You don’t have to climb the mountain all at once

​I can’t think of a better change agent to introduce you to in my first-ever Ripple Haven Newsletter! The whole reason I’m starting this project is to share the stories of the amazing women in my life. I hope we can all take some inspiration from how my friend, Ivy, turned her greatest adversity into what she calls “a curriculum for personal growth.” Ivy’s ripple effect is remarkable. It really makes me think about how any one of us could create a ripple effect from what seems, in the moment, to be a life crisis.

I met Ivy Woolf Turk years ago at the University of Washington, where she spoke on a panel presented by the Council of Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls. From there, we became fast friends.

If you ask Ivy, she describes herself as an agent of change, a freedom fighter, a certified professional coach, a mom, a facilitator, and founder of Project Liberation, and the soon-to-be founder of A Liberated Life.

If you ask me, Ivy’s a prime example of someone who has sent powerful ripples in many directions.

Ivy recently visited me in Baja, and we had an opportunity to “sit on my porch” and chat.

Grab your coffee, get comfy, and let’s hear from Ivy. If Ivy’s story resonates with you, here’s a twenty-minute interview you might enjoy.

Three of the most noteworthy ripple effects that Ivy shared with me are how she created Project Liberation, how she honed her craft as a life coach, and is now using many of those same principles in her new venture, A Liberated Life.

To properly appreciate the impact of Ivy’s ripple effect, let’s start with a statistic: More than 60% of incarcerated women recidivate – they end up getting re-arrested and often re-incarcerated after they’re released¹.

Before she herself was incarcerated, Ivy lived a life of privilege. For almost 20 years, she co-owned and managed a multi-million dollar real estate portfolio. She survived cancer and divorce. She was a single parent. But when Ivy’s business partner betrayed her, Ivy unwittingly got caught up in a fraudulent scheme and was sentenced to five years in Danbury Federal Prison!

Ivy was released a year early when exculpatory evidence was presented to her judge. But that didn’t make life after prison any easier. It was her first few hours out of prison that set in motion Ivy’s life’s work.

Ivy’s advice to anyone who wants to create a ripple effect is to reflect deeply on a life-changing moment.

“[Think about] the worst, adverse moment where you think you’re going to die.​

That moment for me happened a few times, but the most pivotal moment was the day I was released early from prison… I was homeless, penniless, and destitute.​

I was more fortunate than most because I had this posse of loving kids and friends and family supporting me. You’re let out for three hours from this horrific halfway house in a terrible neighborhood with $100, and it’s overwhelming.​

I went to walk toward what someone told me was the drugstore. The next thing I knew, I was on the ground in horrific pain, thinking that my arm had been ripped off my body. I’d been mugged. It wasn’t lost on me, in that moment, that I had spent the last twenty years as a real estate developer marginalizing women and families in neighborhoods that I was gentrifying, and now I had become one of them.

I realized that if I, an educated, privileged woman, couldn’t make it in her first three hours [out of prison], what were the sisters I left behind supposed to do?​

If you know in your soul that there’s something you need to do, don’t play small.

You don’t have to climb the mountain in one fell swoop – but start taking steps toward something sparkling to you. I needed to do something so that I could wake up every morning and be in service. In my case, it was to become a life coach, to advocate for women and teach them how to advocate for themselves.”

The result?

Project Liberation.

Project Liberation is a 14-week curriculum and personal empowerment platform that supports women coming home from prison.

In this curriculum, women learn about emotional literacy, they learn to love themselves and to build the self-esteem that allows them to imagine what’s possible.

Since 2016, 567 women have received the supportive services of Project Liberation, and to Ivy’s knowledge, not even one of them has been re-incarcerated.

Ivy originally intended for Project Liberation to help women live sustainably free and joyous lives, but she quickly realized that the program was benefiting not just the participants, but also their families and the communities around them. That’s the beauty of a ripple effect!

Imagine the impact of a woman coming home from prison who learns personal empowerment skills. This makes her a better mother. A better community member. A changemaker. Our communities are made richer by these women who can step into leadership in their own lives and help others make better choices. Ivy’s Project Liberation alumna are these leaders.

How does she do it? “Adversity can be a great teacher,” Ivy explains.

“It took courage to step out of the mindset of not just a feeling, the lack of self-worth and conditioning that many women have, of ‘It’s not that you just made a mistake, but that you are a mistake. You’re not good enough, girl.’ That comes from a slow conditioning from some trauma […] or internal limiting beliefs that chip away at the willingness to try.”

The Birth of a Coaching Practice

Once Project Liberation was launched, Ivy realized that it wasn’t only women coming home from prison who could benefit from turning the tables on their own personal adversity. This epiphany led Ivy to create a coaching practice for women of all socioeconomic groups. She coaches people through major life transitions- job changes, entering retirement, relationship issues, health issues, or just creating more fulfillment in their everyday lives. Ivy has witnessed the richness of relationships that her clients have cultivated, the breakthroughs celebrated, and the collective strength that has been harnessed. Ivy uses many of the techniques she taught herself in prison, along with those she’s learned in coaching programs over the last decade. She uses a panoply of modalities to support her clients.

And the cool thing is that now that we all live our lives in part on Zoom, Ivy’s practice is filled with women (and men) from all over the world.

And Now… A Liberated Life!

Ivy’s one of those women who keeps moving forward, incorporating what she’s learned and taking the next logical step. She’s working on a new program called A Liberated Life. This will be a community of strong, heart-led successful women. This group is for women who look like they have it all going on yet feel like something’s missing. For these women, Ivy is creating a sanctuary of wisdom, experience, and resources- where participants will feel embraced, empowered, and uplifted every step of their journey. I can’t wait to learn more about this one as it unfolds!

The Lesson

One of the most powerful things Ivy taught me is that one does not need to live behind bars to realize that they have put themselves in a prison of their own limiting beliefs. What I love about Ivy is that she not only created an immeasurable ripple effect that’s being felt in the families and communities of formerly incarcerated women, but she didn’t stop there. Now she’s helping women like you and me find our own passion and be brave enough to self-reflect and live the lives we’ve always dreamed of.

If you would like to hear more about A Liberated Life and its offerings, please click here and become part of the community.

Ivy is a constant source of inspiration and bravery for me. And she’s not the only one. I can’t wait to introduce you to more women who I’ve been honored to cross paths with. Each of them, like Ivy, started with a moment of inspiration and so, I leave you to ponder this question: what’s the inspiration that could lead you to take just one small step, ?



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