Loretta Cella is a woman on a mission. She knows that when you ignite the spirit in a girl, in her whole being there is no stopping her.
I know this too. When I first wrote my vision for WomanzWorld it was driven by a higher purpose than ensuring more women started their own businesses. I have read several studies that proved that girls with an education and basic business skills were in fact the pillar of communities that saw economic success.
I want to start a grassroots movement to educate girls in developing countries using profits from my business and community and will be supporting 60 Million Girls, an organization that does just this, through contributing profits from any WomanzWorld products and programs
I will also be supporting Loretta who is making a difference in the lives of young women in Vancouver. I think she is doing an amazing job especially considering she is running her foundation while holding a full time job.
Loretta Cella: I started the Passion Foundation after a number of years of working for several agencies and organizations serving youth, families, and communities. No matter where I was, what ages I was working with, I always felt there was more that girls needed.
They always seemed more caught up with their friends, family, boys, etc and whenever things went wrong they always looked for outside sources to make it better such as food, violence, self harm, running away, clothes, gossiping, sex, and the list goes on.
They endured a lot of stress, anxiety and depression which many people said was “normal” for an adolescent, but I felt it was unnecessary given their circumstances. I knew that by providing girls and young women with the space to explore, discover, and embrace their potential, it would not only enrich their lives but also their community.
When a girl connects to her real sense of self she starts to identify areas in her life that are important for her to work on. She can stand up to challenges in an empowered way and make healthier choices that create great success in her life.
When a young woman makes a decision to embrace personal success she not only does it for herself but has the want and need to share it with others. She will share it with her friends, family, and anyone who will give her an ear.
How it all began
During my time with the YWCA in Scarborough, Canada in 2005, I worked with a group of girls ranging from 10-20 years of age and I had more freedom to develop my own programs for them.
Using more coaching and life development skills along with training programs like babysitters training, cooking, and peer to peer mentorship, I saw the change that was lacking before.
By providing a space for girls to explore who they were, listening to their own interests and dreams and providing them with an opportunity to learn and develop skills, I watched the girls go from surviving in an urban ghetto to functioning in a community that was developing.
There was less drama, they got better grades, made healthy choices, were more caring and fought less. They had more drive to get part-time jobs and helped out around the building. They learnt to share their real feelings and became empowered to make choices from the inside out.
When I moved back to Vancouver I realized that I needed to do more of this, and the only way was to use what I had learnt from my own life experiences, education, and from the young women I worked with.
The Decision to Act
In 2008 the Passion foundation was born. I created a coaching series called the Elements of SUCCESS. It’s a 7 step process that girls make a fresh start with. It’s an acronym that stands for:
Courage to move through
Skill development, and
The girls take everything they learn from this coaching series and create a project in the community that is important and valuable to them.
The first group of girls I ran through this program in 2008 put on a performance called Real Girls Real Stories. It was powerful. Everyone who attended that day left with an imprint of each of those girls’ stories.
It was inspiring, moving, and enriching. We had a group of local actresses including the likes of Patti Allan and Grace Park come in and do some training with them. The girls got to meet women who were living their passion and it was such a beautiful part of this process.
Another example is a Passion Leader who has been with the Passion Foundation for two years and is living this reality. She has gone from teenager struggling in direction and motivation to discovering her passion for music and musicians.
At 17 years old Alex has started a blog and with support has landed herself three media passes to national concert series and interviews with her favourite musicians. See it for yourself here www.ar-thelistening.tumblr.com
In 2008 I also went on vacation in Kenya and while there I was able to create a leadership program for young women through Africa Youth Trust. As a result of this Brenda Isabel, a phenomenal Kenyan sista, was able to empower over 500 young women in two years time as a Passion Youth Coach.
Brenda is now working hard to make a difference; empowering young women to stay in school by providing them with a safe space to be themselves and learn new skills.
Where to Next?
I’ve been through a lot in my life; all those challenges I’ve faced and moved through have given me the direct knowledge, empowerment, and learning I needed to do this work and do it well.
To date I’ve worked with over 200 young women through the Passion Foundation in one capacity or another and my goal is to continue this movement. Unlike most start up NPOs there is only one thing that is holding me back from making this go from a grassroots organization to a national NPO that provides programs across the country – finances.
I’ve written the book, I have women interested in volunteering, I have an amazing board that we are looking at expanding soon and we have the results.
My goal is to train 400 girls to start living large from September 2010 to 2011. We can do this, I’m confident of it, but we need women out there who understand the importance of this to help financially. We need them to help mentor once the girls connect with their goals and start to move passionately toward their dreams.