Awarded $15,000 Through the Live Your Dream Award.
For Terriea, the Live Your Dream Awards mean she won't have to worry about paying for college, so she can focus on her dream of helping indigenous women find safe space for healing and transformation.
Like many indigenous children in her part of Canada, Terriea Wadud of Vancouver was adopted at a young age. Her adoptive mother physically and emotionally abused her until Terriea was placed back into the child welfare system at the age of 12.
The chaos continued in the group homes in which she lived.
“I seemed to take on the role of the hero among the girls,” Terriea recalls. “If a girl was getting picked on, I would ‘protect’ her by any means, including being abusive with my language and physically threatening the instigator. When this became too much, I would run away to the streets of Toronto.”
A Cycle of Neglect
A pretty girl with low self-esteem alone on the streets, Terriea was an ideal target for pimps and was then trafficked in the sex trade across Ontario. Police searched relentlessly for her, and after a brutal beating by her pimp, they met up with Terriea at the hospital and asked whether she was ready to charge him. Terriea, who had just learned she was pregnant with her pimp’s child, agreed to charge him.
At 16 years old and 8 months pregnant, she testified against her pimp. His lawyer viciously tried to portray her as a troubled young girl and the questioning was emotionally and physically exhausting. But her calm and honest testimony paid off and Terriea’s pimp received six and a half years of jail time.
When her daughter was born, Terriea vowed not to be anything like her adoptive mother. But her traumatic past made being a good mother difficult. She admits checking out emotionally, and sometimes physically, as a parent. She felt suicidal and turned to drugs and alcohol to numb her pain. With no formal education she wasn’t able to secure employment, so she remained in the sex industry as an exotic dancer.
Healing Herself and Others
At age 24, Terriea says she just couldn’t feel her worth. But then an opportunity presented itself and became the first step in turning her life around. She completed a university-entrance program called the Transitional Year at the University of Toronto. Terriea continued with a life-changing volunteer training program at Battered Women’s Support Services, where she was eventually hired as an outreach counselor and then the manager of a women’s safety and outreach program.
Supporting women and girls with similar traumatic histories and experiences of violence and abuse has helped Terriea heal her own traumatic past. Her ability to create and hold a safe space for women to share, counsel and explore problem-solving solutions has ignited her passion to pursue formal counselor training.
But just when things seemed to be getting on track, the program lost funding and Terriea was laid off. At the same time, she had a miscarriage and ended a three-year relationship. Not being able to afford rent on her own without an income, she and her children became homeless.
Rather than letting these obstacles send her into a downward spiral, Terriea took up meditation and chanting to move through her feelings. She also reconnected with her birth mother, which has helped her learn about her indigenous culture and spirituality, and brings her great comfort.
Now staying with friends, Terriea says she is determined to heal this cycle. She has accepted a temporary position with her previous employer, and is hopeful that it will lead to a full-time job.
The Live Your Dream Awards mean stability for Terriea and her family. She is using the awards to pay for her tuition, so that no matter what this next year has in store, she will not have to put her schooling on hold for financial reasons.
Terriea’s dream is to eventually start her own counseling/life coaching business.
“My prayers look a lot different today than when I was a little girl. There were many times being exploited on the streets or in my addiction I thought I was going to die and I didn’t care,” she said.
Now I have a purpose. I will continue to create a safe space for others to do their healing and transformational work. I will use my voice to share my story to inspire others to do the same. The Live Your Dream Awards will help me to further my growth, accountability and commitment to be a transformational agent and end this cycle for my family!Terriea Wadud, Live Your Dream Awards Recipient