Transforming Loss Into Legacy

By Lisa Rubenson

In 2006, before Nyla Rodgers became the founder and CEO of the international nonprofit Mama Hope, she was 26, living a fun, friend-filled life in San Francisco, working as a director of programs for the Pacific Rim Foundation. She had already earned two degrees, traveled the world and had come back to her native California to build her career in a cosmopolitan city that happened to be a bridge away from where she grew up in Marin County.

As an only child raised by a single mother, Nyla and her mother, Stephanie, were very close. They loved that they were living near each other again and could spend time together. Then everything changed in an instant. Stephanie was diagnosed with an aggressive, late stage cancer, and Nyla moved home to take care of her.

“My mother was everything to me,” she says. “She got sick so fast, and I felt forsaken. There was so much I didn’t know yet, so much more I needed to learn from her.”

After her mother died, Nyla felt angry and disconnected from everything and everyone—including her faith. A little while later, Nyla was offered a contract job in Kenya. She knew her mother had been sending support to a young man there named Bernard, and the job posting was close to where he lived. Nyla and her mother had always dreamed of flying together to visit Bernard, and now Nyla had a chance to make the trip herself….

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