To say that Clasina van Bemmel has been through a lot in her 77 years would be a grave understatement. While growing up in the Netherlands, van Bemmel was abused by her family. She finally fled at the age of 16 to live and find work in England. After serving as a nanny, van Bemmel moved to Canada, where she learned new languages and got a new job. After being laid off from her job, van Bemmel sold her car and started the Vancouver Trolley Company. Van Bemmel only has a grade 7 education and no official business education. Despite all that, her business managed to be very successful, and even earned the honor of Canadian Woman entrepreneur of the year in 1994. Even though she started from humble beginnings, van Bemmel suddenly found herself to be one of the most successful business women in the world.
After selling her business and retiring, van Bemmel set her sights on a new mission. Thinking of others like her who needed some good fortune, she set a plan in action. Van Bemmel owned some land in Squamish, but she sold it with the goal of using the funds to help others. Van Bemmel then started the Compassion in Action Fund, a way for her to donate her fortune to those who needed it more than her. Some of the charities benefited from the Compassion in Action Fund include Downtown Eastside Women's Centre, the Victoria Women's Transition House Society, and the Paws for Hope Animal Foundation.
Christine Gross is the development manager for the Victoria Women's Transition House Society. Van Bemmel has helped to provide Gross’ company $20,000 from her fund. Since 2018, this money has allowed Gross’ shelter to make much-needed upgrades, such as new furniture for the bedrooms. Every March, van Bemmel and some other women go through the grant applications to see which one will get a donation of $5,000. The only criteria van Bemmel has when looking at charities is that they must help women, children, or animals escape violence. The way the fund works will allow van Bemmel to donate money even after she’s gone. Since she has retired, van Bemmel has also taken up various art mediums. Every time she sells a piece, she donates the money to the Compassion in Action Fund as well. Van Bemmel loves that while she had obstacles to overcome, she was able to carve her own path, and help others while doing it. “In a way, it's me giving back to Canada the success that I had in my businesses,” she said. “If your heart is full, you automatically start giving away.”
If you wish to donate to the Compassion in Action Fund, go to https://www.vancouverfoundation.ca/compassion.
ServiceSpace.org, S. S. (2022, April 3). Her good fortune supports women, children, and animals fleeing violence. KarunaVirus. Retrieved April 4, 2022, from https://www.karunavirus.org/story/7108/her-good-fortune-supports-women-children-and-animals-fleeing-violence
Fagan, E. (2022, March 25). An immigrant built a fortune after fleeing violence. her charitable fund will pay it forward for decades to come. Capital Daily. Retrieved April 4, 2022, from https://www.capitaldaily.ca/news/clasina-van-bemmel-charitable-fund
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