By Merritt Frey, Executive Director
When we lose someone we love, we often want to find a way to help their memory live on. There are many ways to keep that memory alive. I wanted to share one way a Mali Rising supporter, who is also my mom, decided to keep her sister’s memory alive. Both my mom and my aunt have been supporters of Mali Rising’s Girl Project, but I think we’ve all been surprised at just how much my mom’s idea for making sure my aunt’s belief in the power of young women lived on has mattered to us since we lost Aunt Chris.
My mom, Mary, established the Strong Woman Scholarship, which will provide a full scholarship for five outstanding girls each year, for the next ten years. The girls will study nursing, a career that will provide them with a good income and their communities with much-needed support. Meet Kadia and Sira, two of the first Strong Woman recipients.
Here’s a question and answer I did with my mom that we both hope will help others imagine ways memoriam gifts honor those we’ve lost, but also help those of us left behind:
Merritt: What inspired you to set up the Strong Woman Scholarships?
Mary: My sister was already dying of cancer when she wrote her last check to support a single nursing assistant scholarship offered through Mali Rising. She commented as she handed it off, "I was talking to a friend the other day, and we agreed that if change is going to come in this world, it will come from educating and empowering women." Her words were the inspiration, and when we lost her later that year, Strong Woman Scholarships just felt like the perfect response.
Merritt: What were your expectations for the experience? How did the experience meet or differ from those expectations?
Mary: I expected to feel good immediately, which I did. I'd also anticipated the occasional twinge of "giver's remorse," because my $25,000 commitment represents a significant portion of my modest "estate." That actually hasn't happened. In fact, as time goes by, my impulsive decision seems more and more like one of the best things I've ever done. Maybe THE best.
Merritt: What do you think the benefits are of honoring someone you love in this way?
Mary: My sister was the one constant in my life, although we lived far apart for many years. I had no idea how much I'd miss her, and even less how much the scholarships would help me cope with that loss. It gives me great comfort to know that 50 women in a far-away country will improve themselves, their lives and their communities because my sister was such a worthy person. Besides, I think she would be so pleased with this tribute ...
Merritt: What do you hope for your scholarship recipients?
Mary: Oh - a better life! Even if they don't end up working in the nursing field, they are bound to be better for having the opportunity to try. I'm also hopeful that some lasting alliances, both personal and professional, will be formed among this special group of young women and amplify the investment they - and we - have made.
Merritt: What would you recommend for anyone considering setting up this kind of donation/memoriam?
Mary: If you have a financial advisor, be sure to solicit their input on the best way to make your donation. And if it's a memoriam, be prepared to be the biggest beneficiary of all.
Merritt: Anything else?
Mary: Don't hesitate to share the details of your donation with those who may find comfort or inspiration in the possibilities of this sort of "constructive grieving." With help from Mali Rising, I designed a scholarship certificate and wrote a letter to our first strong women; little flourishes that I later sent to family members.