When Lia Grimanis was a teenager, she ran away from an abusive home with just the clothes on her back and ended up homeless and at risk. “It's easy to believe that you're broken, that there must be something wrong with you because you're homeless.” People didn't come back to the shelter to share their success stories and try to inspire hope. “The only people we ever saw were the people who were still struggling and needed help. I think people who rebuilt their lives were ashamed that they had been homeless and turned their backs from their past.” Lia was suicidal and depressed. “It took some time, but, one day, I made a decision to live. I made a promise on my shelter bed that I would become successful and come back and help other women rebuild their lives faster than I could.” Incredibly, remarkably, without a high school diploma or college degree, through sheer chutzpah, Lia fulfilled her promise. “I had to do something big to make a difference.” The last 25 years of her life have been dedicated to fulfilling that promise.
Up With Women
Up With Women is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping recently homeless and at-risk women, who have experienced a range of set-backs, to build sustainable, prosperous careers and businesses with the aim of permanently exiting poverty. The beneficiaries undergo a year-long intensive program of strategic career development, accompanied by highly skilled business leaders and professionals. By the end, 70 per cent of clients are employed and close to 50 per cent start their own businesses. To date, 80 women have been served. Lia's vision to take UWW to the next level is to expand its services in every major urban center in Canada. “We've proven that one year of coaching can make major changes for these women. The number of women living in deep poverty has been cut almost in half, from 64 per cent to 36 per cent in a year. That's huge.”