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One in four women experience partner abuse in their lifetimes, and these individuals often find it difficult to leave such traumatic experiences in the past. There is, however, one Toronto charity that is trying to combat that. Up with Women, a charity started by Lisa Grimanis, aims to coach women in Canada into a brighter future and more opportunities rather than letting their pasts limit their futures.

Grimanis, who experienced homelessness herself in her younger years, began the charity after becoming a coach at a tech company. “It’s spending time focusing on where you want to go versus what you need to fix,” says Grimanis. The philanthropist hopes to raise women up by finding out how to make it down their paths rather than attempting to repair it along the way.

Up with Women offers 24 individualized meetings with a professional career coach throughout the course of a year. In these bi-monthly meetings, women focus on the careers they would like to pursue and how to achieve these goals. This strategy of forward-thinking seems to be working. The charity reported that of the 400 women helped, 70% saw an increase in their salary after just one year.

Grimanis came up with the idea for this charity after recognizing that career coaching was highly beneficial, but often unattainable by the people who needed it most. Because most sessions with licensed career coaches cost anywhere between $350 to $600 per hour, financially limited individuals would find this very difficult to obtain. Donating time to these struggling women is the foundation upon which Up with Women is built.

Kate Smith was one woman who benefited from Up with Women’s philanthropic vision. Smith had experienced abuse from multiple relationships, and, as a result, fell into extremely difficult times. She was in a downward spiral of substance abuse, dropping out of law school and eventually becoming homeless. When she escaped these demons and decided to get treatment for her addictions, she still felt as though her past defined her future. tThrough the intervention of Up with Women, however, she was able to re-enroll in law school, and is now back on her feet. 

“I owe it to Up with Women for helping me get here,” Smith says; a truly life-changing organization thanks to the selfless efforts of Lia Grimanis.