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Wisdom Circles

Vicky Trabosh helps women find their wisdom


by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Vicky Trabosh, left, is the president of Itafari Foundation for victims of Rwanda. “What do you really know? Now, what if you put that knowledge into action? That’s wisdom.”

These are the words of Vicky Trabosh, a Lake Oswego resident who is passionate about helping people find their wisdom as well as helping to serve the survivors and victims from Rwanda.

In 2003, Trabosh left her job at U.S. Bank to become a full-time executive coach, helping people reach their goals in the business world. Her old boss was involved in World Vision and asked if she wanted to go to Rwanda. At first, Trabosh decided she was too busy to go, as she also worked as a columnist and radio show host.

In 2004, however, she heard a woman speak about Rwanda. She learned that the woman’s name was Rita Grambe. Rita was the name of Trabosh’s beloved and deceased mother, her favorite name in the world. When Trabosh told Grambe this, the woman responded, “I will be your mother.”

It was an instant connection, and the women talked about what was important to them.

Grambe worked for World Vision in Rwanda, helping people who live in extreme poverty and are still dealing with the after-effects of genocide.

Trabosh said Grambe told her, “My people have no hope. ... You must go to Rwanda.”

It seemed that even then, Grambe knew that Trabosh would have a positive impact on the lives of many and that she could help bring hope to a place of despair. That night, Trabosh talked to her husband, who knew that once there was a Grambe involved, there was no second-guessing, and it was indeed time for Trabosh to go to Rwanda.

The trip was scheduled for June 2005, so in the meantime Trabosh studied the Rwandan genocide of 1994 and was outraged to learn that 1 million people died. That May, Trabosh volunteered at a World Vision event in which 200 women attended and raised $23,000 in one night.

At this event, Trabosh gave each woman a brick, which represented the burden of women in Rwanda and the hope that the burden could be lifted. When Trabosh went to Rwanda, she met women who had survived the genocide but were left widowed, beaten, raped and in despair. These people did not want to be identified by the genocide that had affected their lives so deeply.

When Trabosh returned to the U.S., she put on several pay-it-forward events and ultimately founded the nonprofit Itafari Foundation. She explained that “itafari” is the Kinyarwanda word for “brick,” the symbol of hope.

Her initial goal for the pay-it-forward events was to raise $50,000, but with all the support she received through the Itafari Foundation, she raised $110,000.

The events aren’t the only way Trabosh raises funds for Rwanda. In fact, 15 percent of the proceeds of Trabosh’s book, “Dead Rita’s Wisdom: Simple Words to Help You live an Extraordinary Life,” go to the Itafari foundation. This book tells stories about what she has learned from her mother, whom she affectionately calls “Dead Rita.” Hearing Trabosh talk about Dead Rita, it is easy to see just how inspirational their close relationship was to her. In fact, women named Rita get free copies of the book.

After each chapter of the book, there is a blank page that says “your wisdom here,” because Trabosh wants women to really think and learn about themselves through the stories she writes.

Trabosh describes wisdom as applied knowledge. As people get older, they learn more, but it is what they do with those lessons that truly matters. Wisdom circles aid in the process of discovering that wisdom.

The idea of wisdom circles began in Rwanda just after the genocide, when there were more women than men left in the country. A woman named Joy Ndungutse left the country before the genocide and returned to find these women in desperate need of hope.

She gathered six women under a tree and said to them, “You will weave (baskets). You will not speak about the genocide or your losses. Instead, you will talk about what you know and what you believe.”

The widowed women began to make a living by weaving the baskets. The circles grew and spread across the region and the women’s burdens — poverty, hunger and hopelessness — started to lift.

Trabosh, who has now visited Rwanda 10 times, was so inspired by these wisdom circles that she brought the idea back with her to the U.S. So far, she has led four wisdom circles and is planning to continue facilitating more. Anyone can be in a wisdom circle, as long as there are at least eight women and everyone has read “Dead Rita’s Wisdom.” Hearing the testimonials of two women who have been in wisdom circles, it is clear that the circles have had a huge impact already.

Diane Dennis, who hosted a wisdom circle at her home in Wilsonville, said the experience felt “miraculous and sacred.” She described how Trabosh asked the members of the circle to talk about something that had made a significant impression on their lives.

“Through Vicky’s questions and words of wisdom, each woman learned that their individual lives and experiences had offered them a direction, purpose and personal growth opportunity, that there are no accidents and that we all are given challenges for the purpose of learning, opening our hearts, stepping into our greatness and giving that knowledge back to others.” Dennis said.

Grace Holland, Portland, also hosted a wisdom circle last spring. She described how with busy day-to-day responsibilities, friendships with other women tend to be neglected, so when she was asked to host a wisdom circle, she believed it would be a great opportunity to reconnect with her girlfriends.

She said, “A circle was formed and in that circle was a group of incredibly loving, talented, strong and wise women. With Vic leading our way, we shared our experience, strength and hope with one another and each and every bond was firmly cemented.”

Trabosh has inspired many people in the U.S. as well as in Rwanda, and her passion for helping people find their wisdom will continue to positively change the world.

For more information, visit itafari.org.