Donna West: Helping Women Document their Stories

January 29, 2020

Donna West has a mission – she wants every woman to tell her story. “Let’s get women’s stories documented,” she says. “Everyone is valuable and unique.”

Donna is leading a new writing collaboration group for Revel beginning on Sun., Feb. 9, in which she will help other Revel members “go deep and find treasures.” She’ll talk about the importance of journaling, how to overcome writer’s block, and lead Revel members through writing exercises that will help them to open up. While the focus will not be on writing for an audience, Donna says she’s happy to help members find an outlet for their writing – including on one of her blogs – if they are interested. She runs a travel blog, Fun Tour Guru, as well as a business blog called Hidden Silicon Valley.

Donna admits that she loves history – of both people and places – and she loves to find ways to tell stories of the past and help others to do the same. That’s led her to uncovering the forgotten history of her community of Santa Clara, California, which 50 years ago had a bustling eight-block downtown with local shops and a movie theater that the City Council opted to demolish in a failed attempt at urban renewal. Now, Donna is part of a group of committed residents called “Reclaiming Our Downtown” that is working to bring the downtown back. As part of that volunteer work, she’s helped residents trace their own genealogy through historical documents.

Donna West in Germany.
Donna West in Germany.
Donna discovering her grandmother's home.
Donna discovering her grandmother's home.

She’s also been exploring her own family history, which included a trip to Germany where she found her immigrant grandmother’s home. “I want to document her story,” Donna says, adding, “I know there are other people who are interested in discovering their own family history, but they don’t take the time to dig into it.” It was this realization that made Donna decide to lead a writing group for Revel, to give members the space and time to start the storytelling process. 

And she’s working with a nonprofit called Talk to History to get the stories of seniors shared with younger generations. The idea is to expose kids to older generations, give kids an opportunity to ask questions about aging, and serve as a point of connection. “We want to connect kids to seniors, to turn them into junior reporters,” says Donna, “and also to record stories and embrace new preferred terminology like ‘elders.’” Donna’s background is working with tech companies, specifically in the semiconductor space, and she’s now transitioned to working as a consultant helping startups and nonprofits after creating her tourism business 20 years ago. Ultimately, she says, “I just want to inspire people to write things down.”

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