Seong’s Story of WILLO

I was born in Seoul, Korea and came to the San Francisco Bay Area when I was 18 years old.  I graduated from San Jose State University, then worked in Palo Alto. I moved to Washington and after a few years of living and working in Seattle, I found Tacoma to be home for my daughter and I.

As a little girl, I was always surrounded by my mother and aunts. When we would spend time cooking and sharing meals, they would tell stories of their lives, along with the wisdom they had gained over the years. Their stories captivated me. I cherish the lifelong influences they have had on me; their stories have helped shape my life.

In May of 2013, I had an idea: I wanted to create a Women’s Story Museum in Tacoma with passionate women, celebrating the voices of local women and girls. This space would be an interactive gathering place for our community, intended to engage in person; face-to-face and inspire one another.

While turning this idea into reality, I met a woman who empowered me with her wisdom: Michelle Hunt.

In the spring of 2014, I met Michelle at the Neighborhoods USA Annual Conference in Eugene, Oregon. She had given the keynote address and during lunch at an outdoor café I approached her and shared my vision for the Women’s Story Museum.  She encouraged me and gave me her book, DreamMaker with a personal note to me.  She said, “Look to the North Star when you are low and weak…” The words from Michelle stayed with me as I shaped WILLO and reminded me to trust my intuition.

Four years ago, my dream became a reality. WILLO is a local nonprofit organization for women and girls to connect across generations and other differences to give voice to their stories from all walks of life. We celebrate all women and girls of any culture, ethnicity, nationality or sexual orientation. As a non-profit we are respectful of others’ views and do not participate in or promote any political position or agenda. We stand for inclusion and respect, and do not tolerate exclusion or discrimination of any kind, WILLO women and girls hold space in loving-kindness for all who come with peace in their hearts.

Brainstorming ideas as WILLO became a reality.

WILLO’s primary purpose is to knit together women and girls from all walks of life to share and celebrate personal stories of wisdom, resilience, strength and compassion, as a catalyst to inspire and engage youth and elders alike in our community.

WILLO’s primary goal is to act as a change-agent in Tacoma—as a catalyst for reconnecting the missing “synapses” in modern life between generation gaps and cultural stereotypes—by nurturing the personal connections that have historically strengthened our communities. The intimacy and support of traditional “village” intergenerational relationships—once so instrumental in women’s lives, have been replaced by insular communities defined by neighborhoods, race, religion, profession and politics.

Finding common ground through shared stories, WILLO seeks to bring together diverse groups of women and girls—and their fathers, sons and brothers—in dialogue to break down culturally perceived boundaries and foster strong leaders through mentoring and personal relationships.

WILLO’s Storytelling Festival is founded on the belief that storytelling is an ancient and universal communications ‘bridge’ which can strengthen our community and foster leadership capacity in women and girls from diverse cultures and traditions in Tacoma.

WILLO’s mission is to serve as a catalyst to inspire and engage youth and elders alike by inviting Tacoma’s women and girls to share their personal stories of resilience, strength and compassion—and to spotlight the diverse women who co-create our unique community.

WILLO members believe…

  • Women at all ages and stages in their lives are enriched and supported by learning from each other’s traditions, values, struggles and accomplishments.
  • Young girls develop self-esteem through personal relationships with successful role models, and conversely, older women re-experience the spontaneity and vibrancy of their youth through meaningful relationships with younger women.
  • Development of critical character traits like confidence and self-esteem are life-skill requirements linked to leadership capacity and successful economic independence—skills which are essential for every woman’s health and well-being, and which ultimately determine the health and well-being of her entire community.
  • Strong, successful women co-create a resilient and more vibrant community.

Each woman and girl has a unique story to share that has the capacity to shatter cultural stereotypes and create opportunities for deeper understanding and respect. No matter her age or socio-economic circumstances, every woman has experienced a personal moment of triumph or insight in her life that can be shared with others to break down stereotypes, offer encouragement and bridge perceived cultural chasms.

As we enter the fourth year of WILLO’s women and girls-centered, community-based activities—from the Annual Storytelling Festival, to our winter Health & Happiness Conversation and the debut of the Father-Daughter Brunch—I am grateful to our WILLO Board, Founding Members and numerous Community Organizations, and my husband for their support.

WILLO 3rd Annual Storytelling Festival from Mick Flaaen on Vimeo.

Author: Seong Shin

Posted: July 27, 2017

Category: Passion