SABRINA’S HouseAids DomesticViolenceVictims
At the young age of nine, Sabrina Lewis became the victim of unimaginable domestic and sexual abuse. Nevertheless, Lewis did not let her personal trials get the best of her- she did something about them. Now a single mother and author of ‘Only the Strong Survive’, a memoir, Lewis is the founder of two charities that are helping women from all walks of life. Whether they are the victims of emotional abuse, battery, or are simply looking to finish their education, the charities, Safe Anointed Buildings Raining in New Atmosphere Inc. (SARBINA’S House) and Circle of Real Sisters, are helping these women find their way in the world once again.
Lewis established the two charities more than a year ago and used whatever resource became available to her.
“I began with some basic things, doing some research of my own on the internet and I got in contact with Anthony Anderson, who is the director of the Shawn Elijah Bell center. He is the one who is letting us use the center now.” said Lewis. She also credits Hallan and Cynthia Bryant, pastors and founders of the Justice Foundation, Barry Addisson, the CEO of Alpha School which is an alternative school for youth in Brooklyn’s East New York, as well as her children for their support early on.
The two charities however, still do not have a permanent building from which to offer their services and call home. Lewis can often be found working from her house or car. For Lewis, the process of rehabilitation begins with her forming a personal one-on-one connection with the women.
“I first get them to know themselves and then we go from there. If she’s in an abusive relationship and comes in with a black eye, for example, I ask her why she’s staying in that relationship. Most of the answers I get are ‘I stay because he pays my rent’ but I try to get them to see that there won’t be any need for them to pay the rent if they’re dead,” said Lewis. “I try to get them to answer the question ‘what do you want to do with yourself for the future’.”
SABRINA’S House and the Circle of Real Sisters will be hosting an all white affair, where 100 beach bags will be given out to all youth on September 22. Also on this day, the charities will be having a fundraiser fashion show. Later events include a dinner and dance at La Bella Vita and the distribution of packages to male and female inmates who have no support from their families. The money raised will go towards a building to permanently house both organizations.
SABRINA’S House offers services that include GED classes, individual and group counseling, job training, as well as a place to stay if needed. The Circle of Real Sisters is a separate organization that serves as a youth mentoring organization for “women of different walks of life.” Women in CORS are prepared to make a difference in the lives of others and oversee young people who volunteer at homeless shelters, foster care centers, and senior homes. The youth in return for their services are given a bank account and taught how to apply for a job.
Keeping the two charities running nevertheless, Lewis said, has not been easy due to the lack funding. Asked what she thought was her biggest issue she said “Funding…we are lacking funding everywhere.” Her day begins early in the morning as she looks for as many sponsors as possible.
Lewis, however, has recently found the support of numerous establishments.
“We’ve gotten the support of Dress Barn, iHop, and others, and this has been because we’ve been on the ground from 6:00 a.m. to whatever time and we’ve just kept knocking on doors.”
Taana Gardner, an R&B singer once known for her hit ‘Heartbeat,’ has also agreed to support Lewis.
“We went to a function last Saturday with a friend with host Robin Richie from Imagine That! At the end of the show there was a platform where my friends and I came together and there was Taana. When I explained to her what we were trying to do she immediately said ‘This is my organization, this is my charity for life,” Lewis said.
So far, SABRINA’S House and the Circle of Real Sisters have hosted many events for their women, including an annual dinner and dance, as well as a fashion show featuring the women themselves. Lewis also held a fundraiser recently on June 8th.
For Lewis, her work is the world to her. Day in and day out, as she spreads the word about her two charities, Lewis says that she hopes that she is making a difference for those that are facing abuse she is all too familiar with. “I was molested as a child and from what I went through, that’s how the organizations were started. I’m O.K. now but when I look into the face of a young woman who can’t even look me in the eye, who can’t open up to me because of everything she’s been through, I speak to them from the heart,” said Lewis. “It’s a real job, to help these women get their lives back. For me, it’s a personal and emotional work every day. It’s a job that I have to do.”