Celeb trainer Ramona Braganza has spent almost the entirety of her adult life serving other people and putting her clients before herself — and as such, has made some sacrifices in her personal life. Thanks to dedication to her career and clients like Jessica Alba, Halle Berry, Kate Beckinsale, Anne Hathaway, Dakota Johnson, Scarlett Johansson, Zac Efron, and Ryan Reynolds, "I don't have a family," Braganza told POPSUGAR. "I was on the road with Jessica Alba for 12 years."
But she wants to leave a legacy — and as the selfless person she is, she wants to continue to share her gifts of service with the world. During a trip to Mumbai, India, the opportunity to do that came into focus.
"I reached a certain point where I was really grateful for all the things that had happened to me, and I wanted to do something to give back," said Braganza. "I contacted a woman at Catholic Relief Services in India who took me to this part of town, kind of like the red light district, and met a woman who runs an 'in-between place.'"
Braganza described a safehouse where young, rescued victims of human trafficking are being housed, rehabilitated, and taught new skills to get jobs. "These girls are between 8 and 18," she said. "The organization that rescues them, Prerana, makes sure they're fed, given a bed, and receive job-skill training in things like beauty or crafts . . . but there's nothing there they can sustain a living from."
It was clear to her what she needed to do with these girls: teach them fitness. All at once, the idea for 321 Empower was born. "The mission is changing the lives of girls who have been saved from trafficking and turning them into fitness trainers," she told POPSUGAR. The goals? "Education, self-confidence building, self-empowerment, exercise and eating right, and giving them an opportunity for the future."
She's been training the girls in the program to get their group fitness and aerobics certifications — and not just so they could get a job. "Mentally, the exercise helps them with whatever they're dealing with." She said that after surviving such a horrific trauma, she hopes these young women can learn to "view their bodies in a more positive way" and learn that their bodies can be used for good. In addition to the career benefits and mental health benefits, these girls can also feel stronger and more secure when it comes to self-defense.
"I'm fundraising to get money for dumbbells and yoga mats . . . they've been using water bottles for weights!" she said. "They don't have exercise clothes, either, so I've been funding this personally." You read that correctly — she's just been doing this out of the goodness of her own heart and caring for these girls with her own money.
And now that she's brought a handful of girls into the world of fitness as newly anointed trainers, she's ready to expand beyond Mumbai. "We can spread out the program and start teaching fitness in more locations," she said. "Girls in India are on the rise; everything is changing over there."
"These girls don't have parents . . . they don't have anybody who loves them. I owe it to them to give back. It's my legacy."