If you can dream - and not make dreams your master,
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools.
From "If" by Rudyard Kipling
She built her cathedral from the splinters of her shattering.
~ Terri St. Cloud
You are living with the love of your life in your dream house in Brentwood, California near the Getty Museum.
You drive down to Beverly Hills to get your hair blown out.
You are in the chair when all of a sudden there is a sinking sensation in the pit of your stomach. You know something has gone terribly wrong but you don't know what it is.
You jump out of the chair and drive home with wet hair.
You are supposed to be going back to the house to get the dogs and your fiancé to go to Steve Ross' yoga retreat in Ojai.
When you arrive home the dogs are silent and do not run out to greet you.
Now you know that something is really really wrong.
You flick open the garage door to find your fiancé hanging from a dog's leash attached to the vaulted ceiling. Feet dangling two inches from the ground. His lifeless body facing the only window in the garage.
Such an image cannot be unseen. You will carry it around for the rest of your life like a tattoo on your heart.
You call 911 and they tell you to cut him down. You rush into the house and find a knife.
When his body crashes to the earth you fall with it.
You look up to see a swarm of Firefighters and Police officers running up the driveway.
That's the last thing you remember.
How does one ever recover from this?
Such an event would crush most people, destroy their faith in anything good.
But not Amanda Mills.
Born with a heart murmur and given up for adoption by her 16 year old mother, brought up in a faith-based Baptist home in Houston, after studying art and psychology at university, Amanda came to Los Angeles to study yoga. But did anything in her life prepare her for what she experienced that day?
No, it did not.
So what did she do?
Like Cheryl Strayed in "Wild," Amanda set off on a journey to put the fragments of her life back together.
She went to Africa to spend some time in nature and grieve. But while looking for a yoga class in Rwanda, her driver directed her to an orphanage for girls who had survived the genocide of the Tutsis by Hutu majority.
"For my whole life," Amanda told me, "I have been an adventurer, a seeker, a wanderer. I always considered myself pretty strong and fearless, but a few years ago when my life got turned upside down I decided to head off alone to Africa. There I found the Ubushobozi Project, and in doing so, I found myself again."
Ubushobozi Project is a non-profit, vocational skills training organization and yoga center founded in 2008 by Jeanne Siporin, Alan Siporin and Laura Boyea in Ruhengeri, Rwanda. Through education and skills training (sewing, weaving, crocheting and more) Ubushobozi seeks to end the cycle of poverty these girls have experienced throughout their young lives.
Each student is provided with a sewing machine, sewing lessons, fabric (and all related materials) and an outlet to sell their creations. In addition, students are provided with weekly stipends, daily nutritious meals and classes in English, mathematics, computers, health and sex education, and traditional dance.
"Seeing the resilience in these young women inspired me to find the resilience in myself and the power to realize my own dreams," said Amanda.
After spending the day laughing and dancing with these girls, Amanda was shown some yoga bags that the girls had sown and a light went off in her head. She knew what she had to do: she had to make a difference in the world by creating a company built on conscious commerce and philanthropy.
Voila! Out of the ashes, the phoenix rose and Amanda "Amandafested" AmandaMillsLA.com, a highly-curated, socially-conscious lifestyle brand that blends California sensibility with cosmopolitan flair and provides a continuous stream of information and ideas that will keep you curious, engaged and inspired!