Rachel Jackson-Bramwell was a 25-year-old single mom and full-time college student trying to keep her head above water. She described feeling empty and searching for a 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 for the people outside her window. Rachel admitted she didn’t make all the right choices with her life. That could have been her out there. So she started Project Compassion in 2005.
As Rachel explains it, “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?’”
This project began as a small act of kindness. Word of Rachel’s work spread like wildfire after being featured on The Tyra Banks Show, people started calling and Project Compassion quickly grew into a much needed community-based organization designed to reach homeless and low-income women and children in East St. Louis.
Rachel 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, Rachel 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 successful outcomes by discovering their true potential.
Rachel's work has strengthened the East St. Louis community by changing one person at a time with no federal or state funding. Rachel’s leadership of Project Compassion has helped empower more than 45,000 women and children. Rachel has a volunteer base of more than 2,000 individuals, 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, Rachel 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. She launched a self-esteem program, Empower-Me, and is working with two of the largest school districts, offering K-12 programming in a dozen schools in St. Clair County, Illinois.
Rachel meets those in need where they live and never allows anyone to judge them. Her approach to those in need is extremely compassionate. When speaking about helping young women, Rachel says she wants them to know and believe “no matter where you come from, you can change your world.”
Rachel 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 selflessly creating change in her community to be one of this year's Women of Worth: http://www.lorealparisusa.com/en/women-of-worth.aspx