All month long, we've celebrated #WomenWho inspire, lead, create, persist, love, build, dream… the many things women are and things women do everyday! Here are a few of the remarkable women who make our community the place that it is:
Amina Mohamed | #WomenWho EDUCATE
Meet Amina! When it comes to investing in the education and future of children, Amina is all in. As an EL Teacher and Advocate at Kentwood Public Schools, Amina has blessed our community through her ever-expanding personal education and talent for helping children thrive. We celebrate her as a powerful member of a community of #WomenWho EDUCATE.
Reflecting on the generations of women in her family motivates Amina to do her work. Seeing the impact on children she’s able to have every day at her job truly makes her feel alive.
Amina comes from a long line of strong women whose memories and stories inspire her. Starting with her great-grandmother, they have stared down social pressure, shaming, and being ostracized in order to stand against abuse and stand tall for the next generation of women to receive an education and the agency of choice.
Wherever she goes, whatever she does, Amina’s carries in herself a quote she once heard "to the women in my life you are like water, I am made up almost entirely by you."
Amina hopes that her work helps create socially-conscious children who will advocate for social change in different fields. She has high hopes for the youth of today and has made it her calling to guide and mentor them in this journey. To her, social justice work is the norm, and she hopes to pass on that mantra to the next generation as they continuously create transformative change in their communities and the world.
Mary Prins | #WomenWho WELCOME
Meet Mary! Mary is a retired school teacher and one of our Sister Circle volunteers. Her commitment to loving others and spreading welcome has blessed so many! We’re celebrating her as a #WomenWho WELCOMES.
Mary is most alive when she is surrounded by other people. She finds energy in interacting with others, and strongly believes that we are created to be in relationships.
She has been most impacted by her mother, who passed away at 93 years of age. Her mother taught her the power of a positive attitude, and the beauty of going into new relationships with an open mind and a lack of judgement. She is also inspired by her daughters who “exhibit strength and compassion as they navigate this crazy, beautiful life.”
Mary hopes to bring a little more kindness into the world. We need to make sure people feel respected, validated, and loved. It is the small acts of kindness, and the time spent on building relationships, that make our world a better place.
Sylvia Nyamuhungu | #WomenWho LEAD
Meet Sylvia! Sylvia is our Community Connector for our teen girls, and we are so blessed by all the work that she does. We celebrate her as one of many #WomenWho LEAD. We could not be more grateful for the way that she leads our teen girls, setting a strong and inspiring example!
A few things to know about Sylvia: She is fluent in three different languages—Kinyarwanda, Kiswahili, and English. In her free time, she loves listening to music, testing new recipes, and spending time with her family. She cant live without ranch dressing and loves to put it on everything, no matter how strange others might find it!
Sylvia has felt most welcomed by those who have taken time to learn about her home country—making her feel less like an outsider. She also recognizes the importance of a simple smile, noting that when others smile at her it makes her feel welcomed, and that they are happy she is there.
Sylvia’s favorite way to welcome others is to learn about their home towns, and have conversations about the places they come from. She loves being able to introduce her home to them and in turn, learn about the places they call home!
Edna Mbangukira | #WomenWho CONNECT
Meet Edna! Edna is one of our board members here at Treetops Collective, and she has been such a blessing in helping Treetops grow and flourish. We’re celebrating her as one of the many #WomenWho CONNECT.
Edna finds that she comes alive most when she is caring for children. She is proud of her role as a mother and nurturer, and has always loved babies!
She is inspired by her mother, Foibe, who she credits with making her the woman she is today. Her mother taught her how to cook, how to connect with others, and how to be a loving person who grows community.
If Edna could use her life to impact one thing, it would be to encourage children to excel in education. She recognizes the importance of hard work in order to reach success, and wants to encourage all children, including her two boys, to push themselves at school. With a good education, “the sky is the limit!”
Sopheari Mork | #WomenWho DESIGN
Meet Sopheari! Sopheari is talented and creative, and works as a graphic designer for the Sysco Marketing Center of Expertise. We celebrate her as a powerful member of a growing community of #WomenWho DESIGN.
Sopheari is motivated by the stories of others. In listening to others speak of their own experiences, challenges, and successes, she is able to step back and reflect on her own life. Learning from their stories allows her to consider what she needs to do to succeed and pursue her own dreams.
She has been most impacted by her mother, whom she was named after. Her mother survived the Vietnam war and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. After losing her father and two siblings to starvation, she and her remaining family members traveled on foot with a group of American soldiers away from the Vietnam Border. Her mother then entered the United States as a refugee. Through all of this, her mother learned English, learned how to write, gained her citizenship, and worked a full time job in order to support Sopheari and her siblings.
Sopheari hopes to impact the world through her work with refugees. She hopes to one day have the chance to foster a refugee family and make them feel welcomed and loved. Coming from a family of seven, she believes that “the more the merrier!”
Rachel and Hannah | #WomenWho PARTNER
Meet Rachel and Hannah! Rachel (left) and Hannah (right) are participants in our Sister Circles, and today we celebrate them as #WomenWho PARTNER. They are a wonderful example of the power and beauty of female friendship—we are stronger together!
Hannah feels most alive when connecting with others. She takes life head on with passion and enthusiasm, and loves being able to share her joy with others. Rachel also feels most alive in relationships, and seeks to be kind and friendly to everyone she meets!
Hannah has been strongly impacted by the writings of Lindy West, an outspoken advocate for feminism, social justice, and body image. She is inspired by West’s honest and unapologetic style, and acceptance of her own body and experiences. Rachel is inspired by her sister, Veronique, who goes out of her way to help her and care for her.
If Hannah could use her life to make a positive impact on one thing, she would encourage others to be empathetic. She firmly believes in the power of empathy, allowing us to look beyond ourselves and serve others, making the world a better place. Rachel hopes to inspire others through the power of music, in particular by singing!
Christine Mwangi | #WomenWho EMPOWER
Meet Christine! Christine is the founder of Be a Rose, a nonprofit organization that works to promote women’s health education and provides access to feminine hygiene supplies free of charge in our West Michigan communities. Today we celebrate Christine as one of the many #WomenWho EMPOWER.
Christine comes alive when she is helping others. She seeks to be a light wherever God leads her, and is most motivated by serving those around her.
Christine is inspired by Mary Dailey Brown, the founder of SowHope. SowHope works to improve the lives of women across the globe, believing that by doing so the overall health of families, villages, and countries is improved. Brown has acted as a mentor to Christine, and was instrumental in helping her found Be a Rose. Brown was also one of the first people to welcome Christine to West Michigan!
If she could use her life to impact one thing, it would be period poverty. Christine hopes “to work towards a day when women can manage their periods in dignity with access to feminine hygiene items and reproductive education.”
Vida Kufor | #WomenWho MOTHER
Meet Vida! Vida is a friend of Treetops and a mom of two beautiful daughters! We’re celebrating her as one of the many #WomenWho MOTHER.
Vida is most alive when spending time with her two daughters. She loves to cook and travel with them. She wants them to have open minds, and believes traveling is the best way to foster that through experiencing different cultures, ideas, and people. As she says, “It’s beautiful out there,” and she loves to experience the world with her daughters.
Vida points to three different women as her inspirations. Her foster mom, Betty, has walked alongside through the good and the bad, and has always been there when she needed her. Vida’s birth mother, Rose, recently passed away and Vida will remember her mother’s encouragement to be the best mother to her daughters and the best wife to her husband. Dana, her sister and co-founder of Treetops Collective, has also empowered her to believe in herself and continually better herself.
Vida believes that the most important impacts on the world start at home. She strives to set good examples for her daughters, and hopes that her example will encourage her daughters to go out into the community and make positive changes. “It starts from every one of us, it’s more than me just trying to be a hero.”
Reverend Katherine Lee Baker | #WomenWho PREACH
Meet Katherine! Katherine is the Chaplain and Spiritual Care Coordinator at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, and a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Reformed Church in America. We celebrate Katherine as one of the many inspiring #WomenWho PREACH.
Katherine stands in a very unique position, as one of few Asian American clergywomen. She serves in a denomination, region, and culture that has largely been dominated by white males. As a woman, in particular a woman of color, she has often been the marginalized voice at the table. This has driven her to speak up even louder, and take every opportunity to share her perspective and act as representative of the many voices that are silenced and unrecognized.
Katherine finds she is most alive when advocating for the underdog, actualizing potential, and standing for justice.
She is most inspired by by the many brave women who fight for justice, using their voices and platforms for the good of others. She is encouraged by women who refuse to give in to the often impossible and unhealthy expectations society places on them, instead choosing to stand tall and reject these standards.
Katherine hopes to serve as a catalyst and cheerleader for women connecting with women. “Together, we’re unstoppable. Let’s take back the Matriarchy!”
Rosine Hounakey | #WomenWho INSPIRE
Meet Rosine! Rosine is our Sister Circles Community Connector, and she does an incredible job mentoring and helping form community with our newest neighbors. During our #WomenWho campaign, we celebrate her as a woman who INSPIRES us constantly.
A few things to know about Rosine: she values honesty and integrity, and tries to live out those two qualities in all aspects of her life. In her free time she enjoys dancing and meditating on the Bible, and she cant live without mangos and strawberries!
She has been most impacted by those who have sat with her and listened to her with their full attention. She has felt so welcomed and cared for by those who took time to hear her story!
Rosine’s favorite way to show kindness is to listen to others and give them her full attention. Showing others that you are really listening and truly care is a simple and important way to show them that you recognize them as a fellow human created in the image of God!
Shannon Cohen | #WomenWho ENCOURAGE
Meet Shannon! Shannon is the creator of Tough Skin, Soft Heart, a leadership-wellness movement designed to support the emotional health of difference-makers, and co-founder of Sisters Who Lead, an affinity space for women of color in West Michigan. Shannon is one of many #WomenWho ENCOURAGE.
Shannon sees encouragement as one of her superpowers. Being a conduit of encouragement and affirmation in the lives of other women gives her life! She loves creating safe spaces for rockstar women to rest, replenish, and restore their souls.
The women in Shannon’s family inspire her. She descends from a family and village of women who taught her that strength is for service not status. Growing up, she watched women in her family serve in transformative ways. Servant leadership is in Shannon’s DNA.
Shannon firmly believes that every human being has purpose. It grieves her to see the circumstances of someone’s birth used to judge them and determine whether they soar and thrive or not. She is radically committed to movements and work that help change that reality. She wants to use her life to care for leaders who daily sow their lives in service of others.
Molly Bouwsma Schultz | #WomenWho CREATE
Meet Molly! Gracing Grand Rapids with her musical abilities for years, she’s now also gracing our community with beer offerings and a creative space to enjoy music with your best people as co-owner of Creston Brewery. We’re celebrating her as one of many #WomenWho CREATE.
What makes Molly come alive is the idea that no matter the personal or universal things we face, there’s always a way to find liberation and beauty each time she writes a melody or sings lyrics from her heart and mind.
She’s deeply inspired and encouraged by her selfless, loving, and fiercely compassionate sister, Corina Van Duinen. Constantly nurturing every person and creature around her, Corina is also a brilliant artist and designer, and Molly feels strongly that “she is the definition of beauty both inside and out and I’m certain we are all better for having this bright light in the world.”
Molly hopes that her life and work communicates to every young boy and girl that no matter their background, race, and circumstance they are capable of being a hero and leader. She believes that war and poverty can be eradicated if women are truly empowered to hold spaces of leadership.
Jamee Kraai | #WomenWho SERVE
Meet Jamee! Jamee is our Volunteer Coordinator, and she has been such a welcome addition to our team. Her sweet presence and joyful smile light up every room! We are thankful for her and the many #WomenWho SERVE.
A few things to know about Jamee: She loves to learn, and wishes she had time to sign up for the many classes that interest her. In her free time she loves to do many different activities: yoga, cooking, reading, music... the list goes on! She also loves to spend time outside with her littles, and she can’t live without cheese!
Jamee remembers one significant instance of welcome: When she and her family moved to their current home, one of their neighbors threw a backyard bbq so that they could meet the rest of the neighborhood. Her neighbor made sure that they felt welcomed and recognized as a part of their new community!
Jamee’s favorite way to show kindness and welcome is to be curious about others. She loves to ask questions, listen to their stories, and learn about what makes them unique.
Clementine Sikiri | #WomenWho MENTOR
Meet Clementine! Clementine is a case worker at Bethany Christian Services, and is the founder of Treetops’ high school girl’s group, Gukura. Using her experience as a refugee teen, she has worked to create space in which teen girls can celebrate their heritage together while becoming leaders in their new community. Today and everyday, we celebrate her as one of the #WomenWho MENTOR.
Clementine lived most of her childhood in “survival mode.” Born during a civil war and living inside a refugee camp, she was brought up to prepare for the worst—which has heavily impacted her life today. She does not view it as coincidence that she and her immediate family were chosen from among thousands of other refugees to resettle in the United States, and she strongly believes that “the Lord was and still is equipping me to receive and serve those who are in the same shoes I was in when I first arrived.”
Clementine finds that she is most alive when she is able to provide support for those who can’t do it on their own. She is even more alive when those she helps become self-sufficient.
Clementine has been most impacted by her grandmother. Her grandmother has been through worse things than many can even imagine, and despite it all she holds onto a faith with a strength that is inspiring. She also is inspired by Dana Doll, who has acted as a mentor and poured into her when she was a young teen.
If she could use her life to impact one thing, it would be to create support systems for those who need it. She wants to help people live to their full potential and take advantage of all the opportunities life has to offer.
Grace and Rita | #WomenWho CONNECT
Meet Grace (left) and Rita (right)! Grace and Rita are one of Treetops’ first Sister Circle pairs. With limited ability to communicate due to language differences, the two first connected over Zumba classes. Today we celebrate them as #WomenWho CONNECT.
Rita is an English Learner Teacher, and Grace is currently a student. Rita is most motivated by challenges, and puts all her energy into work that can have an impact on others. Grace is most motivated by learning, and wants to learn as much as she can in order to have the best future possible!
Rita views her partnership within the Sister Circles program as a very important one. Her relationship with Grace has allowed her to step out of the “teacher” role, and into the “friend” and “support” role. Grace has loved getting to experience new things with Rita, like going to the beach, events downtown, or Zumba classes. She is also thankful for Rita’s help improving her English.
Rita is most inspired by her mother, who came to the U.S. as a Cuban refugee at nine years old. She describes her mother as an insightful and astute woman who has made a positive impact on those around her. Grace also points to her mother as an inspiration, whom she describes as strong and hardworking.
Grace hopes to use her life to inspire positive change in education. She wants everyone to have the chance to go to school and build a brighter future for themselves. Rita hopes to make the world a more fair and peaceful place. She believes that empathy is key to this, and hopes that more people would open their eyes to the experiences of others, in turn eliminating fear and creating more space for healthy relationships to form.
Jill DeVries | #WomenWho CREATE
Meet Jill! Jill is a freelance photographer whose creative eye brings a fresh perspective to the photography scene in Grand Rapids. Today we celebrate her as one of the talented #WomenWho CREATE.
Jill is inspired by beauty and creativity. She aspires to celebrate the beauty that already exists in the world, as well as to create more of it. She is motivated by a desire to help people see how loved and valued they are, and she comes alive when “I witness people feeling seen, known, and loved.”
Jill has been most impacted by her mother, whom she describes as strong, sensitive, passionate, hard working, and generous. She loves others selflessly, and is always accepting of all people.
If Jill could change one thing, she would eradicate loneliness. She wants everyone to know that they are loved and valued!
Mayor Rosalynn Bliss | #WomenWho RUN
Meet Mayor Rosalynn Bliss! Mayor Bliss is Grand Rapids’ first female mayor. Elected to the mayoral office in 2016, she has also served on the Grand Rapids City Comission. She has done extensive work to promote diversity and inclusion, and has made it a priority to know the civic landscape (from neighborhoods, to small businesses, to nonprofits). We celebrate her as one of the many inspiring #WomenWho RUN for political office.
Only 25% of elected positions are held by women. Of the 100 largest cities in the U.S., only 19 have female mayors. When asked what makes her position unique, Mayor Bliss pointed out the low numbers of elected female officials and says that she feels a “tremendous responsibility to work extremely hard to be successful so that it is an easier journey for the next woman who serves our city as Mayor.”
Mayor Bliss is motivated by problem solving. She loves finding ways to make our community a better place, and is inspired by seeing joy in others.
She has always been inspired by Alice Paul and the other suffragists. She admires their strength, courage, and brilliance. Their perseverance has paved the way for women to move forward and work to gain entry to so many spaces previously denied them.
Though she pointed out that her list is very long, if she could use her life to change one thing it would be to eliminate all forms of racism.
Virginie Tshiasuma | #WomenWho NURTURE
Meet Virginie! Virginie is the co-director of Hands Connected Center, an early childhood education center for refugee families. Hands Connected works to increase access to culturally and linguistically appropriate childcare, and to teach adult refugees the skills needed to become licensed childcare providers. We celebrate Virginie as one of the #WomenWho NURTURE.
Virginie finds she is most alive when she is working with others. She loves to be around people and build relationships with them.
She has been inspired by many women, and finds it hard to pick just one! Her first boss from her first job in Africa, Becky, was a hard-working American woman who showed her what it meant to be leader who walks alongside, rather than ruling over others. Becky treated her employees as equals, and worked hard even when no one else was around.
If Virginie could use her life to impact one thing, she would choose to go back home and influence how her community cares for children. She wants to meet children at their level, show them they are loved, and teach them to stand tall by themselves.
Nadia Hamad | #WomenWho MAKE
Meet Nadia! Nadia is our Lead Sewer here at Treetops Collective, and we don’t know where we would be without her. We are beyond blessed by Nadia and her many talents, and we celebrate her, today and everyday, as one of the creative #WomenWho MAKE. A few things to know about Nadia: she loves working late at night, cooking, and taking time to plan out her day.
Nadia is most motivated when she is surrounded by people who are genuine, and who care about each other. She loves working in an environment in which her God-given gifts are appreciated and celebrated, and says she has felt most welcomed here when others love her work.
She is most inspired by her mother, who always pushed her to strive for her best. Her mother was always active, always smiling, and full of life. She admires her mother’s ability to put the needs of others before her own. Even though her mother knew she would miss Nadia terribly, she pushed her to move to the U.S. because she wanted more for Nadia and Nadia’s son.
If Nadia could use her life to impact one thing, it would be to create and build something that would make other’s happy.
Lucy and Vera | #WomenWho ACT
Meet Lucy and Vera! The two have volunteered with Treetops in the past, and we are so inspired by their hearts for others. Motivated by the refugee crisis, the two were inspired to start Love Notes. They designed greeting cards to educate their classmates about refugees, and sold them before Christmas to raise support for Preemptive Love Coalition. They are currently creating new cards to help raise money for a classmate who is an Afghan refugee to go to college! We are so inspired by these two, and celebrate them as #WomenWhoACT.
Lucy is most alive when she is surrounded by others, and when she gets to spend time in the outdoors. She loves combining the two, and looks forward to spending time at summer camp each year.
Vera is most motivated by seeing the results of her hard work. She attacks life with all her energy—whether in classes, swimming, or by making a difference through Love Notes fundraising.
Lucy is inspired by Emma Gonzalez, one of the survivors from the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas school shooting in Parkland, FL. Gonzalez is a fellow young woman who is standing up for gun control, something she passionately believes in.
Vera is inspired by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who has been a strong advocate for women’s rights. Vera hopes to see more women in powerful positions in the future!
If Lucy could do one thing to make a change, it would be to give free swimming lessons to children. As a swimmer herself, she is passionate about the activity and wants to share that love with others. She is heartbroken for the many people, particularly children, who drown each year, and wants to help change that.
If Vera could use her life to impact one thing, it would be to bring a voice to the marginalized, especially through the power of language. She is learning Spanish and hopes to use it to connect with others.
We’re looking back at the month of March and all the strong, creative, resilient, and intelligent women we celebrated. #WomenWho are changing lives, shaping communities, and leading us all forward.