HOPE in Her Eyes


We raised around $17,000 for marginalized women. The whole day was absolutely intense, from laughing to crying, from throwing gloves on and getting down and dirty to help the caterer, to taking the stage and letting my heart spill into words in front of a sold out crowd, there are no more words to say.

So I will post my speech here, to let it live somewhere. We didn't film it and afterwords so many people asked why not. For a moment I felt sad that we didn't, but I felt more present in it than I have ever before, speaking at anything. Maybe it's best that way. To remember the feeling of BEING the speech. I want to relive every moment and the best way I can is to simply read those words again. So here we go,

 -------- BEGINNING OF NIGHT SPEECH --------

Hi everyone,

My name is Tamara and I'm the co-Executive Director for Her International, a charity that has been working for 12 years to end slavery in Nepal and give educational opportunities to women and girls. We do a bit of local work and we collaborate with amazing local charities. Tonight is one of those times.

This is Angie Lohr. (She'll be sharing her story later and you won’t want to miss that).

I wanted to start the night by saying the names of 10 companies and personal individuals who were the first to jump on board and say, "I stand with marginalized women."

  • KelownaNOW 
  • Suzie Doratti of Engel & Vokkers was one of my first tables, and has done multiple fundraising nights since
  • Mark Walker of Ok Vacation Home Rentals is one of our biggest overall supporters
  • Doak Shirreff & Odlum Brown Investments were not far behind
  • I literally googled "realtor with a heart Kelowna" and RE/MAX  Tamara Terlesky showed up. I walked in to talk to her about buying a house and walked out with her buying a table. She's here sharing the table tonight with Judie Barta from Comma Life Massage Therapy.

    We got two new board members and here they are tonight, representing Her International in style:
  • Carolyn Walsh Interior Design
  • Maureen Cousins (EPIC Real Estate)
  • Debbie Opitz - Innov8 Digital Solutions has a daughter who submitted some art and then her heart bought a table for the event, which we are so thankful for, 
  • and then the beautiful Carmen Denby and her family – Runnalls Denby Land Surveyors were our tenth table.
  • We were also so lucky to be supported by Okanagan Women Magazine (everyone will leave with a copy tonight) & Quantum Graphics

Give it up for all of them!!!!!


This night has been a sparkle in my eye since the day I drove out to the House of HOPE and met Angie. I decided that we needed to meet the other women’s charities in Kelowna and because we do so much work in Nepal, what could we help with locally. I met her and I knew I wanted to do work with HOPE Outreach. She's a disruptor, she's getting work done and she has a huge success story.

In the meantime, I was talking to a lot of people about the charity and kept hearing “Why Nepal?” The answer, for me, is simple. You pick a part of the world and you find a way to do good there. For me, finding Her International six years ago when I moved to Kelowna, it was like coming home.  I had traveled the world and volunteered, and seen a lot of NGO’s that weren’t doing great things. I’d seen a lot that were and here were people who CARED. It was like finding a family and luckily enough, one who had been working in this same area of the world for 12 years. This is the key in Int Dev work. Longevity & sustainability. The thing that’s cool about Her International is that we intimately know the Nepalese partners that we work with. Our Founder, Michelle Bonneau, now President, Kevin Edgecombe, and my amazing Co-Executive Director, Kate Phelps, who oversees all Programs, Monitoring & Evaluation, intimately understand the culture there. And we expect contributions back from our recipients, we don’t just hand out aid.

So, we do this work because the need is so great. For anyone who has travelled to a developing world, you know what I’m talking about.

But, I always had this nagggging voice, supported by the very vocal opinions of my father and brothers, which I like to call my “Ya-butts”. Everytime I went away and volunteered they would always say “Yaaaa, buttttt, what about your own backyard?”

Honestly, I got sick of it being a choice – one or the other. I’ll tell you one thing I know for sure, and that is that the need is great in both places. If we are going to heal this world, we’ll need to do it in tandem. Together. Connected. 

So when I met Angie, I thought deeply about connection and what that meant to me. How do we help in both places and encourage others to join us on this mission? What had shifted so deeply within me that made me want to work every day and reach out to all others and say,

“I see you. I hear you. I’ll help you. As I know you’ll help me.”

I recalled an eye gazing experiment that I had done the year before where we sat across from others, silent, staring into each other’s eyes. Talk about uncomfortable. But in those moments, there were great shifts in me and in those around me. It went from seeing ourselves as separate “I am Tamara, a mother, a sister” to completely connected to everything, to all things “I am the sun, the moon and the stars.”

The concept for tonight was born from those moments colliding and before you knew it, we had a committee of exceptional people ready to put together an evening that Kelowna hadn’t seen yet. That maybe we could bring something new to the table that corporate Kelowna hadn’t done yet.

A night of collaboration between charities.

A night of Nepalese culture combined with the flair of our very own backyard.

And Eyegazing.

Let’s say the names of those volunteers who have done an outstanding job in contributing to this event aloud tonight:

Jackie Driedger who has been exceptional at securing the very booze you are drinking tonight...
Marissa Young who is a magic maker and created the bohemian love eye gazing space...
Jen Zielinsky who has put in countless hours coming out on the street to interview women and create a beautiful video for all of us to see...
Francine Walker who has been such a gift to Her International over the past few years as she's visited Nepal solo to create our jewellery line (made from recycled bottles), sourced new fabric and created new lessons for the women we employ there, and sewed the very table cloths you see on your tables tonight! 
Amanda Adams who has attended very meeting from the very beginning and created the HOPE in Her Eyes logo; our amazing bartender tonight...
and, Mandy Glinsbockel, my angel. What would I have done without her over this process? She's the bridge, the one that has been both to Nepal and out on the streets here, who has created this art auction from very scratch, and who is an all around amazing human...

Let's show them love!!


So what do I wish for tonight?

I wish for inclusivity.

For you to be reminded of our togetherness, over our separateness.

I'm done with barriers and boundaries. Let those dissolve here, in this space.

Look into the eyes of the friends around you and the strangers too. Take a meaningful moment to acknowledge them on a level that our words will never bring us too.

Take time in the eye gazing space or don't, but notice when a person is standing alone, smile at them and talk to someone you may never have.

This night is about the magic of interconnection. It's about the web that is weaved from one to the other, knowing that we are not separate from any man or woman who have experienced poverty, abuse, addiction or trauma. The truth is, we all have experienced those things, in this room, just on varying levels than those we are trying to help.

Tonight, Kelowna says, we will not forget each other.

We will not forget our connection no matter who we are, where we live, what circles we run in, or what the colour of our skin is. We will stand together fiercely and look each other in the eye, pausing for moments of joy, understanding, kindness and vulnerability.

And what do I hope you take out into the world after tonight? A soft heart and a strong back.

A willingness to see injustice and help others where you can, along with the ability to cultivate radiant joy in your own life. Because you living freely and lovingly in a world that wants you to hate and judge, is rebellion. Looking into the eyes of the people who have wronged you or seeing yourself in a woman on the street, this is the true revolution.

So let's start a revolution together, tonight.

There's two things you can do. Spend some money. We need money! Donate to our causes by buying a piece of art that amazing local artists have created and donated FOR YOU. You can have some drinks, you can get henna done, get a quick massage to let some of that tension go, or – and this is the fun one- experience your own moment of vulnerability in the eye gazing booth. There’s no money involved in that one, just pure shifting perceptions.

My ultimate wish for tonight: that when you are walking down Leon Street, or when you’re travelling in Mumbai or Kathmandu or anywhere across the world, I hope you don't cross the street. That you look into the eyes of those that you meet. And that you meet them with respect. With kindness. With understanding. Because you are them. And they are you.

To start things off, we acknowledge the territory upon which we stand, the earth beneath our feet. Which we live on and do business upon everyday. We have an Elder from the Westbank First Nations to bring greetings and then we'll move into a moment of silence for all the women who have lost their lives due to exposure to poverty, addiction, trauma or violence, both here and around the world. In these, perhaps uncomfortable moments of silence, I encourage you to really honour these women and to cultivate a feeling of hope for the hopeless. Feel hope spread from your fingers to your toes and be that hope tonight.



------ SPEECHES ------ 

HELLO everyone

We are going to bring you four short speeches and a video to close out the formal part of the evening.

Amanda. Angie. Francine. Mandy.



Brene Brown talks about collective effervescence (j-o-y). That when a group comes together to celebrate something bigger than themselves, it creates this feeling, this sense of belonging, like we’re all connected by something greater than ourselves. This might be a concert, a sporting event, or an event like tonight. But it’s important that we gather because it makes us know that we are in it. Together.

There’s science that shows the same thing happens in the brain when we show up for collective pain. When we mourn together, when all our hearts break, we know how inextricably linked we are.

An experience of collective pain does not deliver us from grief or sadness; it is a ministry of presence. These moments remind us that we are not alone in our darkness and that our broken heart is connected to every heart that has known pain from the beginning of time.
— Brene Brown

Let this experience of collective pain begin to heal us. Let us cry together for the adversity that is faced everyday by the women shown in that video and beyond. But let us open our hearts and be brave tonight. Let us find a solution, a way to give her HOPE in Her Eyes. We have one donation ask and that is to find a tier on the donation cards you have in front of you that you can afford, and step into that tonight.

And now we're going to bring the band on. Bidding for Art Auction closes at 10 p.m. so we'll announce the winners then. But I want to leave you with one more thought.

I've wanted to change the world since I turned 23 and saw John Wood speak at a marketing conference in Ottawa. I vowed to help in the only way I knew how as I stepped off the plane in Africa at 23 years old, lonely and alone. I watched Blood Diamond one year on Boxing Day and when friends invited me to a party that night I cursed at them for partying when people were dying. Yet I always discovered joy seeped back into my bones. I knew the world was suffering and yet why did I want to laugh and dance with wild abandon. I wanted to partaaaaay. And it wasn't until I read this quote that I realized, this is part of our purpose here:

A wild heart can straddle the tension of staying awake to the struggle in the world and fighting for justice and peace while also cultivating its own radical moments of joy.
— Brene Brown

If you are like me, and you see darkness, don't feel guilty for wanting the light. If you are a light seeker only, congratulate yourself for showing up tonight to acknowledge the darkness. Both are important.

So let’s dance and bid on art and drink and cultivate that radical joy. Go bid on some that beautiful art, gaze into some eyes and enjoy yourselves.