand. As the women I am today, I will tell you why.

They believed in me and they helped me to break through the barriers of being accepted into society and to reach my potential and what I defined as success.   They let me dream and dream big.  Part of this was taking advantage of the many opportunities Covenant House Alaska provided, from job development skills, parenting support, while stressing education and offering numerous referrals to needed resources.

This was my second chance at life all over again. Many of us at a young age miss out on that second chance. Covenant House Alaska never saw me for my juvenile background. They saw me for the person they knew I wanted to become.

Today I am a married mother of four beautiful girls and an owner of my own company that provides services for Developmentally Disabled Individuals and their families- Hearts and Hands of Care, Inc. I share my story because I want everyone to know that Covenant House Alaska and their community of generous donors will make, and have made, a difference. I am the face of the investment made to Covenant House Alaska, an agency that provides programs that have molded me into the woman I am today.