There are many types of courage and regardless of the circumstances, anyone who has summoned the strength from seemingly nowhere to overcome adversity deserves recognition, for it is not easy. It is only when you have encountered your own personal struggle, faced it head on and endured that treacherous, never ending road, paradoxically you are granted the gift of compassion and understanding of what others may have endured. Ironically it is this that empowers you to fight on when all is seemingly lost and faith, hope and charity become no more than incomprehensible archetypes of fancy.
When Shirley Yanez (50) and her sister in law Holly (41) met twenty years ago they had much in common, namely drinking, smoking and ambition. Shirley, nine years Holly's senior had already built a successful headhunting business in London from scratch having left school at 13 with no education and no mother. She had run away years prior. For Holly, desperate to escape an equally troubled home life, Shirley's job offer was a miracle.
The women worked hard together and made a lot of cash, enjoying the ultimate playgirl life style; fast cars, loose men, rock and roll. Then out of the blue Holly left for the brighter lights of Hollywood to find the man of her dreams. Shirley remained behind taking the business to even greater heights, the top.
Holly soon hooked her fish and planned to marry, asking Shirley to be maid of honour at the wedding. The best man was the groom's good looking brother and they married shortly after. Shirley had built a stock portfolio worth millions before running off to join her friend but within three months of moving to LA the stock market crashed, along with the property market and the women's millions were history. As they hit rock bottom, the good looking husbands lost their charm, the looks faded like denim and both women turned to the bottle for comfort.
The happy ever after story became a living nightmare. Holly had given birth to two daughters and with the money gone the Californian dream team turned into ugly abusive monsters. They found the strength to leave the marital homes and the brothers, but returning to the U.K. was out of the question as a court battle for custody began.
With no money and no support they tried with all their might to fight the Californian court system but with the odds stacked against them the children where placed with their father. The women were desolate and destitute. When Shirley collapsed, a cardiac arrest and rushed to hospital with no medical insurance and no address, final pleas for help went out to all their rich friends back home. It was useless, no one wanted to know, including the hospital, (no money, no life saving surgery). She was prescribed medicine, they could not afford to temporarily stop her internal bleeding and discharged less than 24 hours after being resuscitated.
For two weeks they lived in a shelter in notorious Compton, East L.A., a place where the poorest of the poor live everyday with nothing, not even hope. They found a strange sense of happiness being surrounded by those worse off than themselves and each day kept the other inmates happy and positive, life coaching and laughing about their reversal of fortune. An old friend heard of their dire situation and sent enough money for two tickets to England, where Shirley had emergency surgery courtesy of the National Health Service. The operation was touch and go but successful. The children were left behind.
For the past year these women have been fighting back. They have given up drinking, smoking, sex, meat and all their old pattern behavior. Today they are the happiest they have ever been, fighting fit and sober.
Through their unbelievable fortitude and unbreakable spirit they formed The Ministry Of Common Sense and the BBC have made a film about the work they do. I can say with certainty God (whatever you understand that to be) saved them both.
The Ministry Of Common Sense is funded by sales of their hilarious book, "Looking For Harvey Weinstein" the tawdry tale of "always hopeful, forever positive in La La Land" and their common sense manual "How To Be Happy Without Money and Find God Without Religion"
Holly and Shirley offer free online life coaching to anyone committed to their personal goals whatever they may be. They can help with stopping or moderating (it's a choice) any destructive behaviour pattern whether it be eating, smoking, drugs, alcohol, fear, poor communication, low self esteem, mild depression. The Ministry Of Common Sense is all about the brutal truth but there is no judging, no blaming and for those who can stick the course, no failure.