The importance of dreaming big

When Lia Grimanis found herself in a homeless shelter, she promised herself that she would return to tell the women that homelessness need not define their entire lives; and that she would live an outrageous life. “It had to be big to inspire the women,” she says.

We all need stories to inspire us and help us achieve our dreams, particularly when life is bleak, says Grimanis, who turns 40 on December 1.

Grimanis is pretty inspiring. A high school dropout, she is now the regional head, financial services for Nimbus, a Tibco company. When not at work, she has wing-walked, swum with sharks, piloted a helicopter, and cooked in Gordon Ramsey’s kitchen. A passionate harpist, she also owns three harps.

A tough beginning

At 16, Grimanis fled a violent household, and “couch surfed” for 18 months before she ran out of friends, then acquaintances. She began relying on strangers. “Invisible homelessness is very dangerous, because there is no protection,” she comments.

“Invisible homelessness is very dangerous, because there is no protection”

Thankfully, after making a random phone call to the Woman Abuse Hotline, she was directed to a YMCA shelter. Within a few weeks, she was placed in accommodation and life started to turn around. “It’s about having the right information and trained professionals to help you,” she says.

Loving her neighbour

With that in mind, Grimanis formed her own foundation, Up With Women. It works to raise awareness about homelessness, particularly its impact on women and children.

Up With Women also pairs recently homeless women with a certified executive career or life coach. The coach provides her time free of charge for a year to help the women rebuild their lives and transition into the career or business of their choice.

Equally exciting, Up With Women runs a children’s leadership mentoring program where formerly homeless children take their experience of homelessness and turn it into a“Community Action Project”.

How she did It

Anybody can do what she has done, Grimanis says. She offers the following tips.

  • Dream big.
  • Forgive those who have hurt you and give back.“For the financially challenged, there are other ways of giving. Be creative!”
  • Question assumptions, especially the negative ones, and be defiant.
  • Feel the fear and do it anyway. “It’s the only way to grow. And scare yourself often!”
  • Have faith that things will work out for good. They usually do.