From her own pain came an incredible purpose—and, now, she’s helping countless women every single day
Growing up, Onari Jackson was used to conflict. “I used to tell people, ‘I don’t like girls’ or ‘I don’t get along with other girls,’” she says. “It was always, ‘I don’t get along with so-and-so.’ I had such a negative perception towards women.” Much of this Onari attributes to early-in-life tragedies. She lost her father at age nine and, three years later, her brother. Her grandmother died four years later.
“It wasn’t an issue with women,” she explains. “It was an issue with me. I had so many insecurities and I reflected and deflected those in my interactions with other girls and women. It’s been a lifelong struggle.”
That changed, though, when Onari had her first child. After becoming a mom, she saw how important it was to build up and support other women, in her community and beyond. “I was suddenly a family,” she says, “and I realized that, In order to lift up a family, you have to lift up the woman. And that’s what I realized I needed to do—both for myself and for other women. I had to recognize my own mistakes and insecurities, and recognize that my hostilities weren’t about other people—they were about my own personal pain.”
Healing her own broken wings
That realization sparked the launch of Healing Broken Wings, a nonprofit Onari has run for the last four years.
“Healing Broken Wings was born out of that pain along with a deep desire to heal myself,” she explains. “There’s no better way to work on you than through helping others.”
Healing Broken Wings provides a number of critical resources to women in and around the greater D.C. area. In addition to providing one-on-one support, Onari and her team connect with organizations like United Planning Organization and Martha’s Table, which help women gain valuable day-to-day skills like home and time management, career development and effective communication skills.
“These women are learning new skills—and learning about themselves,” Onari says. “And I’m learning about myself in the process.” When these learnings happen, she notes, participants improve their know-how and their lives—and when they soar, their families soar.
Expanding her reach and her mission
In addition to teaching classes and providing support to Healing Broken Wings women, Onari also manages pop-up shop-style donation campaigns that provide everything from winter coats to personal care products, shoes, clothes and more. Once received, Onari organizes donations and offers anything to anyone for free—no questions asked.
“I don’t ask any questions, I don’t ask for permits, and you don’t have to show me I.D. That’s all irrelevant. Come and get what you need,” she explains. “Too often people are embarrassed or don’t feel like they should be asking for help—even though they need it. I make sure they know it’s here, and they’re welcome to it.”
Healing Broken Wings also provides food to those in need. Last Thanksgiving she, in collaboration with Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White and many community partners, distributed more than 200 holiday food baskets. Ach included a turkey, fresh fruits and vegetables, sides, and even dessert. “People see the good it does for so many women, and they’re happy to give,” she says.
Now well into her mission to serve, Onari recognizes the powerful good that can come from the deepest pain, and she encourages others to use their own experiences as a force for change. “Your deepest pain will bring your greatest passion,” she says. “If you can face the worst thing that has hurt you, then you can help others do the same. I’m not perfect, and sometimes I feel like I’ve got a lot of work left to do for myself. But I’m proud of the work we’re doing and look forward to doing even more for these incredible women.”