BINGHAMTON, NY – This week’s Remarkable Woman has had a ton of challenges thrown her way, but nothing has stopped her from taking care of others.

I got the chance to sit down with her so here’s what makes this young woman special.

Kassandra Jenkins was adopted from Ghana, West Africa when she was just 3 years old.

“If it wasn’t for Michelle and Daniel Jenkins, I don’t know where I would be right now. Those are my angels, honestly,” says Kassandra.

Shortly after arriving in the states, Jenkins was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia, and from that moment on her life would never be the same. Normal, daily tasks, such as getting out of bed in the morning can sometimes be a struggle for Jenkins. She says to this day, she’s probably spent about a third of her life in a hospital but still tries to remain positive.

“I just keep pushing through and sickle cell does not determine who I am, I determine who I am,” says Jenkins.

Jenkins and her mom, Michelle, spent a lot of time in the hospital together, watching cooking shows and then going home and recreating what they learned as a way to bond. Michelle said no matter what, Kassandra always had the biggest smile on her face in the hospital.

“It didn’t matter how much she hurt, it didn’t matter if she was crying. Even the people that clean the room all knew who Kassandra was, all the people that brought the food up from downstairs, they all knew who Kassandra was. She is just an infectious smile and she’s got an infectious personality and she is just a delight to be with,” says Michelle.

Jenkins decided that she wanted to go to culinary school, however, being in a hot kitchen all day took a toll on her body. So, she made the decision to switch roles and become a direct support professional at the Children’s Home. Coming from Africa, Jenkins thought she’d be able to connect with the kids at the residential facility.

“They might not come from a different country, but they’re getting thrown around in placements and different scenarios at a time and I just want to be there to help them and let them know that there is someone there that is always going to be there and if they need help, it’s okay to ask,” says Kassandra.

She’s been working there for about 2 years now. Due to her disease, she had to scale back a bit and work part-time, but would like to go back to full-time soon. One thing she noticed was the dolls at the Home didn’t represent every race. So, with her own money she went out and bought different dolls to make the children feel more comfortable.

“You can do anything that you want, whenever you look down and play doctor, when you look down and play president or anything like that, that doll is you, that doll can be you,” says Jenkins.

Jenkins says that she loves being there for these children and she can’t picture herself doing anything else. In addition to the dolls, she gave the children Guatemalan Worry Dolls. So, every night before bed the children can place them under there pillow and wish their worries away.

“Me being able to help them and get them on the right path of where they need to be and letting them know like I said, there’s someone always there to help them, it means the world to me,” says Jenkins.

On Sundays she spends her time at the Home teaching children how to cook. She says they start with easier foods like breakfast and work their way up to pasta. It’s a way for her to combine the 2 things she loves, cooking and helping children. Jenkins adds that even though she is still making hospital visits about once a month, she remains thankful for the life her parents gave her.

Michelle added that for a disease that was supposed to take her life at 14 years old, Kassandra has been nothing but a positive light in their life saying it wasn’t Kassandra that needed them, it was them that needed her.