Awaken was co-founded by two women–Melissa Holland and Jen Robinson.
When Melissa was in junior high, her parents separated. In order to cope, she turned to drugs and alcohol. She became addicted. But by age 20, she started attending Alcoholic Anonymous meetings and became sober. Soon after, she found Christianity, and it changed her life.
Melissa spent four years teaching English in China, then returned home to attend graduate school. She decided to move close to her mother in Reno, where she earned her Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy from the University of Nevada. While in school, she met the founder of an organization who helped Cambodian women in prostitution. She decided she would return to Asia after school to work with this issue, and began looking for local experience that would help her abroad. While she learned about the severity of the problem in Reno, she was shocked to discover there were no local organizations helping these women. She knew she had to do something.
Melissa began offering weekly counseling sessions for these women, when she met Jen Robinson at bible study. Jen began driving the women to and from their appointments. But they quickly realized the women needed more than just counseling sessions. So, together, they founded Awaken in May of 2011. It’s been growing ever since.