It is said that everyone has a purpose. If that is so, then it is also true that finding one’s purpose is one of the greatest challenges we all face. For many, it’s a challenge that requires a lifetime of effort and experience to conquer. Others seem to know exactly what they are meant to do as though they are inexorably driven to it. This is the story of just such a person, and what she is doing to help make the world a better place.
Kumari Fulbright is the founder of the Freedom Initiative Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping women overcome challenging times in their lives. In Kumari’s case, helping others is the core aspect of her life’s purpose. It’s central not only to whom she is as a person, but to the mark, she’s trying to leave on the world. The Freedom Initiative Project is a direct expression of that purpose, and it aims to help a segment of the population that is often misunderstood, marginalized, and ignored.
An Overwhelming Need
In many parts of the world, women are seen as second-class citizens. Sometimes this means a lack of political voice, but all too often it means subservience, human rights abuses, and outright violence. That isn’t supposed to be a problem in the United States, though. That’s because women in the U.S. waged a very successful battle to secure their rights (political and otherwise) over the course of the last century that resulted in the codification of equal protection for women across the country. Sadly, that hasn’t meant the end of their struggle.
Despite the gains, there’s still an undercurrent of sexism that pervades American culture. It lurks underneath the surface of our society, and it leads to some horrendous outcomes. For example, statistics indicate that in the U.S., 25% of women have suffered severe physical violence inflicted by an intimate partner, and 20% will be raped within their lifetime. The problem doesn’t end with victimization, though. Even women caught up in the criminal justice system face an uphill struggle compared to their male counterparts.
At present, there are 219,000 women incarcerated in the United States. While that seems like a small number relative to the total population, it represents a full third of all women inmates globally. Of that group, 25% have yet to face trial for their alleged crimes. In addition, things don’t get easier for this cohort once they are freed. There’s also plenty of data that suggests that women with criminal records fare worse than men when trying to find employment, making reentry into society a challenge.
The Roots of Service
All of these examples of the structural inequality that women face in the U.S. has created a segment of the female population that is in dire need of assistance, and that is just what Kumari Fulbright had in mind when founding the Freedom Initiative Project. It’s an idea born from the intersection of what is an obvious and growing need, and an upbringing rooted in volunteerism and public service.
The journey that brought Kumari face to face with her life’s purpose began at home, with parents that instilled a desire in her to give back to the community at large. To that end, they’d make family trips to local homeless shelters and soup kitchens to volunteer their time to help those in need. It was an experience that taught her a lesson in humility, grace, and respect for people striving to overcome adversity. It’s a lesson that Kumari learned well, and carried with throughout her formative years.
Kumari has since been involved with a number of public service initiatives. They include helping to found a student organization dedicated to teaching the importance of public service to middle schoolers, offering assistance to young adults seeking to earn a G.E.D., and even joining the Volunteer Lawyers Program to help needy people navigate the often costly and labyrinthian legal system.
The variety of ways that she lent her time and talents to others led to a realization that communities exist to help all members to thrive, but that it is all too easy for marginalized groups to remain isolated from their peers with no clear path to redemption. It also became obvious that in too many cases, and in too many ways, a disproportionate number of women find themselves consigned to that very fate. That realization is where the Freedom Initiative Project had its genesis.
The Road to Normalcy
The overarching goal of the Freedom Initiative Project is to provide the resources that vulnerable and struggling women from all walks of life need to build successful, fulfilling, and independent lives. There is no distinction drawn as to circumstance, and services are offered to all who need them. It’s a mission that at once vast, and deeply personal.
Kumari has applied the lessons that she has gleaned from working with a wide variety of individuals facing adversity in designing the services that the project offers. It’s a whole-life approach that seeks to provide both the soft skills and the hard resources necessary for women to thrive. It begins with education. In recognition that knowledge is the foundation upon which stability is built, a variety of educational resources and tools are made available to those seeking help.
From there, the Freedom Initiative Project aims to offer a variety of support services, all of which are designed to help women to build critical life skills. For some, it takes the form of trauma recovery. For others, the goal is to learn how to live a healthy and mindful daily life. There’s even assistance for those facing housing challenges and barriers to employment. No matter the need, no effort is spared to meet it.
The Power of Purpose
The road ahead for Kumari Fulbright and the Freedom Initiative Project is certain to be difficult; owing to the sheer size of the problems they’re trying to solve. That doesn’t seem to bother Kumari one bit, and she’s determined to have fun along the way as well (as her Twitter and Facebook posts will attest to). She prides herself on being resourceful, determined, and relentless, and has long since mastered the art of perseverance in the face of adversity.
Kumari also knows that her true purpose is to help others to find the same type of clarity she’s been lucky enough to achieve. Her journey is certain to be a long but ultimately fulfilling one. It’s also an object lesson to others looking to find their true calling, and an example of how one person’s purpose can touch the lives of everyone they meet, leaving them far better off than they would have otherwise been.