Her Story: Our Founder, Michelle Bonneau
Her International was founded in 2005 by Michelle Bonneau who, the then Executive Director for the Kelowna Family Society, felt called to go to Nepal at 58 years of age. She didn't know then that this decision would change the lives of many women.
Michelle, an educator at heart, had learned through her world travels and research that education is the common denominator towards alleviating poverty. Through her networks Michelle found enough like-minded people to join in a dream that seemed at the time unattainable. Her enthusiasm prevailed. And thus Her International was born under the name IWINK (Inter-cultural Women's Immigrants Network of Kelowna) which official became known as IWEN (Inter-cultural Women’s Education Network).
In order to finance this trip and her stay in Nepal, she sold her home and most of her belongings, packed a suitcase, and left Canada without much prior knowledge of what she would do and how to achieve the goal of helping the education of Nepali females. In late October 2005, Michelle arrived in Nepal at the height of the Maoist insurgency. Despite the political and social chaos that prevailed, Michelle managed to begin IWEN’s work in Nepal with some of the most disadvantaged women; bonded girls and mentally challenged women.
For over twelve years Michelle travelled back and forth from Nepal to Canada doing her best to support both the fledging IWEN society run completely by a working volunteer board and its counter-part Nepali partner Creating Possibilities-Nepal. Michelle often said, “It is easy to start something, but a different story to keep it going.” According to Michelle, the miracle of Her International is the dedicated commitment of volunteer directors and the host of volunteers that have been part of Her International’s growth since 2005. It is a rare event that for twelve years that a society not only survives but thrives without a paid Executive Director and an official office while raising funds for its beneficiaries, coupled with the ups and downs of organizing a society while its programs’ growth are impacting hundreds of females and their families.
Her International, as of May 2017, now boasts of two Co-Executive Directors, Michelle’s long time hope for the society, so that someone fully dedicated to the organization would be able to grow and increase the number of recipients while keeping its uniqueness. Ever innovating Her International’s Co-EDs are in two different countries; one in Kelowna, BC Canada and the other in China. Both have been long time volunteers and are extremely committed to the vision that started IWEN.
The common links in this history is Michelle’s determination to keep Her International alive, her ability to engage others in bettering our world, the many dedicated board of directors, and countless volunteers who have joined Her International’s vision combined with an extraordinary Nepali non-profit society, Creating Possibilities-Nepal, who are deeply committed to being part of the solution in their own country. Although Michelle is no longer official involved with Her International’s business, she remains the society’s connection between the past and present through her continued support as a valuable member and sometimes consultant.
In 2017, Michelle was chosen as the recipient of the highest service award in Canada that is offered to civilians: The Meritorious Service Medal.