Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Get To Know Katrina

Katrina, the national director of sales, is one of the most familiar and beloved voices of Thistle Farms. A dynamic public speaker, she speaks her truth in love and changes lives. Katrina’s story begins with a tone that is familiar to many of the residents: in high school, Katrina began experimenting with marijuana and drinking beer as a way of acting out. She was dealing with the pain of her parents’ separation and the aftermath of sexual abuse. Though she was a bright student, she dropped out of high school with only half a semester left to party with friends.

She was introduced to crack at 22 and says, “Now I was not staying out because I was having fun, but because I had an addiction.” She saw how easy it was to exchange sex for drugs and “that’s where the downward spiral started.” As the need for more drugs grew, the need for more money increased. One day a man took her to a motel on Dickerson Road where she saw other women getting money for drugs by having sex. It was her first act of street prostitution, which would continue for 15 years… a total of 25 years selling her body and living on the streets in exchange for drugs.

She went through six or seven treatment centers and held down real jobs, but would always relapse. During one of the times when she was getting clean, she discovered she had contracted the HIV virus from a man she had met in Narcotics Anonymous. Devastated, she returned to the streets and continued the cycle that had held her captive for so many years.

Katrina had originally entered the Magdalene program in 2001, but after 10 months relapsed. However, she had been told there would be a place for her if she ever wanted to return. When her health started to fail in 2005, the Magdalene program stayed true to its word welcoming Katrina back. She began working at Thistle Farms later that year and graduated from the program in 2007.

What makes Magdalene different from other treatment programs is that “At other places, the plan is the same across the board. At Magdalene, there was a plan that was designed just for me, according to what my needs were, what traumas I had experienced on the streets and what trauma I had experienced at home. I was treated individually – as a person as well as part of a community.” She says that what’s important is “the community -- not just the women, but the wider community that’s associated with Magdalene. It’s love that comes from everywhere, from people who don’t even know you.”

Speaking of love, Katrina is getting married next month. She plans to continue working the job she loves and trying to grow the retail market of Thistle Farms.

- Text by Carolyn Snell
- Top photo by Carole Hagan; lower photo by Daniel Dubois

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