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IMAGE

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Image / Agenda / Business

How I Got Here: Tammy Darcy, founder of The Shona Project


Al Higgins

How I Got Here: Tammy Darcy, founder of The Shona Project

Tammy Darcy is the founder of The Shona Project. She has grown it from an idea to a nationally recognised, award-winning organisation that provides support, advice and mentorship to young women.

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB? I worked in a pizza place but got fired for applying the three-second rule in a work environment. One lesson I learned the hard way!

WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY LIKE? I wake up with the birds. I’m definitely a morning person and hit the ground running. I get the kids up and into school and then get to work. I like to take my time getting ready and listen to podcasts while I’m doing my make-up. My eldest just moved out so, of course, I turned his bedroom into a dressing room so I can get some peace and quiet.

AT HOME, OFFICE OR HYBRID? I can’t work from home, it just doesn’t work for me. I’m either in the car driving to a school to do workshops, or in my office planning world domination by 8am. For lunch, there’s a place near me that does amazing salads, which is good, but I usually eat at my desk, which is bad. After work, I like to hang out with my family, go to the gym, watch Real Housewives, and be in bed by ten.

WHEN DID YOU BEGIN YOUR CAREER? At a pretty late age – I went to college as a night student in my late twenties, fell back in love with learning, and went from there. There is so much more to learning than formal education, and the only way you’ll achieve your dreams is to put yourself in situations where you’re challenged and uncomfortable.

WHAT PARTS OF YOUR ROLE DO YOU FIND MOST FULFILLING? Seeing communities of girls come together to support each other in schools. Sometimes their friendships are broken and they have hurt each other, but when we give them the opportunity, they all work together to create change. It’s the single thing I love the most about my work because it’s what I didn’t get at 14.

WHAT PARTS OF THE ROLE ARE THE MOST CHALLENGING? Fundraising, and feeling that I need to have all the answers and make the right calls.

WHAT ARE SOME MEMORABLE CAREER HIGHLIGHTS? There have been so many, but I was really proud to be named Irish Red Cross Humanitarian of the Year 2021.

WHAT IS THE SINGLE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION ABOUT YOUR JOB? That I know what I’m doing most of the time. And also that we don’t include boys! We are working really hard to fundraise so we can build a boys’ arm to the organisation.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO SET UP THE SHONA PROJECT? My sister Shona. She had a brain tumour at the age of 15 and has lived her whole life in full-time nursing care. She had so much potential and could have created so much impact. Calling the organisation after her feels like we’re doing it together, which is nice. I feel our young people need our support now more than ever, and that’s why I started it.

WHAT IS ONE OF THE MOST SURPRISING THINGS ABOUT WORKING WITH TEENAGERS? That they are so much smarter than I was at that age!

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES FACING YOUNG WOMEN TODAY? The absolutely exhausting pressure to be perfect, to know who and what they want to be, and to do it under the microscope of social media.

The Shona Project

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Walker, €8.79) A young girl witnesses a police shooting of her childhood friend, which propels her into a life of activism. This book is a reminder that we can all be the change we want to see in the world.
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Fourth Estate, approx €7) This teeny tiny book belongs on every girl’s bedside locker. It’s an easy read but just plants the seed that all of our voices matter, that our dreams and our goals matter, and every single girl matters. It should be on the Leaving Cert curriculum.
You’ve Got This by Tammy Darcy (Gill Books, €11.99) Having met over 25,000 girls in every corner of Ireland, I feel I understand their struggles, and wrote this book in the supportive voice of a big sister. It features personal accounts, advice and information, and I hope it will be a resource throughout their entire teenage years.

shona.ie

Photography by Al Higgins.This article originally appeared in the Winter issue of IMAGE Magazine.