On the second Sunday of every May, we celebrate Mother’s day. It’s a time to honor the women who have been our caregivers, mentors, and role models. Moms shape who we are, both as individuals and as a culture. This year, Swyft Filings celebrates mothers by shining a spotlight on an incredible mother, person, and nonprofit leader — Raven Phillips-Lee of W.A.V.E. Inc. (Women Against Violence Empowerment).
When her husband died as a result of a homicide, leaving her a single mother with three daughters to raise, Raven had a choice to make. With her children in mind, she chose to push past her grief and use her experiences to help others by founding W.A.V.E. Now, Raven Philips-Lee excels in her dual roles as a mother and an advocate for mothers.
W.A.V.E is a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting, encouraging, and empowering widows and widowers who have lost a spouse to illness or violence. The two-year-old, Petersburg, Virginia-based nonprofit helps single parents in the community find the education, employment, housing, financial help, and counseling they need.
We sat down with Raven to discuss her cause and the journey she took to become its champion.
Swyft Filings: Why did you start W.A.V.E, and what inspired you to become a champion for single mothers?
Raven Philips-Lee: I lost my spouse tragically to a homicide in December of 2014. My organization is a reflection of my life as a widow with my three young daughters. I know firsthand what it means to be a single mother working to take care of her children on a limited income. I know the financial challenges and the difficulties seeking counseling, education, employment, and housing. My own life experiences fuel my drive to help others overcome what I’ve been through.
SF: What motivates you to stay involved?
RPL: I think of new widows and widowers. I want them to know they are not alone in their journey. Many have been there before. I’ve been there. I know what they are going through, and I know they can make it as I did.
I’ve reached out to new widows who were in the break of mental instability and suicide. By talking to them, telling them my story, and sharing our experiences, I was able to encourage them to keep faith and know that God would see them through.
SF: What services does W.A.V.E. offer?
RPL: We reach out to widows, widowers, and their children. We don’t leave anyone out. All are affected when someone loses a spouse. We assist with feeding the homeless, refer those in need to temporary shelter, and provide educational, financial, and employment resources and services to the local community. We also refer clients to counseling services, which are very greatly needed.
SF: How has the COVID-19 crisis affected your mission?
RPL: The greatest challenges have always been finding volunteers, donations, and grants. COVID only makes that harder. About half of the Virginia community is unemployed or underemployed. Funding is down because the community simply lacks the funds to donate.
Social distancing guidelines mean W.A.V.E. can no longer do fundraising events, provide training sessions, or participate in local events because they have all been canceled.
SF: What do you hope the organization will achieve in the long term?
RPL: In the future, I hope that W.A.V.E. Inc will be helping people in all 50 states. I would love to be able to be a guest speaker in all countries with a translator in all different languages.
SF: What does motherhood mean to you?
RPL: Motherhood means being a positive role model to your children. It means instilling values and morals. It means being able to listen, relate to, and understand your children.
My own mother is my biggest inspiration. She has stood by me in my saddest moments and my happiest moments.
SF: What message would you like to share with other widowed moms and dads?
RPL: You are not alone. You will get through this. There are resources and services available to you. I am a living testimony that you can experience a traumatic, life-changing event, but turn it around to lead a positive life and help others.
SF: What part of your work do you personally find most satisfying?
RPL: I love being an advocate for W.A.V.E. Inc. I’ve spoken at many large events, and I am proud to be a motivational speaker for my organization. I feel that every time I share my story, it creates healing in me.
I hope that I’ll continue to grow and be heard throughout the world to help others in their time of loss. I try to be an inspiration not only to my three daughters but to the community as a whole.
An inspiration is exactly what we at Swyft Filings would call Raven Philips-Lee. Her daughters agree.
“I’m proud of my mama because she is VERY hardworking and determined,” said 17-year-old Chatasia. “Everything she does, she does it with dedication, and I am thankful to have a role model like her.”
“My mother is amazing, independent, and wise,” said Janiyah, age 15. “I strive to be just like her. She’s my hero.”
If you’d like to help Raven and her mission, you can donate to W.A.V.E. on the organization’s website or social media (Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter). Raven will also complete her first book by summer 2020. Check her website and social media for upcoming release information.
If you’d like us to spotlight your business or nonprofit, please send your story in 500 or fewer words to [email protected]. If you’re interested in starting a nonprofit of your own, speak with the business specialists at Swyft Filings today.