The Empowerment Project Soars Over San Francisco!

EP girls with Pilot


Hello there darlings! I’m Alana, I’m the Director of Photography of our little spice world on wheels. And today I’ll be updating you on the San Francisco leg of our cross-country adventure.

Venturing to San Francisco was beyond exciting because it was the physical realization that OhMyGoodness this trip is actually happening. We are actually all piling into a van and driving across this continent. What an exciting and daunting feeling. And scary, mostly because, you might not know this, but we didn’t all know each other very well before this trip. In fact I had only met the girls once before we started shooting. Accepting this mission, as I’m referring to it, was the definition of taking a risk, stepping out of your comfort zone, and trust-falling into the world around you.

I don’t think a single one of us slept the night before departing, which made that first length of drive quite delirious, and full of bondage. I mean bonding; I might still be a bit delirious. On the way up Dana and Sarah surprised Ashley Vanessa and I with the news that we were all getting a private flight over San Francisco (in the cutest little airplanes you’ve ever seen). We were floored. That’s kind of like getting golden fairy dust on top of your ice cream Sundae! Calorie free of course.

Sandra Clifford

The experience of flying over Alcatraz, and the Golden Gate Bridge framed by magical sea mist, proved just as enchanting. For all of us except Ashley, who, how do I put this… Who had to bring a plastic bag up with her. Thankfully the bag stayed empty, and she was able to enjoy the experience.

Sandra Clifford was our first interview, the pilot. She was even more magical than the flight she took us on. I can honestly say I’ve never met a more giving human being to date than Sandra Clifford. She took care of us in every way possible, and then some. Constantly trying to help. Her generosity, joy, and love above all radiated from every strand of her sun kissed hair. I’ll always picture her smiling from ear to ear, hair whipping around in the breeze as it did at the airport, or in her little white convertible. I wondered how it didn’t bother her, it would have bothered me, but that’s just one of the magical things about Sandra. It made perfect sense that that free wind spun hair would only invigorate her, and could never be a bother. Sandra’s glow is contagious, after leaving her I felt capable of anything in the world. Like I could become a mermaid if it’s what I really wanted. I cannot put into words my gratitude to Sandra, and how much she inspired me. Sandra, I love you. I hope you make it into space one day, I know you will.

Mina Bissell Empowerment Project crew SF

Our next San Francisco interview was with a Cancer Biologist, Mina Bissell. Mina is Iranian, and has surely traveled the world, which I feel is important to note, because my first impression of her was how worldly she seemed. Something I aspire to, and greatly admire. She was so brilliantly bright, and unashamed of her accomplishments. She took compliments the way I wish I could, the way we all should: with absolute grace. She certainly has accomplished some amazing things for this world, her cell research is changing the way we see, and treat cancers. What stuck with me about Mina was her complete ownership of her life. Acknowledging all of her choices whether they brought her difficulty or ease. There was no question about her, no second-guessing, no holding back. There is a grace in that, which I have never seen so clearly in another person. At least not up close. I hope I can create more of that in my life.

I’ve been so deeply moved on this trip by the women we are interviewing, and by each of the amazing girls I’ve been stuck in a van with. I’m starting to wonder if my goose bumps will just become permanent. If my heart will stay love swollen in my throat, and my eyes stay glassy. I don’t know how to describe what I’m feeling and not sound cheesy. I realized a few hours ago, on our way to Portland, that I will remember this trip for the rest of my life. And it will change me. Not knowing who I’ll be when I return home is frightening, but I’ve already taken the step, and I can’t imagine looking back now.

Sarah/Empowerment Project Vanessa/Empowerment Project

Ashley & Dana/Empowerment Project Empowerment Project crew
Photographs Courtesy of: Alana Fickes

So far, I think it was a good choice.






  1. Aaahhh, I feel revived now and have a smile on my face and joy in my heart! I painted (finally after scraping decks for what seems like weeks) at the apt. today. Pa finished painting the sides today too. Lynn (Ash’s Mom) brought me in a raft of tomatoes, so we are now canning. I had to take a break cuz my back was being a jerk and I got to read your message and see the video! You girls amaze me!! So proud of all of you and what you are doing. As you can tell my life is pretty mundane, so I live through my grandchildren, and marvel at what they do. I have to go cook these tomatoes and get them in jars now~~my break is over! Safe travels ladies, can’t wait to meet you all. Looking forward to the next update. Love, Gma

  2. Pingback: The Empowerment Project Powers Through Portland With BIG NEWS!

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