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Sharingl stories of struggle, hope stir spirits at Temple

December 15, 2017 GMT

Tears flowed and spirits were stirred during the Letters of Struggle and Hope event held at the main campus of Temple University and hosted by The Inter-Faith Social Change Movement Student Chapter at Temple University on Dec. 6.

Those attending the forum heard the personal accounts of numerous people who have undergone great struggles and personal challenges and experienced personal transformation as a result.

Minister Steven Robinson is founder of the Inter-Faith Social Change Movement and says it was founded to serve as a coalition of faith-based groups and individuals who wish to give back to the community.

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“The purpose of the event is to present a dialogue of open communication through the reading of various letters of struggle, and how they provide an insight to the awareness of how our individual experiences of adversity — not only represents the unity of our strength, but also the hope for our future progress,” said Robinson.

“As students at Temple, symbolic of our representation from around the world, it is not our differences of race, age, religion, or sexual orientation that matters or divides us, but most importantly events like today in using our life experiences and education to bring people together in order to make a difference.”

One by one the presenters read stories of their personal trials, which ranged from mental disorders to addiction to chronic diseases. Each, despite their struggles, found the strength and courage to live his or her life to its fullest.

“We looked at various individuals and those individuals that wanted to share their personal testimonies. They didn’t want it to be scripted, they wanted to speak from the heart in order to touch others,” said Robinson.

One of the presenters, Jessie Sykes, spoke about her depression and previous attempts at suicide.

“I wanted to talk about depression and how you can get stuck in your own head and how that can really, really ruin you and ruin both the present moment and the future you potentially have,” said Sykes.

“I wanted to share my story tonight and empower people to really take care of themselves and to take care of their mental states first and then you can make a change in this world,” she said.

At the age of 18 months, Sykes said she was diagnosed with the chronic lung disease but was really affected by the way the disease impacted her family members.

Another example of triumph through tragedy came from Shawn Aleong, a freshman at Temple University who overcame the challenges of Cerebral Palsy to not only defy the odds but prove wrong those who told him he couldn’t succeed.

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“I am a walking testimony. When I was growing up, the odds were against me,” said Aleong. “I realized my life’s destiny was ordained.”

“My teacher told me that I would never be anything, but I used that as fuel,” said Aleong.

Aleong later went on to earn a scholarship from the Fox School of Business and today helps others who are facing unimaginable physical and psychological barriers and echoed the words of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. for those struggling to move ahead in life: “If you can’t fly, run; if you can’t run, walk; if you can’t walk, crawl; but by all means keep moving.”

Others presenting their stories of hope through tragedy were John Leuzzi and Mark Feinman, and a special selection was performed by Kimberly Taylor of Dobbins High School.

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