Women Helping Women | Part 1 (And an invitation to join us in donating responsibly to Nepal)

This blog post was written days before the Nepal earthquake. I have not posted it until now as my thoughts and prayers have been with the people of Nepal as they respond to this catastrophic event. I decided to post this now with the invitation to join Ross and I in giving to an organization to help with relief efforts. A few organizations that Ross’s family has been a part of over the years (and we trust) include: 

1. Mennonite Central Committee | https://donate.mcc.org/cause/nepal-earthquake

2. United Mission to Nepal | http://www.umn.org.np/page/give-earthquake

3. International Nepal Fellowship | http://www.inf.org/news/the-situation-in-gorkha

4. Rescue Network Nepal – Go to link,  select “Project”, scroll down to RNN on list. This one is a small Nepali Christian NGO that needs more funds as they are getting calls from pastors in the area who know them and are requesting help, but they have run out of First Aid supplies. https://app.etapestry.com/hosted/WorldMissionPrayerLeague/OnlineDonation.html

5. WomenLEAD | Women LEAD is an organization close to my heart due to its mission. All donations go directly to WomenLEADers who are coordinating and participating in immediate relief work and long-term efforts. https://www.facebook.com/womenLEAD?pnref=story

Something to think about: 

“More than in past disasters, I’ve seen many people on social media encouraging others to donate to local Nepalese organizations who know their country, and who will stay long after the relief phase ends.

Those engaged in the response, whether covering it or participating in it, now have to ask the questions we’ve failed to ask in the past: How exactly did the earthquake affect a given problem? What are the specific goals of the relief effort concerning it? And how will we know if they’ve been met?”   -Jonathan M. Katz

In my first blog post, I wrote about keeping dreams alive. Some of you asked me what dreams specifically I was talking about. I realized that if you are going to be super vulnerable on the interwebs, then you kind of have to go all or nothing. Otherwise, it’s just vagueness…shiny ideas with no backbone. We all want to be known, but sometimes we don’t want the messiness that comes along with it. I started this blog to update people near and far on what is going on with me and Ross, since we can’t always have a conversation on the regular with people we would like to. It was also started out of a need to keep dreaming, as I said in that first blog post. As I dream and keep hope alive, I don’t want to end up with a blog that is all fluff. All sparkles and no mess. All pretty photos of a life we all wish we had and no evidence of struggle or sacrifice, or any of the things that Jesus says we WILL have in this life.

I have been thinking a lot about the importance of women. I remember a few years ago when I first read Nicholas Kristof’s Half the Sky. It was right before moving to Kabul and working with girls at an international school. I was blown away by the potential financial and relational impact women could have on entire communities if they weren’t stripped of value and made to feel powerless.

Again and again, these systems of power and privilege continue a cycle of poverty…whether it is physical poverty or poverty of the mind.

A lot those same issues of empowering and lifting up women have been coming up again for me lately. This is something I know I would like to pour into for the rest of my life. However, I’m realizing that “pouring in” doesn’t always feel good. I think back to one of my favorite people, a great mentor and friend, May Praseuth. She is someone who I believe has been tireless when it comes to fighting for others, especially for the lives of women. It has not always been in ways that bring her any kind of spotlight or praise. She is someone who has been in the trenches, reaching out even when rejected, reminding others of who they are even when they won’t listen. She has been doing the work that is not fabulous or shiny or cute. She has been living alongside. And that is messy. And it takes humility. A heart that says “Not me, but you.”

I’m not going to even pretend to say that I am there yet. I am selfish and I have the natural instinct to take care of number one. I am, though, thinking and trying in these days to think about number one a little less and walking alongside a little more.
I am stumbling and bumbling my way through living out this value of women helping other women…here are a few ways I am trying to walk it out. These are small contributions when compared with the amazing sacrifices and feats of organizations and women globally, but maybe, just maybe it is a step in the right direction.

I haven’t really written about this at all yet, but I started teaching a Zumba class. HA! I know right?! What in the world. But, honestly, this is one of the ways God has been bringing up this passion for supporting women again in recent months. I started taking a Zumba class last year because it was fun, difficult, and a great motivator to go hard in my workout. I liked the feeling of working out alongside so many women from all walks of life. There was a team-spirit thing goin’ on in that room so you could almost hear people’s thoughts saying “We can do this!” With the help of a few ladies from our school, a Zumba class formed that has been meeting once a week. Instead of putting a price tag on this class, I have been making it donations-based and giving any and all donations that come in to an organization in Seoul that houses and empowers women and children coming out of trafficking situations. This organization is called House of Hope and is still in its grassroots stages, getting their building ready while they house a few women and continue to grow. The idea is simple. Women helping women. Throw in good community and getting your workout in and it’s hard to say no to. We will see where this goes. It came up quite unexpectedly and I am definitely learning as I go.

YISS Zumba!

I have been inspired lately by this simple idea…women helping women. It’s so crazy it just might work, right? There are many great organizations doing this kind of work already. Instead of listing them out now, I’d rather do a separate blog totally dedicated to looking at these amazing organizations so we can all see what’s out there.

Last bit of news on this topic is about an upcoming project I have with another amazing organization for women called WomenLEAD. WLEAD is based in Kathmandu, Nepal (where Ross spent some instrumental growing up years) and works to develop female leaders with skills and support to become change-makers in their communities. They believe that this is the key to peaceful and inclusive societies. The news is…

I get to teach workshops at WomenLEAD this summer!  This is so exciting to me. Just like Zumba, I’m not sure where this will go, but I am so thrilled for the opportunity to volunteer and get to know some of these future female leaders.

Ross and I had already planned a trip to Nepal for 2 weeks this summer. While we were at Crossroads over spring break, I thought “We should do some volunteering while we’re in Nepal.” So, I wrote to WomenLEAD and asked if they would be interested in some dance and writing workshops. I got to Skype with 2 women who work there and they asked about some of the projects I had put together while working with girls in Kabul. They especially liked my “Dear Sir” project, which included writing letters to “Sir” and expressing how men’s actions and words affect us…and how we wish they would behave instead. I am so looking forward to putting together these workshops, which I will be teaching over 3 days there. I may use some of these project ideas from Kabul, but am also starting to turn over new ideas to implement. This is reminding me how much  I love this kind of work. I LOVE giving women tools for expression, walking alongside as they discover what they really want to say, and witnessing their courage as they say it. 

So, this one goes out to May Praseuth, one of many women in my life who has shown me the importance of mentorship and walking alongside…even when it’s not cute. I am forever grateful for her tenacious love and firm belief in the power of women helping women.

If you have read this far, then consider again giving to an organization dedicated to providing immediate response but will also continue to work in Nepal past the relief phase. 

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