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Homeless children's lives transformed at Rainbow Village

The mission of Rainbow Village is to provide families in domestic or economic crisis a healing environment to rebuild their lives through a community-based transitional housing program that promotes self-sufficiency.

Rainbow Village held its annual kickoff meeting for its back-to-school program in August. During the meeting I was observing our newest family, a single mom with two daughters ages 7 and 8. I noticed the deep sadness and fear in the eyes of the 8-year-old during the meeting. It was a look I have seen many times in the eyes of the children who come to Rainbow Village.

At the end of the meeting, we jumped aboard our new school bus (thanks to grant funding from Gwinnett County) to have our faithful driver, Mr. Johnny, take us for a ride.

I was sitting with one of the older boys across the aisle from the two young girls. After a few minutes, the oldest girl began tapping my leg to get my attention. As I acknowledged her, she looked at me with her longing, sad eyes and asked, "How long will I be here?"

Uncertain that I understood the question, I asked if she meant Rainbow Village or the after-school program or the bus ride. She replied, "At after school."

I told her she would be there for the entire school year. She looked surprised and then asked, "And my new school, how long will I be there?"

I told her she would be there for the school year also. Her face began to beam with joy and a most beautiful smile as she looked at her sister and said, "Did you hear that? We will be here the entire school year!"

"Yea!" her younger sister shouted with the same joyous expression. She looked back at me and said, "We were in eight schools last year."

This story relates some of the pain of so many homeless children coming to Rainbow Village. Their lives have been shattered by domestic violence, breakup of the family, and their parents' inability to provide a home. They are struggling families trying to find respite from the storm of their lives.

Six months have passed, and the girls and their mother are flourishing at Rainbow Village. My heart rejoices for these precious girls and so many other families that have been given the gift of stability, security, love and hope for the future at Rainbow Village.

Children are the ones who suffer most from homelessness. The average age of a homeless person is 9. More than 25,000 families have been evicted or their homes foreclosed on in Gwinnett County within a year. Many are residing in extended-stay motels, in cars or other places unfit for human habitation.

Children will break the cycle of homelessness, poverty and domestic violence if given the opportunity.

Children are and receive the greatest blessing at Rainbow Village. Their lives are transformed. Rainbow Village provides families a safe home. Currently, 27 children ages 8 months to 15 years old and 12 parents call Rainbow Village home. Through the generosity of David Weekley Homes, two families will have purchased a donated home from Rainbow Village.

These families have broken the cycle of homelessness and become homeowners. By applying the life-changing tools acquired through the Rainbow Village program, families are able to become and remain self-sufficient.

Rainbow Village is dependent on community support to make a difference in the lives of homeless families with children. We are searching for builders and developers to become partners in breaking the cycle of homelessness by donating affordable homes for Rainbow Village graduates to purchase. When hope is restored, miracles happen.

Visit the Rainbow Village Web site for more details, to learn about the upcoming charity golf classic and to make a donation at www.rainbowvillage.org. Call the office at 770-446-3800. Rainbow Village is a nonprofit corporation, and donations are tax deductible.

"People Helping People" is a weekly column written by the executive directors of nonprofit organizations in Gwinnett County. Today's article was written by Nancy Yancey of Rainbow Village.

Need help or know someone who does? The Gwinnett Helpline directs callers to the appropriate nonprofit agency. Call 770-995-3339.