Why do you ask? (A Letter by Our Founder)

As a bold and passionate advocate for women who had never studied human rights or international aid, Aura Freedom's founder Marissa Kokkoros found herself constantly trying to answer the Hows and Whys of the curious people around her. So, she decided to respond by writing a letter.

I knew from a young age that there was something more.

I spent most of my childhood fighting something inside of me that I couldn't really express, even to myself. Those who didn't know me well enough thought that it had something to do with teenage turmoil, perhaps a disorder, being “gifted” or dealing with the break up of my family. They had no clue. And neither did I. But I think my mother knew what is was all along...

I loved music and theatre and thought I would move to New York to be on Saturday Night Live, finding comfort only in performing and relating far too much to the oxymoronic personalities of comedians. I loved making people laugh and I was good at it.

But, I ended up studying Marketing in college. I worked in fashion, business, retail, you name it. I loved and hated everything, but whatever I did, I did it with a passion that I couldn't explain.

What I did know was that I loved people. All people. As a child I couldn't understand why the homeless had to freeze to death during our Canadian winters while others enjoyed a warm bed; why girls were raped when their bodies were...THEIRS. These thoughts didn't just pass through my mind; they haunted me. I thought about them constantly and it made me angry.

From a very young age, the oppression of anyone vulnerable, especially women and girls, had always struck a cord deep within me and created a burning flame that I had no idea what to do with. A big part of that burning flame came from my own personal experience, but there was another part that came from a place which is still unknown to me now. All I knew was that the BURNING was always there. INJUSTICE killed me...even the type that one should wave off, like ignoring an old woman fumbling with her groceries or not giving a pregnant mother a seat on the bus. Everyday was a battle in my own mind. So much doubt...when it was so easy.

After quitting my job at a high profile fashion company and moving to Italy on a whim, things became clearer. I started teaching English, travelling, volunteering, helping. I started to volunteer with the Patch Adams organization...the perfect combination of theatre and service! It was pure bliss.

But still, darkness.

Then came more travelling. And more questions. Why did I feel so at home with the poor? When in Kenya, why did I feel like every orphan was my own? Why was the squalor of Kalighat, Kolkata so beautiful to me? What did I REALLY have to do? Why couldn't I receive a divine calling like my idol Mother Teresa did?

After way too much self-study, reading a million books and a million sleepless nights, I realized that I was an idiot.

All I had to do was dedicate my life to the ones I loved so much. Women. Girls. The poor. The oppressed. Those sleepless nights, those happy feelings when travelling, the pain I felt for others as if my own... that was MY calling.

I didn't study human rights, but they are a part of everything I do and say. They are a part of every breath I take. This is my life. And I am happy now.


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