Sheri Cohen’s story

I grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba in a Jewish Family. My father and his five brothers grew up working class. They established SAAN stores/Gendis and were successful financially. My life however, was complicated. I grew up as a survivor of violence, abuse and trauma. I experienced directly how money and power were used to keep me silent. I struggled with being wealthy and often hid my privilege. In 1988, my father died and I was surprised to come into an inheritance of eleven million dollars. I had often been told that I had spent so much money through my trust that nothing would be left. I had many questions and few answers on how to live with this abundance and privilege.

When I was 30, while attending college, I was assessed to have a learning disability, and came to understand the reasons for my difficulties in both primary and secondary-education. After college I worked and I often faced discrimination and lost jobs because of my learning disability. Social Work was my calling and in 1996 I graduated with a second degree in Social work.
In 1997 I founded ALDER, a non –profit organization which provided employment services for youth and adults with learning disabilities. For 10 years I gave over half my income to support ALDER and other causes. I was proud to see that ALDER grew into a respected organization that was supported by government funding, creating an important place for a community whose voices were not being heard.

While I had given away half of my inheritance, I still felt a deep sense of emptiness. This woke me up. For the past six years I have worked with therapists and consultants who understand class privilege, supporting me to understand its intersections with trauma, oppression and mindfulness. My journey has been one of opening to a greater understanding and embodiment of giving and receiving that reflect my spiritual and political values. Part of my personal work continues to be to discern when giving comes from a place of internalized messages of trauma and a sense of not being enough. This continues to be a path and process in my life to which I am committed so that I live from a greater balance and harmony of healing myself and healing the world. Participating in co-creating justice and freedom for all beings is essential for me. Part of my work is to see that philanthropy is about interconnectedness and how I walk my life.

– This mini-autobiography is found on the web site Bolder Giving