WANDA was awarded a $100,000 grant from the proceeds from the Bella Vista League’s Wonderful Witchy Women “Brewing Happiness” event on October 28th! This marks the largest single grant awarded to WANDA to date! WANDA received 4 rounds of applause and a standing ovation from the 450+ attendees. WANDA alumna Charisse Fontes and Suliana Lasike participated in the event by sharing their stories. A very special thank you to all of BLV’s fabulous committee members who helped guide WANDA and put on such a fabulous event. (Pictured left WANDA Founder and LC Dianne Giancarlo and WANDA Alumna Suliana Lasike)
Read Suliana’s speech below:
My name is Suliana Lasike. I am a single mom of 2 daughters ages 16 and 11.
I had my first daughter at the age of 16 and I am sure you can only imagine the obstacles I faced.
How would I finish school?
Would I be successful?
Would I be a great mother?
Would I be able to teach my daughters how to become successful and open doors for them that I was never given the opportunity to open?
With the help and guidance of my mom (who was also a single mother), I was able to finish high school and started to work various retail jobs. With only a high school education retail jobs just weren’t cutting it financially, but at the time I needed to provide for my daughters.
At the age of 25 I unexpectedly lost my mom to a heart attack. For me my mother was my everything. At the time I had 5 siblings ages 12, 13, 14, 15 and 17 with nowhere to go and no one to take them in. It was only right that I fight to gain custody of my siblings – my mom wouldn’t have wanted it to be any other way. So I fought for 6 months to gain guardianship of my siblings.
Let’s talk about sacrifice. I was faced with raising grieving teenagers, one of whom was bi-polar. Without hesitation I got a second job and worked long, hard hours. During this time, we were all living in a 2 bedroom apartment where I stayed on the couch with many sleepless nights wondering:
How would I financially be able to care and feed all of my family?
Participate in family therapy?
Help them with homework?
Comfort them when they were feeling low?
I was mentally and physically exhausted but I knew I couldn’t give up. Despite all of this chaos, I had to try my best to walk around with the deep pain of losing my mom buried because now I was mom to everyone else in my family, and to me the definition of mom includes strength. There is no way I could let them see me down.
With all of this going on in my life, somehow I still managed to make sure all of my brothers and sisters graduated high school with a 3.0 GPA and trust me – that was not easy at all.
I had to teach them everything my mother taught me, especially the importance of pushing themselves, even when the going gets rough, and never giving up.
As a single mother, I never knew how thinking ahead would help build a solid foundation for my kids. I always lived check to check barely making it, so it seemed impossible at times.
Then when I was 28, I joined WANDA, a powerful community of other mothers and donors. WANDA became an outlet for me and has helped me build relationships and placed me with mothers just like me – mothers that have the ability to do better and want to be successful but just need to be educated on what life has to offer and what resources are available.
WANDA has helped me regain confidence, cope through real life situations, guided and taught me how to regain focus on my life and prepare for the future.
WANDA taught me the importance of furthering my education, how to invest in college funds for my kids and reassured me that it was all possible.
Since participating in WANDA I have started a retirement account for myself, learned how to budget accordingly and invested in a college fund for my daughter.
I received a scholarship at a local private school because WANDA donors strongly encouraged me to apply.
My oldest daughter is currently a student at Priory School in Portola Valley. She is a great athlete and has been scouted by quite a few colleges. I am proud to say she will be the first to attend college in my immediate family.
My youngest daughter is in middle school and passionate about cheer and dance.
As for myself, I am currently employed at Facebook and I am excited to be going back to school this spring to study psychology.
The circumstances behind how we become single mothers may differ, but the strength we have within ourselves to overcome the challenges we face is something we all share. Thank you WANDA for helping us invest in ourselves and our futures.
(Pictured left Elizabeth Ronn, Chair of WANDA’s Governance Council and Alumna Charisse Fontes)