Empowerment through camaraderie and mentorship

Last Updated by Nancy Rogan on

In our NewsHour Shares moment of the day, a casual  and camaraderie meetup program for girls who have lost loved ones aims to empower through mentorship. Special correspondent Tina Martin of WGBH has the story on empowerHer.

Judy Woodruff:
Losing a parent at a young age can obviously have devastating consequences for a child. One Massachusetts nonprofit has set out to support young women who have lost their mothers. From PBS station WGBH in Boston, Tina Martin introduces us to the woman behind the empowerHER program.

Cara Belvin: My mom was beautiful and smart and funny. She really just kind of lit up a room.
Tina Martin:

Cara Belvin was just 9 years old when her mother died of breast cancer.

Cara Belvin: At the time, it just felt like I was the only girl in the world whose mother had died. And I didn’t have opportunities to meet other girls like me and who could relate to my loss.

Tina Martin: Years later, a mother herself, Belvin realized she could help connect girls like her with others.

Four years ago, Belvin started the nonprofit empowerHER, which hosts events like group rock climbs for girls who have lost their mothers.

Cara Belvin: My vision for empowerHER was really these events that would have low pressure. They would be relaxed, and the girls would be comfortable and come together in very sort of easy, breezy events, like cooking classes and writing classes and beach parties and a sleepover on Mother’s Day weekend.

It’s really something that I wish I had.

Tina Martin: But, soon, Belvin realized the girls may need more than just events. So, two years ago, she added another important piece.

Cara Belvin: I wanted to start a mentor program, a program that would look a lot like Big Brothers, Big Sisters, where we could pair with a positive role model from the community. And, in some cases, that woman that we would make a match with is a woman who can relate to her loss.

Tina Martin: Andrea Mancinelli and 18-year-old Jess Digangi were matched two years ago, a year after Jess lost her mom.

Jess Digangi: She has, like, that mother-like role. She kind of reminds me of my mom. I do a lot of the same stuff I would do with my mom with Andrea.

Tina Martin: The two like to watch “Downton Abbey” together and go shopping.

Andrea Mancinelli: It’s just really great to at least try to be able to at least try to give something back to her and to help her through some tough times, and also kind of bring that fun back.

Tina Martin: Mancinelli sees her role as more than just fun.

 Andrea Mancinelli: A lot of times, I will just text and kind of say, I’m thinking of you.

Tina Martin: Cara Belvin left her full-time job as a nonprofit consultant to run empowerHER, which relies 100 percent on donations, and she believes her mom would approve.

Cara Belvin: She’d be proud that I was doing anything to, I guess, speak up or speak out on a topic that still, unfortunately, might even be considered more of a taboo topic.

Tina Martin: Because of Cara Belvin’s vision, these girls have a community of support and friendship.

For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Tina Martin in Scituate, Massachusetts.

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