Mahila Origins: Thriving in the face of disaster

Triumph over tragedy.  These words SO resonated with me the first time I heard them from my friend, Jennifer Boykin who recently interviewed us over at Life After Tampons [Listen Here]

Jennifer knows a thing or two about triumph over tragedy.  Over 20 years ago, she lost her daughter.  Today – she helps women make a bigger difference in the world. 

She is part of the trusted tribe of powerful women who help me, help other women.

“You have to protect your heart”, Jen said to me.  “You carry the suffering of your women.”

You see my daughter Hillary and I lost our home to a fire 10 years ago today.  Every time I sit with one of our Mahila’s and listen to their stories of loss, I feel their pain in a way that words cannot describe. 

Whether here in the US after Hurricane Sandy or following the earthquake in Haiti or the devastating flooding in India, I FEEL the heartbreak, the sense of overwhelm, and the fear of the unknown. 

I still cry when I think of the woman I met in Port-au-Prince 3 months after the earthquake.  She handed me a picture her only daughter and her granddaughter who were both killed in the quake.  While I wondered how, facing such enormous grief and losses, she could be working to advocate for the women and girls living in deplorable and unsafe conditions in the tent cities, she looked at me as if to know what I was thinking.

“I can no longer be a mother to my own daughter,” she said, “so now I am a mother for all the women and girls in Haiti.”

She taught me to hold space for women, one where there is hope in the face of overwhelming tragedy. 

My daughter and I have not only survived our own losses, we’ve thrived.   I worked two jobs while finishing my college degree, and then I started a business. [My first office was in my daughter’s bedroom – so not such a glamorous start]

I had friends that were like family that held me up when all I wanted to do was fall down.  They cared for my daughter and they hiked miles and miles in the mountains - many of them with Hillary in tow.  It was the mountains where I began to heal and could see a new future for me and my daughter.

One of these friends believed in my dream to take the idea of Mahila and make it a sustainable social enterprise that supported women and girls after disasters that reached beyond aid and truly allow them to thrive.  Thanks to Julie Morrill, our co-founder, and many others who now share our dream, Mahila is what it is today.

Tell us about your own triumphs in the comments, share an inspiring quote or hold space for the women of our community that share their story by offering words of compassion and encouragement.

May each and everyone one of you thrive!