Norette Turimuci ’04 knows the power of a story.
In her work as Executive Director of Resonate, an organization that helps women in East Africa gain the confidence to take big steps in their careers, she sees every day how storytelling can make a difference in someone’s life. But that doesn’t always mean hearing an inspiring tale of all that another person has accomplished—within Resonate, it means learning how to tell your own story.
“Women are very good at downplaying our achievements, or just not acknowledging them,” Turimuci says. “Storytelling helps women think not only about how much they’ve gone through, but how much they’ve achieved.”
She knows that first-hand.
Not long after Turimuci graduated from Butler with a degree in Finance, her mom got sick. Turimuci traveled back home to Burundi, East Africa.
“My mom was very ill for about seven months. She didn’t have access to the care she needed,” Turimuci says. “It was during that time I realized, at some point, I would want to come back to East Africa and help my community grow. My mom was calling me home, in a way.”
But she wasn’t ready yet. Turimuci went back to the U.S. to build her career and develop her skills, working with The Cooke Financial Group, the same financial group she’d interned with during her time at Butler. That’s where she discovered a passion for helping people.
“Even though I was in the financial sector, I really enjoyed working with clients,” she says. “I could know they felt better or more financially secure, thanks to my relationship with them.”
To focus even more on making an impact in people’s lives, Turimuci made the switch to a nonprofit role in 2010. She joined an organization in Toronto, Canada, where she worked to improve cancer care for Indigenous peoples. But seven years later, her mom’s sickness returned.
“She brought me back home again, and I decided to stay,” she says.
Turimuci’s mom passed away in fall 2017. It had been the woman’s life mission to make sure Turimuci and her four siblings had access to a great education, and Turimuci decided it was time to bring that experience back to East Africa.
When she met Resonate at a networking event and heard about how they empower women through story-based leadership training, she saw it as exactly the kind of thing that would have made life better for her mom.
“My mom was a very strong and intelligent woman who could have achieved so much more if she’d had the time and space to fulfill her potential, or even believed how much she could achieve,” Turimuci says. “Through telling their stories, women discover their strength and their resilience.”
Resonate’s core program, Storytelling for Leadership, brings groups of women together over two days to learn how to tell their stories. They start with a definition of leadership that isn’t about a title or a specific position, but about staying proactive in the face of challenges.
“It’s a way of being,” Turimuci says. “It’s seeing something that’s not working, and finding a solution.”
Then, the women identify their values—many of them for the first time—and reflect on how those values have helped them make decisions in their lives. Going forward, they can be more intentional about making choices that are rooted in what they believe.
Through helping women talk about the challenges they’ve already overcome, Resonate aims to help them understand that they have control over their lives.
So far, most of Resonate’s work has taken place within Rwanda, but Turimuci’s mission for the next several years is to expand the organization’s work across more of East Africa. She wants to make sure that other women like her mom, herself, and now her own daughter have the confidence they need to change the world.
Photos courtesy of Resonate