DETERMINATION: Renee DeSilva
Drawing strength from her family, friends, and faith, this IBO resolved to be an inspiration and hope to others.
For Renee DeSilva, family has always been a source of strength. She credits her deep connection with her sister Jennifer Smeenk and her brother Reggie Nicolas with making it through the untimely losses of both of their parents.
“Our parents instilled a bond between the three of us,” says Renee, “and it was only made stronger after we went through the experience of losing both of our parents together. We’re even closer now.”
Her family was also there to help when Renee’s husband Alan died in a car crash just a few months before the couple’s fifth wedding anniversary – a tragedy that Renee says she couldn’t have managed without her faith and the support of those around her.
“I had a choice of whether I’d let this end my life,” she says. “Whether I’d do nothing and let it defeat me. But I want to be an example of being able to overcome. I want to be strong.”
For her persistence in the face of personal loss, Renee DeSilva is awarded the Amway Hero Award for Determination.
A journey together
A few months after her father passed away, Renee attended the 2002 World Youth Day in Toronto – a global festival for young Catholics. That’s where she began spending time with Alan DeSilva, a boy she had grown up with in Edmonton, Alberta, and knew as a distant acquaintance.
Six months after the friends returned from Toronto, Renee’s mother had a stroke. “I remember praying to God, ‘I just lost my dad. If it’s your will, please give us more time,’” Renee says. “And my prayers were answered. My mother lived exactly one more year before passing away.”
Alan was at her side through it all. “We became best friends over the course of a year and a half,” she says. “We grew together, and he helped me walk that journey.”
Their friendship blossomed into romance and after dating for four years, the couple married in May 2008. They became Independent Business Owners the same year.
Strength to carry on
Together, the DeSilvas built a successful Amway™ independent business while raising two children, 4-year-old son Gabriel and 3-year-old daughter Anjali. But Renee’s world changed after Alan’s accident in February 2013.
“I want to be an example of being able to overcome. I want to be strong.”
“I knew I could not have handled this tragedy without God’s grace and love,” she says, “and without the amazing people in my life who opened up their hearts to grieve and walk this journey with me.” Many cared for her in practical ways: cleaning the house, watching the kids, praying, and just being there. “I didn’t cook a meal for two months!” she says. “It truly is a success story of people’s amazing hearts, compassion, and love.”
Renee was also heartened by the fond stories that she heard from the students and colleagues of Alan, who had been a biology professor. “It helped me to know that he effected change in the world,” she says, “even though he was only 30.”
Renee is determined to be a source of inspiration for her own children. “I’m going to have to rise up from this, so my kids can rise up, too,” she says.
Network of support
Before Alan’s passing, the DeSilvas were working toward their dream of attaining Diamond; after, Renee let the business slow so she could concentrate on grieving and healing. Then, she says, participating in the BODYKEY
by NUTRILITE™ 90-Day Weight Loss Challenge gave her a positive goal to focus on and a chance to reconnect with others. Her team lost a collective 69 pounds and 138 inches, winning a prize for their success.
“The challenge kept me in touch with my team,” she says. “Now that I’ve reinvented my role, I’m re-fired up to get my business going again.”
As a couple, Alan and Renee each had their own strengths in the company: Alan was out in front, presenting the IBO Compensation Plan, while Renee made sure all the pieces came together. Now she’s overcoming her fears and presenting the Plan on her own.
“I’ve made a commitment to become a Diamond,” Renee says. “I found inspiration by looking through issues of ACHIEVE® magazine for single women who have made Emerald or Platinum. If they could do it, I knew I could do it, too!”
An inspiration to others
Renee’s business team has seen her through these hard times, too. She notes the significant help of her sponsors Frank and Lorraine Mikolas, who are “amazing people with huge hearts for my family and the team,” as well
as her uplines Mike and Lori Bourgeois. “I’m really thankful for their friendship and for their help in keeping a positive attitude,” she says.
One way she shares this positivity is through her voice – Renee is a talented singer. “I’ve always enjoyed singing,” she says, “and performing at church. It’s a lot of fun for me! Music can lift people up, and it keeps them going.”
Renee says spreading this joy is what means the most to her. “For me, a hero is someone who is a source of inspiration and hope to others,” she says. “I’m happy that this award honors Alan, his story, and all his hard work toward our dreams.”
Now Renee is sharing her story to empower those around her. “It feels good to instill hope,” she says, “and be future-focused. When I do that kind of work, I feel a closeness to Alan. Our dream was together, and I feel him very near to me, still helping with that journey.”