Category Archives: Updates

Reflections on the WSWI 2018 Connections Conference

The WSWI 2018 Connections Conference was an unforgettable collaboration with the Universe and a group of beautiful, wise women. Let me put that in context. I believed that getting a two-year start on planning our 2nd conference in Nairobi would ensure a smooth implementation. But applying project management to Life is like telling God your plans. So when things started to fall apart six months out, I released all worry and stress, focused on my work and healing, and let the Universe take care of everything else. It became a conference theme – we are our best and most powerful when we co-create with Life.

Ten women traveled to Kenya for the Oct 31 – Nov 2 conference, 7 to do workshops, 2 to help, and 5 who are members of the WSWI Mentoring Community and first-timers to Africa. See the video below for the fun we had after the conference!


Sherry Bisaillon and Susan Chritton


Gabriela Buich

Olivia Herriford and Tendai Jordan

Barbara Norman-Wilson


Kirsti Tcherkoyan

I never could have imagined that our two Kenyan board members and partners, Esther Muchiri and Wamuyu Mahinda, would, at the 11th hour, need to cancel due to how Life was happening for them. But we still had four very inspirational leaders from Kenya lead sessions.

At home with Margaret Karungaru post-conference

Rev Connie Phelps

Rev Lucy Waweru


Rosaia Ruberto

I was thrilled to meet my co-mentee, Eunice Kariuki, whose wisdom I’m tapping; we both direct tech apprenticeship programs and she’s way ahead of me! Meeting the Kenyan members of the Mentoring Community was special and deepened connections.

We had 47 women participate in the conference, most of them for all three days. Our sponsors made it happen! Every single one of the Kenyan and Ugandan participants, 100%, were able to attend because their fees were covered. Thank you!

Here’s a photo slideshow of our two week experience in Kenya:

Our vision is to be a premier connector of women in service to others; our mission is professional, personal, and leadership development for change. Both were demonstrated in amazing ways. Everyone’s self-awareness was heightened, we all stoked the power (and fire) we have within and celebrated some meaningful stuff!  Everyone left with at least one deep connection. I really wish my friends, Esther and Wamuyu, could have been there to testify with knowing smile about the possibilities to come.

I hope you enjoy the pictorial summary. We’re in discussion about returning in January 31 – February 2, 2020 in collaboration with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kenya Mkutano.

Stay tuned!

WSWI in Kenya November-December 2016

Emirates to Dubai

Each of my visits to Kenya gets closer to the vision I have for WSWI – to make connections between women leaders in the US and Africa. This year, my eighth, the groundwork is laid for a 2017 summit here in the Bay Area and a 2018 conference in Nairobi. I hope that those of you who have expressed the desire to join our work while experiencing Kenya start wrapping your minds around that intention.

A recurring theme throughout this 2016 visit was the reaction to the election of Trump. Kenyans can’t believe it happened and see it as the beginning of an unraveling of the accomplishments of their native son. Most interestingly, they apparently see (as I do) the parallels of corruption, a growing wealth gap, a broken education system, and politically disengaged youth. In both countries, money governs, the poor and marginalized are kept where they are, and too many young people believe their vote won’t make a difference. I had the opportunity to hear Angela Davis speak on December 9 after my return and received her new book. I haven’t read it yet, but I like the title: Freedom is a Constant Struggle. Wake up everybody.

OK, off my soapbox.

I spent the Thanksgiving holiday and the first five days of December in Nairobi and Nyeri. The first five days, Jesse and I stayed in the middle of the bustle of downtown Nairobi. Traffic is was bad, coming back to the SF-Walnut Creek commute was gratifying. While I had my meetings and workshops, Jesse hung around the Hilton and engaged with everyone he encountered, as he usually does.

My engagements in Nairobi began with a meeting with partner, Wamuyu Mahinda, and Peris Wakesho, Regional Director for Ashoka East Africa. Wamuyu , an Ashoka Fellow, is linking her doctoral study with Ashoka’s Empathy Initiative. Those of you familiar with my recent work in diversity and inclusion know that I see empathy and EQ as a remedy for many of our social, socioeconomic challenges. Wamuyu and I continued to discuss her ideas about the relationship between the empathy and values of social entrepreneurs into the next week. Peris made the e-introduction to Linda Welsh, Ashoka Global Vice President, based in Washington, DC. I look forward to connecting with her about possibilities later this month.

The next day, Jesse and I met with Robert Cullens, owner of Paws and Classic Safaris tour operations and member of the Karen Rotary. My friend, Kathy Gailey, President of the San Ramon Rotary, made the connection because she’s encouraging WSWI to apply for a Rotary global grant to expand our work in Kenya.   Robert hosted us at the beautiful Karen Country Club. When I’m able to swing my clubs again next year, that’s where I’m teeing off! Robert introduced me to Mburu Ngugi, Director, and Leonard Ithau, President, of the Karen Rotary. We met for lunch a few days later, I shared the work of WSWI to date, and their interest is leadership development. Yes!!

Karen Country Club

The next Nairobi meeting was with Kenya member of the Global Women’s Leadership Network. I’ve heard wonderful things about GWLN for several years. Recently I connected with Bonita Banducci and Kelly Mizner through my membership in PWIC, who were persistent in their urging of me to connect with its Kenyan members on my next trip. Kelly and Tess Ojiambo made it happen. On November 26, I met with four incredibly inspirational women – Lindy Watula, Grace Mose O’Kongo, Trish Sewe, and Rose Muya. The topic of conversation was simply “possibilities”. I have a strong desire to bring a group of women leaders from the US to Kenya to connect with powerful and empowered counterparts. We mostly got to know about each others’ passions, but these will be a few of the women leaders you can meet in 2018.

GWLN Kenya

Lindy – Founder of the Women’s Academy that trains women in nontraditional trades (and several other ventures) and making a run for election as her county’s Women’s Representative. (She was urged by her Kenyan sisters to taking a bigger step and run for Member of Parliament!)

Grace –Professor at Kenyatta University and CEO, Hope Foundation for African Women, empowering rural Kenya women (and men) to make better decisions about change.

Trish – Founder of Mimi Ni Change (MNC) Solutions. Trish is galvanizing Kenya youth to bring an end to tribalism.

Rose – Director of Timeless Tours & Travel couldn’t stay long, but we learned that she’s passionate about protecting Kenya’s game parks and was the adamant about Lindy running for MP!

My day with The Youth Banner began with new CEO, Jame Mungai. We discussed TYB’s refocused strategic plan and how we will continue to work together to support. TYB has exciting things ahead, including an increased strategic focus on leadership development and plans to create a savings and credit corporation in support of its entrepreneurship programs. I spent the afternoon with Charity, TYB’s training manager, and six microbusiness owners who attended previous WSWI workshops. It was a fun group coaching session with a focus on marketing (their choice of topic).

TYB CEO and Entrepreneurs

We left Nairobi for 5 days in Nyeri, as guests of Wamuyu and Jeff Mahinda. Wamuyu and I had one day to continue our discussion about the Ashoka project and then I got busy! We met with Margaret Gachagua, the First Lady of Nyeri County (wife of the governor), to finalize plans for Saturday’s Women Leaders Summit. Wamuyu and Margaret are member of the Daughters of Nyeri Association, one of WSWI’s new partners.  I was recruited to join Wamuyu and Margaret on Friday at the first meeting of a new club at Kimathi University, Empowered Me, for women students with children. It was a very inspiring and moving meeting where we all shared personal stories about the decision women students who find themselves pregnant must make, and live with, to persevere. While at Kimathi U, I also met Dr. Matthew Theuri, Dean of the School of Business, and Prof. Ndirangu Kioni, Vice Chancellor. There may be guest lecturer opportunities!!!

HE Margaret and EMe PrezEmpowered Me meeting


This visit’s highlight was the Women Leaders Summit. First Lady Margaret planned an empowering meeting with a central question of leading in a culture where the gender roles are so opposed. The participants were from diverse backgrounds, many in management in county services, such as health care, business owners, other county officials, young interns, student leaders, and staff from the First Lady’s Office. My talk and discussion was on Being a Leader and a Woman. It was a wonderful experience. It was well-received and we all grew in wisdom.

HE Margaret GachaguaWomen Leaders Summit

I was encouraged when most of the participants requested the presentation to share with others. I was honored when, at the end of the summit, they stood as a group and quickly agreed on my Kenyan name. I’m Nyawera. It means “woman who works hard.” I’m so transparent! What a way to wrap up this work I love!

That left one day to just visit with our gracious hosts, Jeff and Wamuyu. I’m growing very fond of Nyeri, which lies in the foothills of Mt. Kenya. It’s a rich in resources, with fertile soil where it seems everything grows – when there’s rain. It rained just about every afternoon we were there. And it was beautiful!

With hosts Jeff and Wamuyu

…as I wish for you and yours this holiday season!


WSWI Update August 2016

We’re in the process of planning WSWI’s fall 2016 visit to Nairobi to support our partners with their work to empower women and youth through entrepreneurship and community leadership. But before sharing some exciting news about expanding this work, here’s a recap of board member, Kirsti Tcheryan’s April 2016 workshops.

WSWI Director, Kirsti Tcherkoyan, with a new group of Youth Banner entrepreneurs

WSWI Director, Kirsti Tcherkoyan, with a new group of Youth Banner entrepreneurs

Kirsti conducted two workshops in collaboration with The Youth Banner. The first workshop was for new participants in our program. First-time participants begin with developing their business and growth strategies. This training covers core values, purpose, vision, brand promise, and setting objectives, which help them to solve problems they face in their businesses. The eleven new trainees included six women and five men. As is usual for these micro-business owners, all of them work to support and provide care for families that often extend beyond their children to elder members. The trainees were engaged in the following range of businesses: provision of services such as IT cybersecurity, beauty salon, and motivational speaking; selling baby diapers, snacks, second hand clothes and baked goods. There was also a musician and book author, a restaurant owner, and a business owner the provided fish and chicken processing and sales. At the time of the workshop, 87% of the trainees said that their businesses were profitable and 13% said their business was not profitable, which is why our program includes follow-up workshops to review progress in business plan implementation and business growth coaching.

The eleven returning business owners were all women with similar responsibilities for care of their extended families as a key motivator for increasing their income. The good news is that all were making increased profits, adding employees, and looking for ways to either continue the growth of their existing businesses or start additional businesses!

September 2015 Workshops in Nairobi

Our second series of Nairobi workshops for 2015 continued the success we’ve had supporting our partners’ programs to empower women entrepreneurs, college students, and young business owners. Olivia conducted two workshops for The Youth Banner; one for women entrepreneurs new to business planning and the second for prior participants seeking a refresher, help and/or coaching. We’re delighted that the number of returning entrepreneurs is growing and they expressed a desire to meet monthly to share ideas and success between the WSWI visits. We had strong support from the TYB during the workshops. WSWI provided train-the-trainer workshops during our two previous visits and staff is now quite adept at facilitating group breakouts and answering questions about business planning and development.

OCT15 TYB Workshop1

Adding the 30+ participants of the business training session, we’ve served over 200 unique women micro-business owners. The last evaluation report, for the April 2015 series of workshops, facilitated by Kirsti Tcherkoyan, found that:

  • Only 5% were keeping accounting records when they began the program
  • 80% of the graduates now keep records of their earnings
  • Nearly 95% of our graduates have seen an improvement in their business since implementing their plans 

When we get the evaluation report for the September business planning workshops, we’ll post an update. Our gratitude goes out to Kelvin Maina and the rest of the Youth Banner team for their contributions to another successful series.

We facilitated three eMentoring Africa workshops, all in collaboration with UNISCOO (University Students Community Organization), a student leadership organization representing universities throughout East Africa and the US. There was a different group of young leaders in each session. The first were recent winners of the 25 Under 25 Entrepreneurship Award. The second was a group of students preparing for and participating in an internship program. The third workshop was for a large group of student organization leaders from several universities. In all three workshops, the topic was turning vision into action. It was a lot of fun while also very inspirational because I’m convinced they are all future leaders. Thanks to Jed Ondiko, Managing Director of UNISCOO, for his leadership. He models the way!

OCT15 25under25 breakout

The October 2015 eMA leadership development workshops bring our total for student leaders impacted to 63. A gratifying achievement, but not as heartwarming as what we take away from just being in the presence of such motivated, energetic and committed twenty-somethings! Another reason we are so inspired to return.

Development Update November 2015


As most of our supporters already know, we are anxious to bring our work to communities in the San Francisco Bay Area, where WSWI in headquartered. There are thousands of women and transitional aged youth dreaming of change in their lives right here in our own backyard. WSWI and the Bayview Hunters Point YMCA have agreed to collaborate on the delivery of two courses to offer both groups.

The Micro-Business Owner course is a series of workshops and labs to explore the fundamentals of business ownership and essentials of personal leadership. Similar to the business planning workshops we do in Nairobi, the outcome is an actionable business plan. This course also includes mentorship as part of participant support.

The Community Leadership Institute is a 12-week program for community change agents. Starting with self-assessments of personality, communication, and leadership styles, participants link their visions with their values and begin to define the problem they wish to solve. Again, the outcome is a plan. Participants engage with guest speakers who are successful community leaders, learn how promote their agenda, and organize community dialog.

Thanks to the a generous grant from the Betsy Gordon Foundation and donations from our supporter that attended our launch last August, we were able to hire a grant writer who has submitted over twenty proposals to fund one or both of these programs; both require $10,000 each to deliver. We’ve also hired a virtual assistant to help the board with administration, an ongoing need. So we hope that you’ll continue to think of us as you offer your end-of-year, holiday gifts to charities. Click here to donate to WSWI.

Successful WSWI Friendraiser and Launch



Thanks to all of you that attended and supported the August 7 launch of Women Sharing Wisdom Institute. We made lots of new friends who we hope will spread the word about our work fueling the dreams of marginalized women and transitional aged youth here and abroad. The donation and proceeds from the event has allowed WSWI to hire a grant writer and virtual assistant, getting us back on track with three-year growth plan. And a little less is coming out of our board member pockets to support the upcoming entrepreneur and leadership workshops in Nairobi the end of the September.


We’re finding there’s lots of interest in what we’re doing and real reason to get even more excited about our first micro-business course at the Bayview YMCA. So keep checking back here for our quarterly updates and other blog posts about adventures!