Roberta Rose-Collins – CSO Champion

What originally started as a journey to better health, grew into an online system of support and inspiration for multiple women across the country. 

Roberta Rose-Collins, founding director of Yes She Can, was diagnosed with celiac disease late in life after spending most of her time enduring its symptoms. Celiac disease is a genetically predisposed autoimmune condition that can cause damage to the small intestine when gluten is ingested. In order to manage her symptoms, Collins had to make some drastic life choices, such as removing gluten from her diet and becoming more active. 

“It was a very upsetting point in my life. I remember being frustrated with weeding flour out of my diet. You know, I’m a Trinidadian and flour is life but to be well, I just had to do it.”

She started to share bits of her journey online to her personal friend group, uploading pictures of workouts and healthy meals as a way to hold herself accountable. She even documented her training for her first half marathon. 

“I joined a gym for the first time and I was training towards this goal. I thought I’ll try, I could do it. And that’s why it’s Yes she can. I remember people who knew me were like ‘are you really doing this?’ And I did it! It was one of my proudest moments, doing the half marathon without ever stopping. I remember asking my husband, ‘do you think I could ever do this? Seriously?’ And he said, ‘Roberta, you would do whatever you put your mind to.’ At that point I realized I never thought of myself like that.” 

“Sometimes you need someone to help you realize what you’re capable of.” 

Eventually, the physical change became obvious as she was no longer obese and curiosity piqued.  

“I shared the reason for my lifestyle change but I didn’t specify that I was gluten free and vegan. I didn’t promote myself like that. I realized that people actually started to do better just off of me making those kinds of posts. So I thought, how about I make this into something. Not just half haphazardly, without a care but how do I do something that is based in self care. That’s how Yes She Can was born, as a means to share credible information and support women who needed and wanted to make lifestyle changes.”

Collins lacked experience in the CSO sector, but she built her own community to help uplift her through the process. As a private person that finds discomfort in front of large crowds, she got other women that made similar life changes to be front and center whilst she remained behind the scenes and the brains of the operation. She enlisted the help of a friend that works in video editing to help put visual material together to help launch the platform. “The videos really allowed us to be seen. And again, I didn’t do it with me in the video so for years people didn’t know I was behind Yes She Can, only the people on the inside knew and it was myself and two other women.” 

Ever since completing her first half marathon, Collins was self-assured, “bleeding confidence” and itching for the next big adventure. “I thought, I’m going to train for and compete in a triathlon. I don’t ride bikes (not that I can’t, I just prefer not to) and I can’t swim but let me go.” Whilst looking for a trainer she considered that this could be a group activity and asked her online followers if they’ll be up for the challenge. One person turned into 16 and together they trained over the course of three months. Some people even learned to ride a bike for the first time. “They created a separate session for us so it was a shorter time but nevertheless we still had the discipline to complete it.”

After that event, Collins went home to a message that Yes She Can is influencing women in Hong Kong and there is an officially registered, Yes She Can group. From then on, every challenge was seen as a group activity. Together they’ve competed in half marathons, 5ks and even dragon boat racing. “We became like a family. Got together and did a lot of stuff together. We would encourage each other. One woman said to me, ‘you saved my life, through this’, because she was recently divorced so things were a bit tough for her. Another told me she lost her mom suddenly just before she started the triathlon. The support has been amazing and with Covid things have been at a standstill but I believe the support would continue to be amazing once everything eases”

The establishment and growth of Yes She Can, really shows us the importance of community and a strong support system. 

Join them today on Facebook!

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