Looking for Purpose, She Found Compassion
Rachel Jackson-Bramwell was a 25-year-old single mom and full-time college student trying to keep afloat. She was searching for purpose. There had to be more.
Many mornings on her drive into work, she would see homeless people asleep on the side of the road. The sight would make her think how grateful she was for what she had, and how she could offer compassion to the people outside her window.
Jackson-Bramwell says she didn’t make all the right choices in life. That could have been her out there. So she started Project Compassion in 2005.
She recalls, “I thought to myself, ‘I’m not rich. I don’t have a lot. But I do have a little. … What if I could give what I had to help others?’”
The project began as a small act of kindness. Word of Jackson-Bramwell’s work spread quickly after Project Compassion was featured on “The Tyra Banks Show.” People started calling and Project Compassion soon grew into a community-based organization designed to reach homeless and low-income women and children in St. Louis.
Jackson-Bramwell built ties with state and local agencies, establishing Project Compassion as a resource to support people where government services could not reach. Volunteer efforts involved visiting shelters initially to conduct classes and provide donated items for people trying to get back on their feet.
Then, Jackson-Bramwell found a dedicated physical space for Project Compassion. The Compassionate Resources Center opened in 2011, offering classes, workshops and training to women ages 16 to 35, and girls in grades six through 10, that prepare them for success by discovering their potential.
“To me, compassion means being moved to make a change,” Jackson-Bramwell says. “You don’t just give a person something, you empower them.”
Jackson-Bramwell's leadership of Project Compassion has helped empower more than 45,000 women and children. She has a volunteer base of more than 2,000 people, most of them teenagers. She has brought in troubled youth to volunteer, and through the experience has been able to deliver a stern warning: If you don’t make better choices, you might become a client here.
Through her work, Jackson-Bramwell recognized that underprivileged and homeless girls were in a precarious spot. They saw their mothers struggle and were at risk to either mimic the behavior they saw, or accept it as normal, perpetuating a cycle of hardship.
Jackson-Bramwell launched a self-esteem program, Empower-Me, and is working with two of the largest school districts, offering kindergarten-through-12th-grade programming in a dozen schools in St. Clair County, Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from East St. Louis.
When speaking about helping young women, Jackson-Bramwell says she wants them to know and believe “no matter where you come from, you can change your world.”
Jackson-Bramwell was recognized by L'Oréal Paris and Points of Light as a 2014 Woman of Worth for her extraordinary volunteer work. Nominate an inspiring woman who is creating change in her community to be one of this year's Women of Worth at www.womenofworth.com.