For the last 12 years a former Kelowna resident has dedicated half of her life to Nepal.
In 2005, Michelle Bonneau founded IWEN, now known as Her International, with the intention of providing educational opportunities and sustainable life skills to marginalized women and children.
Now, she is being recognized by the federal government with the Meritorious Service Medal —which is intended to recognize individuals who have carried out meritorious acts bringing benefit and honour.
“During those (past) years the ups and down were many, but every time I got angry I would remember the fact that we had students for which we were responsible and so I would ask for help and every time someone would show up and help take over the board (of directors),” said Bonneau.
Kevin Edgecombe, president of Her International, said the exposure to the charity over the years has completely enriched his life.
“Many people that I have seen visit Nepal, touch, feel, smell Nepal, come away with the same feeling that there is something incredible about Nepal.”
In the last couple of years, Her International has also partnered with Okanagan support groups for women such as the Karis Support Society and H.O.P.E. Outreach. This past February the charity co-hosted a fundraising event with H.O.P.E. titled Hope in Her Eyes, and raised $17,000 to support women both locally and globally.
Since its inception, Her International has rescued 187 young girls from bonded labour and provided a total of 2,261 annual scholarships.
Bonneau was recently in Kelowna to launch her book HER The Tharu Women’s Journey to Freedom, which was created by a team of international volunteers ‘who believe the empowerment of women is essential for world peace without the blight of poverty’.
HER The Tharu Women’s Journey to Freedom is available for sale in Kelowna at Mosaic Books.