Women of Wednesday: Lisa Nwankwo on Yoga, Trauma, and Building Bridges

WOMEN OF WEDNESDAY is a micro-interview series featuring women of color in various industries and walks of life, focused on highlighting their pursuits and making it easy for readers to support their endeavors. If you would like to be featured, please submit your answers to the below five questions here.

Lisa Nwankwo, Founder and Executive Director of BRIDGE

1. Tell us about the work you’re doing and why it’s important.

Though the two sides to my work are very different, they both serve the same purpose: amplifying the voices of amazing people in often overlooked communities. This includes great people doing important work and the limitless students in our communities. I am a Social Impact Writer from Philadelphia, PA. I write to amplify the great work of people at youth-serving organizations via grant writing, website copy, or communications stock language. (I freelance in this and would love to use these skills to help out any of the women featured with Women of Wednesday!)

The most exciting thing I do, however, is being the Founder and Executive Director of BRIDGE — a yoga and reflective writing program for students in grades 1–12 and the communities that surround them. My program is inquiry-based and trauma-informed and encourages new ways for students to become engaged with themselves, their schools, their communities, and the world at large; it also weaves in tenets of mindfulness and wellness that will serve students for the rest of their lives. With the series of workshops we provide for students, we also provide supplementary workshops for educators and caregivers. Additionally, we offer professional development workshops in yoga and mindfulness tools for the classroom, self-care for educators, and trauma-informed pedagogy. Students have so much to say and not enough people to ask them and also so much to work through and unearth and no one to show them how. Those things make this work so critical to me. As school funding cuts resources for our most vulnerable students, I want them, at the very least, to know that they can speak up about it, that they are valid, and that they can make a difference. It’s not their responsibility to fix the schools that they attend, but I want them to know that some power is theirs to take back whenever they’re ready.

2. What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in pursuing the work that’s important to you?

Honestly, the biggest challenge I’ve faced has been myself. It’s easy to fall into a trap of not believing that you are the right woman for the job, but as time goes by I continuously come across experiences that affirm that I know my stuff and that I am more than capable of what I set out to do. In hindsight, I wish I had believed in that more from the beginning, but I guess that’s what hindsight is for. You live and you learn!

3. What do you need in order to continue your work in the way you envision?

For writing, I need the opportunity to partner with people who have something important to say and need a little bit of guidance in saying it. For BRIDGE, we need funding! We know the students who would benefit from us most frequently attend schools who cannot afford the program — we fundraise to find a way to meet them where we are.

4. Where and how can we support you to make #3 happen?

Spread the word! I want to help other women of color who are trying to get their messaging right and I want them to share my message, too! For BRIDGE, tax-deductible donations can be made via www.bridgephilly.com/donate. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram!

5. What is your favorite quote?

“You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time.” — Angela Davis