We all need people to look up to, to inspire us to do something amazing with our own lives and stop us getting stuck in a rut. But how do you go from dreaming of an idea to actually doing it? It's easier said than done. These five incredible women found the motivation within themselves to change their lives for the better and we are in awe. From creating a worldwide charity challenge to training as a Zumba teacher age 54 and starting a jewellery business after serious illness, Lumity's fabulous five are our modern-day superheroes.
Read their heart-warming stories as we celebrate women this International Women’s Day…
Jacqueline Way, creator of the 365 Give Challenge
Mother-of-three Jacqueline always knew she wanted to make a difference in the world, but it wasn’t until she hit her 40s that she had the courage to make it happen. She came up with a brilliantly simple idea that all of us can adopt and embrace – she is quite literally changing the world one day at a time with her incredible charity ‘365 Give’. It began a personal parenting project with her son Nic.
“I hit 40,” Jacqueline tells us. “Oh, that magic age that makes us sit and reflect what we have done to date. All of a sudden I was halfway through my life; I had a two-year-old and I wanted to do more (as if raising a child and running my own business wasn’t enough).”
At the time her son Nic was a toddler and in a bid to teach him compassion, kindness and generosity she decided they would embark on a project together.
“I wanted to get to the end of my life and know I had done everything in my power to leave the world a better place for my beautiful son, his friends and future generations.”
Jacqueline had an idea. Every day for one year they would give something to someone, and she would record their adventures on a blog called ‘365give”.
She told her son: “Nic, we’re going to do one thing to be kind, helpful, giving to a person, an animal or the planet every day for 365 days.” From donating blankets to an animal shelter, picking up rubbish and giving clothes to charity they thought up new ways to give every single day.
Despite not being a writer and having no knowledge of social media Jacqueline’s blog began to gain traction around the world and inspired others to start giving too. By the end of the year they had set off a massive chain reaction with people across the globe joining in. Jacqueline was approached by a local educator in Vancouver, where she was living, and together they created the educational program called the ‘365give Challenge’. Today anyone can take part, not just school children.
“It’s unique because it’s powered by the kids,” says Jacqueline. “They choose how they’re going to give, support causes and impact the world in ways that they choose.” She adds: “I could never have dreamed that my super fun family project with my son could cause a ripple to so many."
Sarah Sparks, Career Coach
Sarah spent her thirties in a fast-paced, high powered job at Goldman Sachs, which sounded great on paper, but ultimately left her burned out, depressed and convinced that she could never have children. Now 58 and a mum of one, she works as an award-winning life coach, she has turned her life and career around in her 40s. Now that's inspiring.
“I lived for my former career,” says Sarah, who was head of financial regulation at the company. “I loved the work hard, play hard aspect of it because I’m a people pleaser, and when you do a good job people want more of you. But it wasn’t a healthy lifestyle and I paid the price. I was mentally ill, I had depression and anxiety. My marriage broke down and I felt really alone.”
Sarah was exhausted and she was desperate for the one thing she couldn’t have – a baby. Her mental health was so badly affected by her stressful career and her six heart-breaking and failed rounds of IVF that she ended up in The Priory rehabilitation clinic – on more than one occasion.
But despite – and perhaps because of - everything she went through, Sarah forged a new career as a life coach and became a mother. Now, at 58 years old she is a single mum to an “amazing” 13-year-old boy, she’s an award-winning public speaker, executive coach and on top of that she looks and feels better than ever.
She reveals: “I definitely feel younger than when I was working at Goldman Sachs in my mid-20s. I’ve got more energy, my skin is better, I sleep so much more, I exercise more and I’m just a changed woman.”
On making the change, she tells us: “The thing I always bear in mind is that it’s either have that courage or endure a lifetime of doing something you’re not meant to be doing in this world. If you chose to stick at it, it’ll likely cause you some level of tension and stress inside your body. It will maybe even eat away at your relationships and you won’t be successful in the long-term.”
Sarah explains how being an older mum has changed her outlook on life. "Having a child when you’re older means you have to stay physically active, especially being a single parent. I’m also hanging out with mums who are 10-20 years younger than me. But the biggest thing is realising how quickly time flies and to make the most of it. I only have my son half the time and it’s made me also see that when I have him, I really need to be present and make the most of the time I have with him. Cherish every moment, even the hard ones.”
Jennifer Fisher, Celebrity Jewellery Designer
Inspiring women are simply the best and one of the many who we love is Jennifer Fisher. Here she gives us a frank interview about her rise to the top
New York-based mother-of-two and jewellery designer to the stars Jennifer has a client list that reads like an Academy Awards night invite list. Rihanna, Uma Thurman, Gwen Stefani, Cara Delevingne, Justin Timberlake and Rita Ora are just a few.
With a flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York and a list of high-end stockists across the globe, including Barneys and Net-A-Porter, Jennifer has taken the industry by storm since she started the Jennifer Fisher Jewellery brand just over a decade ago. But it hasn't always been easy.
"I worked as a fashion stylist for 10 years on major national ad campaigns," Jennifer tells us. "When I was 30, I was diagnosed with a desmoid tumour while I was living and styling in NYC. I received multiple rounds of chemotherapy.
"When Kevin (my husband) and I wanted to have children, my oncologist didn’t think it was a good idea for me to carry a baby because my tumour grows from oestrogen – so we went through the process of hiring a surrogate to carry for us in California. After multiple rounds of IVF where the surrogate was pregnant twice and miscarried twice, I came back to New York and decided to try IVF on my own, against my doctor’s orders.
"Unsuccessful yet again, they recommended that Kevin and I adopt or get an egg donor. I needed a break from it all and took the summer off. That’s when I became pregnant with our son Shane, naturally. Against the wishes of my oncologist I carried the baby. A perfectly healthy pregnancy and baby boy later, I learned that my tumour had actually shrunk from the pregnancy."
Jennifer reveals that after Shane's birth, she received jewellery gifts in the form of dainty single letters. "Shane’s birth was a major deal for us and I wanted something to wear that represented him in a way that felt like me. When I couldn’t find anything, I liked I decided to go up to 47th Street in New York and have something made."
Her first piece of jewellery was a dog tag to represent Shane, which she wore every day on set – then the requests came flooding in for the same necklace. "I then happened to make a necklace for Uma Thurman that she ended up wearing on the cover of Glamour Magazine. Jennifer Fisher Jewellery was born.”
Six years later and with a large following, Jennifer expanded her jewellery line focusing on affordable statement pieces. What an incredible journey.
So how did she motivate herself? "An innate feeling that I would be okay, I always tried to stay positive even in the hardest moments," she said and "trust your gut". Her top tip for coping? "I am still figuring it out but a good martini and at least seven hours of sleep is helpful. Don’t forget your Lumity Life before bed."
Jules Mummery, mum and yoga fan
When Jules Mummery’s yoga journey began 27-years-ago she never believed it would transform her and her family’s life the way it did. She tells us how...
When Jules Mummery’s yoga journey began 27 years ago, she never believed it would transform her life the way it did. The 57-year-old mother-of-two insists that her youthful appearance and positive outlook on life is all down to her daily dose of yoga. But she didn’t become a yogi to fight the signs of ageing – she did it for her children and her story is so inspiring.
"Well, I have two children who are now 30 and 26 and my son is autistic," Jules tells Lumity. "He’s got dyspraxia – a developmental coordination disorder – and autism and when he was a baby, I basically started yoga to destress. I thought I really need to look after myself, for him and I’ve never looked back."
She says of practicing yoga: "To me it’s not exercise, it’s not a fad, it’s my life and part of who I am. It’s like a massage for all my internal organs and it starts from the inside out."
Jules reveals the changes in her body were almost instantaneous. "It didn’t take long for me to feel completely different. Within six weeks my head was clearer, I felt I had more energy, I was calmer. I thought this really does work, there's something in this. I felt so good about myself that it also made me want to look at my diet. I began drinking more water, cut out tea and coffee and made healthier food choices overall.
"I looked into my children’s diets to improve them too, especially because my son Jack was slightly hyperactive, and I was inspired to start reflexology to help my son too. All of this stemmed from yoga so you can see it really changed my life and theirs."
Now, says Jules, yoga is part of her daily routine. "I couldn’t go a day without doing some sort of yoga. I do it every morning and every evening. Generally, I get up half an hour earlier than I need to fit 20-30 minutes into my day and do another 20 minutes in the evening."
Jules believes you're never too old or too inflexible to start yoga. "You are never too old. Truly. There is a woman I saw on Facebook who is 105 and she started yoga at 90. You don’t have to be flexible either because so much of it is about the breathing too. You shouldn’t be afraid to start just because you can’t touch your toes. At the beginning I couldn’t do any of the moves. I could barely do child’s pose – one of the simplest moves – because my head felt fuzzy and uncomfortable, but I didn’t give up."
All of this, and Jules has her own business at age 55. "I’m a personal cook," she reveals. "My company is called ‘Dine with Jules’ and I cook for dinner parties and small events. I bake puddings and cakes for Highgrove Royal Gardens where Prince Charles lives too. So, I’m very busy…. but I always make time or yoga."
Olga Murray: 'How I saved girls from slavery in Nepal during the 30 years since my retirement'
Olga Murray is an inspiring woman who at almost 100 years of age is proof that life does not end at retirement from your chosen career. Her many achievements over the past century have been remarkable and, since she stepped away from life as a lawyer almost 30 years ago, she's used her free time to save thousands of children in Nepal from slavery. We spoke to her to find out how she did it...
It's no secret that many of us fear getting older. The idea of retirement often conjures up negative connotations. People become fearful and worry about things such as ill health or being alone.
What if we turned that on its head and saw it as a chunk of free time where you could do something brilliant and inspiring?
Perhaps an opportunity to really change the world and make it a better place than it was before you came along? The satisfaction of a life well-lived must be one of the most wonderful and comforting feelings imaginable.
Olga Murray: 'How I saved girls from slavery in Nepal during the 30 years since my retirement'
Olga Murray is a 94-year-old Californian who saw retiring from her job as a lawyer as a positive time.
Indeed, she has gone on to save 20,000 girls in Nepal from slavery and, educate and empower them to help others facing the same plight.
Over the past thirty years Olga has educated over 40,000 Nepalese children and encouraged them to go on to have careers, rather than marry young and become teenage brides who can't read or write.
Incredibly, she did all this after going backpacking before her 60th in Nepal after retirement.
"I was almost sixty and trekking in Nepal," Olga tells Lumity magazine. "After thinking about what I wanted to do after retirement I knew I wanted to help children in some way.
"I was a lawyer and thought perhaps I would advocate for juveniles, something like that.
"So, I trekked up a hill and at the top in a hut I saw three little girls sitting on a dirt floor, using a wooden board as a desk.
"They were doing schoolwork and I could tell that they really wanted to learn. There were next to nothing, no money or belongings, but they were so joyful and happy.
"You see children in the West with so much more when it comes to owning material things and yet these kids were just delighted that they had the opportunity to learn.
How one conversation inspired Olga to change thousands of young lives
Olga says: "I spoke to their father and he was so proud that his children were getting an education.
"They were getting up and trekking for two hours every day up to this hut to learn. I went back to my tent and once I was in my sleeping bag that night, I knew what I wanted to do.
"It was an idea which hit me like a strike of lightning; I would help these children in Nepal and educate them."
After having this flash of inspiration, Olga started the non-profit Nepal Youth Foundation in 1990. She partnered with carefully chosen local people who knew the problems and where any money raised would be best invested.
One of these locals she partnered with was Murray's Nepalese partner, Mr. Paneru, who went to villages and told fathers, "We want to educate your children, and we'll make it worth your while."
Olga explains: "We found out that girls, some as young as six or eight, were being sold by their fathers to go and work as slaves - it was a practice known as 'bonding' and, once bonded, these girls would have to leave home and live with and work for strangers.
"It was a real problem because they were being sent to families that were very far away from their homes and the villages they had grown up in and they were sleeping under the stairs or in a corner of the house they were working in - somewhere cramped.
"Often they were beaten and sexually abused. When they were sixteen or seventeen, they were sent back home to their families in their villages.
"It was a real problem. They didn't know their families by then and had become strangers; plus, they'd suddenly be a financial burden - another mouth to feed and support.
"They were uneducated and of course then it was hard for them to get work.
"Often they were married off in hastily arranged marriages, so they'd end up not only uneducated but trapped in often loveless marriages with several children while they were still in their teens."
Olga and her partners in Nepal discovered that this was a practice of bonding young girls that had been going on for at least three generations and was widespread:
Olga explains: "We went to the fathers and said, 'Why did you do this?'. Many of them thought there was nothing wrong with it, because everyone else was doing it so it was not seen as a big deal.
"They were getting roughly 50 American dollars per year in exchange for their daughters working as bonds. So, we said, 'what if we gave you a gift of a piglet?
"You could raise it yourself and sell it at the end of the year and get more than you were getting for your daughter and we will educate your daughter if you let her stay here'. They agreed that they'd be happy with that so that's what we did."
How the gift of a piglet freed young girls from slavery so they could return to their families
Olga continues: "Out in far-flung villages a lot of the farmers had VHF radios back then. So, we got girls who had been freed from their bonds to go on local radio and tell their horrific stories of abuse.
"Every year there's a festival and all the bonded girls are allowed to go home on that one day.
"So that was when we'd get their fathers to agree to not let them go back, in exchange for the piglet.
"With their daughters properly educated, they've been able to go on and get decent careers and provide for their families, so it has really made a difference to their lives."
The freed girls went on to become their own advocates
"The girls themselves became active and fierce opponents of this practice and once freed, it empowered them and they got together and formed their own NGO," says Olga. "We brought them to Kathmandu, and they took part in street plays, marches and awareness campaigns.
"Another thing that was happening was young girls were being married off very young, so they wouldn't be a financial burden on their families. We did an anti-young marriage campaign and showed people that education and having a career were the more attractive option. The girls do literacy and number programmes as well as vocational training.
"It's wonderful because they have really taken this idea and ran."
Over fourteen years Olga and her team freed between 18-20,000 local children from slavery - almost eradicating the practice entirely - and enabled them to stay and be raised with their families.
In 2009, the Nepalese Parliament provided $1.6 million for the education of girls liberated from bonded labour.
And, following a petition filed by Mr. Paneru with the Supreme Court of Nepal; the government agreed that it's a practice which is illegal.
But they need donations to continue the fantastic legacy which Olga started.
Olga continues: "I live in California but go out to Nepal every year. I am going in September. If you have been touched by this story there are ways you can help. What I would say to people is that in Nepal just a few dollars go a very long way. For the price of a meal in London or New York you could make a big difference to the lives of children in Nepal."
How you can help and why there's still work to do
Olga explains: "There's still work to do; we think there's another 2000 girls left who are bonded that we haven't been able to find. I've written a book which you can buy, or you can donate through the website."
Olga has never taken a salary and is the only non-Nepalese working with NYF in Nepal. NYF's nutrition programs have brought 10,000 mothers and malnourished children to be restored to health and then educated. (NYF also provides advocacy, management, and legal training.)
The older girls have started lending programs, co-operatives, and their own businesses through their NGO.
Olga has been a real agent for change over the past thirty years since she first met those children in the hut whilst out trekking. She has won numerous awards and accolades - all of which are richly deserved.