I’ve had the opportunity to come across so many great people within the past year. Even if I’ve never met them in person, there are certain people that I have a connection to, especially if they share the same life outlook or passion for bettering their community. So, when I first “met” Bessie Winn-Afeku (@fabdogooder), I was immediately a fan. Bessie, a former beauty queen, has leveraged her intelligence, charisma, and concern for others into a creating a mentoring organization for young girls, The She is Me Program. Anyone who takes the time to work with our youth gets my automatic respect. I’ve wanted to profile Bessie for awhile and thought, “There’s no better time than now.”
You’ve mentioned that your past experiences motivated you to reach out and mentor young girls. Did it take you some time to become comfortable with the idea of sharing your story? And, how did you get “over it,” so to speak?
While I was going through the abusive relationship with my boyfriend at the time, I did not talk about it with anyone because I was embarrassed and ashamed. It took me about a year after the relationship was over to come out and share my story with people. The more I spoke about overcoming an abusive relationship, the more I spoke out about suicide, the more I spoke out about low self esteem, the more I became confident about talking to people. And sharing my testimony helped me get over it, because I would always meet another young women who were either going through a similar situation or had been through one.
Tell me how the “She Is Me, Inc.” program started.
The She is Me Program actually began as an organization that educated teens on dating violence and making healthy choices. But as time went on, I decided to broaden our scope. In mentoring and speaking to young women I noticed that there is not one single issue and one single solution when it comes to empowering young women, and that everything ties into each other. So we shifted the focus of The She is Me Program to empowering young women through workshops, seminars, the arts; and exposing them to various careers, positive images, goal setting, and positive role models.
What’s the biggest thing that you’ve learned about yourself and the girls over the course of your speaking engagements, mentoring, and workshops?
The biggest thing that I have learned is that I will always leave inspired. When you spend time with our youth (especially young women) you always end up becoming inspired and empowered by them and how strong and courageous they are. Our young women have so much they have to deal with and on a daily basis–way more than we had to at that age-and still they rise.
What’s next for you and the She Is Me program?
We are in the planning stages of expanding to various cities, middle schools and high schools across the country. We will also be hosting a multi-media festival in the fall of 2010 in Atlanta, GA.
What does being a Fab Giver (or DoGooder, in your case) mean to you?
Being a Fab Giver/Do-Gooder means using the life that you have been given to “do good.” We must be of service to others and give. Whether we are giving our time, our wisdom, or our resources, it is included in our purpose and mission in life.
I’m constantly impressed and motivated by Bessie’s committment to the young girls that she mentors, and I make it a point to often tell her so. To learn more about Bessie and her program, then I would encourage you to head on over to her website. You can also find her in the blogosphere over at The Fabulous Do-Gooder.