blog by Leons Kabongo

“Just because anger or hate is present does not mean that the capacity to love and accept is not there; love is always in you.”
 –Thich Nat Hanh

Born in Brooklyn New York, Mr. Perry Bellamy is the eighth of nine children from his mother’s second marriage. Raised separately from all his siblings in the foster care system, Mr. Bellamy had a childhood with adverse experiences ignited by his role models in his first foster home. Throughout his childhood, due to these experiences, Mr. Bellamy developed emotional feelings of disdain and unworthiness, which led him to be convinced that the world was against him.

“I was alone, and no one thought of me as a human being,” Mr. Bellamy reflected. These feelings led him to never trust anyone, especially caseworkers who tried endlessly to help him build resiliency within himself. “This was the only way I knew how to protect myself,” he recalled with tears in his eyes.

In high school, Mr. Bellamy joined the football team to better cope with his emotional pain and to build relationships. Unfortunately, this outlet had to end when he found out that his eligibility expired because he was a 19-year-old senior. Mr. Bellamy was held back in middle school for two years after his original traumatic experience. “l was in pain,” he said, “and all I knew was that showing myself as a bad kid was a way to be left alone. It was my way of coping with the pain of being abused without actually addressing it.”

As Mr. Bellamy transitioned into the workforce, he faced discrimination in the form of name-calling and inadequate compensation. With a foundation built on traumatic experiences, our featured volunteer of the month was still trying his best to overcome and thrive within these environments. One day, when a former employer called him the “N” word, Mr. Bellamy reacted in a way that led to incarceration. Our featured volunteer of the month stated that he then “paid the price of his actions.”

Shortly after being released from prison, Mr. Bellamy’s older brother Bruce spoke to him about all the resources available in the city of Harrisonburg and said he should move here. After arriving, Mr. Bellamy stated that he was in the Salvation Army and didn’t know anyone in this town but his brother. He was referred to Our Community Place, and was told it was a place that will “help me figure things out.”

“I was so upset at the world. Regardless of what I received from Ron Copeland, it was not enough to convince me that I was worth it until I met Leons Kabongo. Leons saw me as a man, and read through my pain like no one else had done before,” stated Mr. Bellamy as he paced back and forth.  In August of 2019, Mr. Bellamy was hired as a garden staff member for the Young Jupiter Market Garden program. This opportunity brought positivity to the body, mind, and spirit of Mr. Bellamy, showing him that there are people that believe in him. “Our Community Place gave me a second chance to smile again, and for that, I am sincerely grateful.” Mr. Perry Bellamy stated with a big smile on his face.