Cassandra Terrelonge: A story of resilience
AN AUTISTIC child born to an 11-year-old mother has years later proven to be a blessing despite the traumatic conception.
Cassandra Terrelonge, 30, who was seduced and raped by a 19-year-old boy, has battled with self-acceptance and the reality of having to become parent-minded and mature very quickly at a young age.
Hopping from one job to the next, both in Jamaica and other Caribbean countries, Terrelonge turned to prostitution in which she dedicated over 10 years of her youth. This was done in efforts to provide for her newborn as she received no help from her baby’s father or his family.
Though she got baptised in 2014, her relationship with God became rather complicated as she staggered along in the faith journey. She recalls that as a young convert, she was willing to share her testimony with the church as a means of helping to educate and implore young girls to protect themselves if they decided to engage in sexual intercourse.
However, church leaders shunned her request by stating that “the congregation was not yet at that place to hear such a testimony”.
As some churches are believed to be still sheltering their congregations with a blanket of falsehood, misleading some of the reality of life in society, Terrelonge says that this is due to “the type of religious leader” heading congregations as some are yet to grasp and fully comprehend some of the atrocities that happen within society. Terrelonge’s congregation and pastoral clergy at the time never got to “that place” to hear her story.
Years later, after much emotional turmoil, health challenges and family resentments which are still present to this day, Terrelonge told The Gleaner on August 25 that she yearns to be of service to the community and to foster unwanted children.
Her son, Maurice, who Terrelonge discovered that at nine months old began to show signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), a condition which can cause significant communication, social and behavioural changes, has been her inspiration. “He has inspired me so much,” Terrelonge exclaimed, as she says he causes her to reassess herself whenever she gets upset, leaving her to question, “When I was his age, how was it that I wanted my mother to be with me.” This, she says, has helped to guide her actions, putting things into perspective as she continues throughout her days.
Described as a very loving individual who enjoys exploring and can grasp effectively anything to do with numbers and music, Terrelonge says though she got the opportunity to abort Maurice, she remains overjoyed every day that she did not make that decision.
“He taught me through love, what it truly means to be loved and what it means to love someone without expectations,” she added, as Maurice helped to give her life a sense of purpose. Though the process has been difficult, she is proud of where they are today.
It is with this love that her son taught her along with acquired knowledge through experience of how to raise a disabled child, that has awarded Terrelonge a spirit of patience. Intending to extend a helping hand and offer guidance to others, she has been in the processing of securing a deposit for a home for herself, Maurice “and as many babies as the Lord will allow me, especially those [who were] conceived through rape”, she added.
Terrelonge’s plan is to extend all her love, give of all her time and efforts to helping children that have been rejected or neglected by their family. However, after reaching out to many charity organisations and financial institutions, Terrelonge is at a standstill. “I got more nos than anything else,” she said.
Remaining resilient and steadfast in her decision to create a safe, loving environment for children, in particular babies that mothers refuse to keep, Terrelonge visions herself fostering as many children as possible.
“I would prefer for them, instead of throwing them away or having an abortion, that they will bring them to me,” she said, explaining that if later on in life the mother or any family member wishes to make contact with the child once more, she would not mind accommodating that visit.
She told The Gleaner that she was still “hustling hard to come up with the deposit”.