“When women are healthy and educated, and can participate in the economy, the benefits extend to their children, communities and nations,” UN Women Executive Director, Michelle Bachelet said. “Poverty and malnutrition decline, living standards improve and economic growth increases.”
The definition of Shakti is the female principle of divine energy, especially when personified as the supreme deity. Shakti Rising is a nonprofit social change organization committed to answering the urgent need in the world for women leaders who live, work and lead differently. They transform the lives of girls, women, the larger community and those who yearn to discover and follow their purpose. Their mission is to empower young women to uncover, rediscover, and reclaim their whole selves. Shakti Rising creates large-scale social change by investing in girls and women; their education, health and leadership. They empower young women to draw the essential connection between personal and collective transformation.
The theory of social change is the bedrock of Shakti Rising’s organization and innovative model. Shakti Rising cultivates health and emerging leadership in girls and women, ultimately empowering them to utilize their personal transformation as a catalyst for positive change in their families and communities. This creates gradual cultural change that supports sustainable, cooperative, healthy societies. Their work actively promotes community well-being by creating woman and child-friendly societies that are safe, healthy, vibrant, diverse, sustainable, and culturally alive.
Shakti Rising was started unofficially in the fall of 1997 when Shannon Thompson, Founder and Visionary Director, started providing informal services to young women with co-existing conditions such as addiction, body image issues, sexual abuse, family and dating violence, depression, and low self-esteem. Thompson provided weekly groups, individual sessions, mentoring, and worked with the women in her garden, apothecary, and art studio. She had realized the need for structured programs that did more than traditional client service models, education frameworks, and leadership opportunities. Through this, Shakti Rising was born. When it all began, there was no official name…no formal programming or marketing. Regardless, it was only a matter of time before the word of Shannon’s work with young women spread quickly.
Officially founded in San Diego in 1999, Shakti Rising now also has campuses in the California Bay Area and Kauai, Hawaii. At each site, Shakti Rising delivers a combination of leadership, educational and recovery services that empower women to uncover, rediscover and reclaim their whole selves and that awaken them to their personal, significant capacity to contribute to this important cause and the world.
Shakti Rising has received considerable recognition for its successes with women and community-building. Thompson has received multiple accolades for her work with Shakti Rising. She has been honored with awards such as Molina Healthcare’s “Community Champion Award”, San Diego Business Journal’s “Most Admired CEO Award” and the San Diego Soroptimists’ “Making a Difference for Women Award”. This year, Thompson was also one of only five nationwide recipients of Traditional Home Magazine’s “Classic Woman Award”.
Shakti Rising believes that the current crises in economy, environment, leadership, health and safety are interconnected. The creation of woman and child-friendly societies is the solution to these interwoven issues. Shakti Rising has worked towards this solution by investing in girls and women. Shakti Rising believes that the personal transformation of a woman is the first step to creating far-reaching social change. When a woman is transformed, it inspires and empowers her to become an agent of change, not only for herself, but also for her family, friends and entire community. In this way, it puts in place a “ripple effect” that impacts the individual, community and world.
I’ve read that Shakti Rising has grown exponentially, first serving 50 women and then up to 1000 between California and Hawaii. Have your efforts and numbers expanded to other states since?
Part of the vision and mission of Shakti Rising is to create women and child-friendly societies – global villages, as we like to say – that have not only national, but international reach. Shakti Rising’s formal sites are in California and Hawaii; however, there is a network – a tapestry – of individuals who have been touched by Shakti (graduates of the Transformational Recovery program, former staff and volunteers, donors, students and family members of individuals who have benefited from Shakti’s services) that extends across many states, including: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Massachusetts, Maryland and New York. We also have supporters in England, Scotland, and in several countries in Africa.
Can you elaborate on the different efforts in San Diego, the Bay Area and Kauai?
Each of the Shakti Rising sites, or tribes, is like a cutting from a Mother Plant. At the core, each of the plants are the same material. They are simply developing and being cultivated in different climates, soil, with different nutrients and with varying community needs; thus, three distinct plants now exist in San Diego, the Bay Area and Kauai. Each site is its own distinct entry point for people to experience Shakti Rising and our unique approaches to healing, leadership and social change.
Shakti Rising started in San Diego in 1999. Shakti San Diego is a “programmatic boutique”, meaning it is the site at which all of our core programs (and the sub-projects within them) are functioning most fully year-round and at maximum quality.
Shakti Rising’s Northern California tribe began in 2009. This region’s focus is on select educational and leadership development programs that are customized for partnerships with higher education institutions and corporations.
Shakti Rising’s Kauai tribe began in 2011. As the youngest tribe, it is currently completely volunteer led and driven. This region’s focus is on beginning to build teams, community connections and structures that will eventually allow Shakti Rising to offer diverse retreat opportunities on Kauai.
Shakti Rising focuses on transforming the lives of women, girls and the larger community. What are some things that men and boys can do to get involved with the efforts of Shakti Rising?
Shakti is an 80% volunteer run organization and is always grateful for the supportive men and boys in our community who want to become involved in this way. Shakti Rising’s volunteer and leadership development program, referred to as Transformation Through Service, is aimed at building character, leadership, and teambuilding skills of both women and men. As part of this, all volunteers are individually trained and placed in leadership positions throughout every level of the organization. Volunteer opportunities include working in the garden, cooking for community dinners and writing grants, among many other possibilities.
Would you like to call attention to any organizations you may have partnered with or assisted in replicating your model?
In order to expand our reach, Shakti Rising forms long-term, mutually-beneficial partnerships that have allowed us to meet community needs and substantially improve our impacts and outcomes. Partnerships are cultivated to ensure the provision of a seamless continuum of care, to create multiple points of access for services, and to strengthen capacity within service providers. Shakti Rising has strategic alliances and partnerships with various grassroots and community-based organizations in all three regions, including middle and high schools, youth service projects, foster care agencies, holistic health care providers and residential treatment programs.
For instance, Shakti Rising is proud of the relationship we have formed with schools like Harriet Tubman Village Charter School, where we provide leadership services to at-risk youth. Additionally, through providing professional development training to and partnering closely with staff at this school and others, Shakti Rising is able to ensure that there are advocates on-site positively reinforcing our model and curriculum on a daily basis. This works to embed positive leadership development even more deeply in the at-risk youth we serve.
How are your 2012 Outreach Education and Leadership Projects coming along?
Shakti Rising creates individual and social change through a process of ongoing transformation. Our work is based on the belief that when individuals cultivate and reclaim who they are through doing personal transformation work, it creates in them a stronger awareness of themselves and their communities and encourages a socially-conscious desire to give back and create ripples of change in their families, communities and, ultimately, the globe. As such, our current Education and Leadership Projects continually incorporate personal growth with service learning principles, leading those who take part to experience the following outcomes:
Build the inner authority to affect change
Increase personal investment in community
Practice gratitude and generosity
For more information on Shakti Rising, visit shaktirisingnp.com or contact them at:
P.O. Box 5655
San Diego, CA 92165-5655
Main Line: 619.501.2746
Business Line: 619.795.2673
Randy Villarba is a San Diego native, whose love for nature has him trapped living in the Eastern Sierra of California. Villarba left America’s Finest City following his love for the backcountry and nature; fishing, hiking, mountain biking, photography, skiing, and snowboarding. A graduate of San Diego State University, Villarba has also studied at the University Of London Union in the United Kingdom and the University of California San Diego. He has worked for Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, the San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum, the San Diego Natural History Museum, and the San Diego Unified School District. His writing has been published in 90:00 Minutes Soccer Magazine, Dining Out San Diego Magazine and The Mammoth Times. www.randywrites.com
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