My life was blessed with a shining star, my niece Holly who we all unfortunately lost way too soon. The influence that Holly had on me and so many others can never be fully expressed with words. Although she was quite ill for most of her short life, her passion, dedication and commitment to education and caring for others never faltered. Holly was my greatest teacher and taught me what is most important in life: love, patience, grace, compassion, courage, perseverance, and ultimately acceptance of what life offers. She was also my inspiration to write Alpha Chick and to use my experiences to help others.
Holly’s Gift is a tribute to my lovely niece and aligns with my personal mission to help women live more fulfilling lives by helping them to have higher self-esteem and personal awareness. Holly’s Gift encompasses a virtual assistance training and certification program for women in a sober living facility in Massachusetts, a school in Kondjila, West Africa and a scholarship fund at Boston College Law School all in Holly’s memory. The funding for Holly’s Gift is through donations and proceeds from the sale of my book, Alpha Chick. Our current goal is to assist 1-3 women annually through education and helping them to become employable, gain financial independence and by opening the door to the power of choice in their lives. Holly’s Gift is a 501(c)(3) and all funds are independently managed through United Charitable Programs.
For the past year I have worked closely with the women residing at Serenity House. One of the residents had read my book Alpha Chick and asked if I would come and speak.
I happily obliged and this led to me visiting with the women weekly to share my experience and hope with them as a sober woman and recovery coach. At first the women were a bit shy and reserved. One day to break the ice, I showed them a TED talk about addiction on my iPad. The result? Instant icebreaker! The women started opening up and talking to each other. I showed them my website and began to publish their writing on my blog. But I was surprised when I discovered it wasn’t that they were so excited about access to internet because they were in the recovery house…many of them have never had access to any computer or technology, things lots of us take for granted. Talking about social media and business, seeing their stories published, these things sparked hope, conversation, creativity, curiosity and passion! But when I left, they didn’t have anything. No computers. No FB community to gain support from. No iPhone to tweet from. No chance to start a business from a laptop, attend a free streamed workshop or get the hookup to a job opening from an admired entrepreneur or non-profit. The program offered at the Serenity House is already great but this would be a great addition, another option! And options give us a better chance at success. They have the time… Then the idea hit me…How can I help these women get the tech training they need to get jobs as virtual assistants so they can become financially free and join online communities of supportive women in business? I taught myself online marketing for my real estate business and I use virtual assistants for my coaching business. I wanted to help the women do the exact same thing. Virtual assistants help online entrepreneurs and businesses with tasks such as posting blogs, research, answering comments and questions on Facebook, creating graphics and other tasks. Virtual assisting work can be done from home, which is a great situation for mothers living at Serenity House who have children. I’m passionate about technology and I know first hand that learning these skills will save lives.
My niece Holly was passionate about education and was pursuing her law degree even while battling illness. It was her dream to become an advocate. In her memory, it is my goal to educate women in recovery. While they are in treatment, they will receive training for computer skills, social media and website design. Upon completion of their virtual training they will be a Certified Virtual Assistant. These women have a 60 percent greater chance of not returning to addiction if they are employed, accountable and becoming financially independent. As financially independent women they become better wives, mothers and members of society and are able to have hope to pursue their own dreams.
The School – Kondjila, West Africa
In April 2006, I had the opportunity to attend a “We Are Family Foundation” charity event in NYC. They were honoring Elton John for his humanitarian efforts throughout the world. He happened to be sitting with his partner at the table next to mine. I could reach out and touch him if I wanted to. Of course I didn’t but I did stare a lot. They were going to auction off his watch to raise money for building schools in Africa. I guess I could have bid on the watch, but I decided to be a little bit more discreet and after the event contacted the organization to let them know I was interested in learning how to build a school in memory of my beautiful niece Holly.
The real estate market was still very strong so I felt financially I could absolutely do this and I have never had a moments regret, the school is my most important and rewarding accomplishment. Besides, I also got to take pictures of Elton performing. I am standing about 8 feet away from him during his performance. How thrilling is that?
The school took 18 months to coordinate and build. US students volunteered through Building With Books and traveled to Africa during school breaks to work on the school which is constructed in Kondjila, West Africa. This area is not a politically hostile area so that Americans can safely travel there. The school captures the spirit of my niece Holly and everything she lived for, education, children as well as helping others less fortunate than her. She was studying law and becoming a child advocate when she died.
This picture was taken opening day with the students standing in front of the school which will educate 100 boys and girls annually. Without this school, these children never would have received an education. Holly’s light is shining on these beautiful little faces.
Gratefully Holly lives on, I hear her inspirational voice in my daily meditations and feel her essence of a true Alpha Chick in so many ways, her light will always shine brightly and I know she is smiling at the opportunity to help others by way of Holly’s Gift.
ALL DONATIONS ARE PROFESSIONALLY MANAGED BY UNITED CHARITABLE PROGRAMS