(continued from It Takes a Village (Part 4))
With the economic crisis threatening to shut the doors of my nonprofit organization, I reached out to collaborate with other leaders and educators. I was humbled to learn that my story only scrapes the surface of what others have pioneered… Indeed, I was inspired to find so many who were braving the economic downturn – fighting to effect change – many foregoing salaries, working from their home offices or during off-hours to help bring about the kind of learning and change that is needed.
Here are a few of their stories.
Johanna S. Kandel is the Director of the Alliance for Eating Disorders and a founding board member of Eating Disorders Activist Network. After a ten-year battle with anorexia, exercise bulimia, and binge eating disorder, Johanna was getting ready to apply to graduate school. Before starting interviews, she realized “what I wanted to do more than anything in the world was talk to that '7th grade me' and tell her that the eating disorder path was not worth it, that recovery is possible, and that help is available.”
At the time, Johanna was just finishing up with her undergraduate studies and was working for an international eating disorders organization. She called up her parents and told them that she wanted to start a nonprofit and give back. “They said that they would give me one year to make it work. They told me that they would support me by allowing me to move home, but if it didn’t work out, I would have to go back to school the following year.”
She took a loan out her last semester of college and starting doing all the necessary paper work in order to start The Alliance. She filed the official paperwork in October 2000, and opened up the doors of The Alliance in January of 2001. Since that time, for almost 11 years, The Alliance has been a huge part of her life. “I work upwards of 50 hours a week, maintaining up to 2 other jobs in order to keep the lights on.”
Since she started the organization, Johanna has spoken with more that 150,000 individuals nationwide. Since 2002, she has facilitated a pro-recovery support group for women 18+ every Monday night and in 2006 began adding a friends and family support group. She has mentored hundreds of women on their journeys and has assisted thousands of individuals (and their families) into finding the specialized help they need.
In 2003, Johanna went to Washington, DC for the first time to lobby with the Eating Disorders Coalition. “That moment changed my life,” Kandel said. “Since that time, I have not missed one lobby day.” As a result, she is proud to say that she now sits on EDC’s Board of Directors, in addition to being a Florida team leader for the NEDA STAR program. Last September, her book, Life Beyond Your Eating Disorder was released.
Kandel’s passion and her supportive family and husband who believe in her dreams have enabled her to stay the course. “Almost 11 years later, I am just as passionate (if not more) than the day I started The Alliance.” Most importantly, Johanna stands almost 10 years recovered from her eating disorder and lives her dream every day.
“There is life beyond eating disorders, that's for sure!”
This year, I had the privilege of meeting Becky Henry on a visit to a leading treatment facility in Chicago, where I learned about her incredible efforts to teach health care providers and to support parents facing eating disorders. Becky’s speaking engagements, coaching (tele-classes) and her book, Just Tell Her To Stop: Family Stories of Eating Disorders help families to know that they are not at fault for their child’s eating disorder and has provided a much-needed respite.
In particular, I am blown away by Becky’s persistence and passion. She runs her business, Hope Network, LLC , from her home office in a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota, motivated by her own personal experience as a mom of a child with a life-threatening eating disorder. Her work began in 2003 as a result of finding zero help for coping with her child’s illness. Identical to the too many stories I have heard personally, Becky’s journey involved the use of her own personal funds and income from her business as a certified life coach to run her Hope Network. With the economic downturn, Becky has sold personal possessions, cashed in a life insurance policy, has accumulated credit card debt and is selling their home in order to keep her services going.
Becky was told that she was “part of the problem” when her daughter became sick with her eating disorder and is motivated to help families learn that these illnesses are not their fault. Becky felt blamed for something she did not do and lost the recognizable side of her daughter to this horrific illness. Becky now works with countless families who tell her that her book helped them to feel less alone and that her coaching services have helped or “saved” them.
Becky chose this photo riding a bike with no hands (entitled, “Look Ma, No Hands!”) to symbolize the fun and joy she reclaimed from the eating disorder and uses it as a model for the families she coaches.
(continued in It Takes a Village (Part 6))