We had the good fortune of connecting with Talitha Phillips and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Talitha, as a parent, what do you feel is the most meaningful thing you’ve done for them?
I took my oldest daughter with me to Uganda for the first time when she was 3 years old. Since then, she’s come with me on several other trips to Africa. And, her younger sister joined us when she was 6. Exposing them to the world outside of the United States has made a lasting impression on their young lives. I encouraged them to play in the villages, hold babies in orphanages, teach little kids in school, and help us with our medical clinics. They were, in turn, exposed to famine, disease, death, pain, and injustice. So many of the things that we try to shelter our kids from here in America. Each time that we’re there, I find myself answering many of their tough questions about what they’re witnessing. They’re often the same questions that I’m still processing myself. However, by getting out of our comfort zone and traveling across the globe, we also witness the beauty of a simple life, the sparkle in the kids eyes, the joy of being able to freely play, and the commonalities that we all share. In many ways, my kids seem more at peace when stripped away from our busy, technology-filled lives. We go to Uganda to serve, but I’m pretty sure our lives are always the most impacted! Seeing my daughters run around in a village, laughing with all the kids, chasing goats, playing with sticks, and singing to the little babies makes me so happy as a mom. I don’t believe we are called to shelter our kids, but rather to teach them – by example. To me, loving them means taking risks, even if those risks may make us uncomfortable. Spending time serving people in need in other parts of the world makes it easier to love people in our city too. Those who are experiencing homelessness, mental illness, poverty and so much more. I pray that my kids will always notice the world around them and that they will never be too afraid, apathetic, or busy to move toward those who are hurting or are in need.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I originally learned about Claris when I was a senior in college. I reluctantly joined one of their pregnancy loss support groups and quickly discovered its life-changing impact on my life. I witnessed first-hand the benefit of processing loss in community with others who shared similar experiences. This 10-week support group not only changed my life, it prompted a calling to help other women. Growing up with three brothers, I’d spent most of my life steering clear of women’s issues, so to me this was a miraculous new course in life. About a year after college, I accepted a part-time position as the Director of Claris Health, which was still very small at that time. I never imagined that this cause would become the greatest passion in my life or that Claris would grow into the holistic, integrated care model that it is today. It has never been an easy job, and it’s definitely not a 9am-5pm job. People’s lives and needs don’t stop at the end of a workday, and we’re truly invested in their lives. That means we celebrate the high points, and we are there to support, listen, and even grieve with them during the really hard times. We are also almost entirely funded by private donations. This means we rely on the generosity and commitment of individual donors, events and small foundations. This has posed, and continues to present, many challenges. For example, many of our donors have lost jobs or experienced a reduced income during this global pandemic. In the face of these and many other challenges, I think one way we’ve overcome or survived them is by looking for the good. It’s a privilege that people invite us into their lives. One common piece of feedback we receive is that “Claris became my family when I had none.” This is the greatest honor and makes all of the challenges worth it! One unique point to highlight is that by not relying on government funding also gives us incredible freedom in how we execute programs. We are able to serve people without restriction or discrimination. Our funding also isn’t dependent upon what the government deems worthy but rather where the real need is. Re-shifting our focus onto these things helps us get through any challenge. I’d love for the world to know that Claris’ messaging and model of care creates unity around what may be one of the most difficult and polarizing topics. We believe that this is critical to remove the stigma around sexual and relational-health concerns to truly help those in need.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
We’d take long walks at the beach, maybe renting bikes and riding up the Coast. Definitely hiking in Palos Verdes at Abalone Cove for a light, scenic hike and then heading to Terranea Resort for massages, pool time, and a drink at the restaurant overlooking the cliffs of Palos Verdes. The next day, we’d do a much more strenuous hike in one of the Malibu Mountains. I’d show them Zuma Beach on the way home and, if money were no option, we’d go to Nobu for dinner! We’d eat at Pizzeria Mozza in Hollywood one night and at the Century City mall. I’d plan a day or two for wine tasting in Paso Robles, and a stop in Santa Barbara on our way back for lunch and a walk along State Street. We’d hit up every cute coffee shop along the way for my favorite Matcha with oatmilk and whatever my friend would drink (they all love coffee ) It would basically be a week filled with food, exercise, great views, and delicious drinks around the city!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I definitely have to give a shoutout to the team (past & present) at Claris Health. They took a huge chance on me when I was 23 years old and hired me as the Director. I was young and inexperienced. I wanted to help other young women who, like me, had experienced an unintended pregnancy. I wanted them to know that they weren’t alone, but I was fresh out of college and really had no idea what I was doing. The Board of Directors at that time saw something in me that I didn’t yet believe for myself. They saw a bright, hopeful future and a passionate leader that could grow the organization from a small counseling center with a 90K budget to a licensed medical clinic with a 1.7M budget, multiple sites, programs and a much deeper impact. Nineteen years later, we don’t even look like the same organization that I first stepped into. We’ve grown tremendously, learning from both our successes and our failures. While we’ve changed in many ways, the heart of Claris remains the same. We’re still taking chances on people and believing in bright, hopeful futures. I’m surrounded by the most incredible team of staff, Board, volunteers, and other supporters who make Claris what it is today and who continue to impact lives in the most incredible ways!
Instagram: @talithaj | @clarishealth
Twitter: @doulatalitha @clarishealthla
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/talitha.phillips.3 | https://www.facebook.com/clarishealth
Jenny Leigh Noah Mensink Adolph Lopez III