Help me to love the unloveable; the poor in spirit, the broken-hearted, the downtrodden, the abandoned. Help me to love.
Help me to love the unloveable; the poor in spirit, the broken-hearted, the downtrodden, the abandoned. Help me to love.
I swear, this is not what I typically spend my weekend nights doing. Really.
Between being really sick for the past 24 hours, trying to still work today, and having some valuable discussions on the IC controversy, I didn’t get around to acknowledging #IWD on the blog!
This world is filled with some really amazing women and girls doing some really amazing work with great social impact. I can’t give every individual and organization a shout out, but I do encourage people to check out the following:
The International Rescue Committee: Wake Up
As most of you know, I’ve always respected this organization and am a huge fan of their work and the integrity with which they do it. Recently, I’ve had the privilege of meeting and working with some of their staff (who aren’t even on the program side), and I can see the integrity, diligence, careful thought, and passion with which they work.
Below is a video from their Wake Up campaign, which seeks to educate people on the violence and injustice that women face around the world. I think the statistic is 1 in 3 women globally will have been raped, beaten, coerced into sex, and/or abused in her lifetime.
The Wake Up campaign was listed today in Mashable’s “5 Social Media Campaigns Rocking International Women’s Day.” Makes me glad!
The Adventure Project
Yeah, I know you all are probably sick of me always talking about TAP, but the vision that Becky Straw and Jody Landers have is incredible: to eliminate extreme poverty, not through charity but through job creation.
TAP wants to educate Americans on smart giving. Donating to an organization is a social investment, and the women of TAP believe that investing in economic empowerment programs, training programs, and job creation for women in developing countries is an investment in sustainable solutions to poverty, hunger, the water crisis, and global health issues.
This is an old video from over a year ago, but it highlights one of the projects in one of the communities that they partner with: training women mechanics in rural India to repair the broken wells in surrounding areas. Love their projects so much.
(On a side note, co-founder Becky Straw was invited to speak today at the UN on International Women’s Day and women’s empowerment through social business.)
Camfed fights poverty and HIV/AIDS in Africa by educating girls and empowering women to become leaders of change. The organization began in 1993 with a goal to improve the lives of two million children by 2013, and is currently at over 1,400,000 impacted.
“When rural girls and young women graduate from high school, they enter an adult world of massive unemployment.”
What I like about Camfed is that it doesn’t just stop at education; they continue to walk alongside young female graduates by providing seed money (microloans) to help them develop their economic skills and launch small businesses.
Okay, I think it’s time for me to pop some meds and get some rest. But let’s continue celebrating women and girls (not just on March 8th)!
About 15 minutes ago, DC Entertainment and Warner Brothers announced the launch of a new initiative to fight the hunger crisis in the Horn Of Africa. In partnership with The International Rescue Committee, Save The Children, Mercy Corps, and the Justice League itself, the “We Can Be Heroes” campaign seeks to combat the worst hunger crisis in 60 years and bring assistance to over 13 million people in need.
I’ve always been more of a Marvel fan (X-Men wins it all for me), but I have to say kudos to DC for launching a really amazingly done campaign and for giving a 100% match in donations. This is spectacular from a corporate alliance standpoint.
Note: I know that most of my social circles have no idea who she is. It’s okay. She’s only awesome.
So yesterday, I woke up, got ready, and hopped on an extra early train since it was my first day with Good Scout. I arrived far too early though, so I decided to loiter outside and give B a call. In the middle of telling him something, I spotted a woman walking across the cobble stone streets just down the block from where I was standing.
“I’ll call you back. Sorry.” Hung up on my own boyfriend.
Thankfully I wasn’t wearing my extra tall heels when I dashed over to her.
“Excuse me??” I said (or squealed, maybe).
The woman looked at me and replied, “Yes?”
“Are you Jacqueline Novogratz???”
I felt like a teenager who had just spotted Justin Bieber. I’m pretty sure when she said yes to that, my mouth dropped a bit and I blanked for a second. I don’t approach “celebrities” often, but when I do my communication skills (or my overall ability to form coherent thoughts) clearly flies out the door. Not a great track record so far.
Good thing Jacqueline is incredibly nice and down to earth, and was able to overlook my bright-eyed idiocy (seriously, when did I get that way?)
I started telling her how I loved her work and how I loved Acumen Fund. I also added that I literally was just reading her book The Blue Sweater a few minutes ago on the train. I considered pulling it out and showing her, but remembered all the junk in my bag…and pictured everything spilling out in a tangled mess as I attempted to show her that I really was carrying her book…and thought about the awkwardness of bending down in my heels and trying to pick up everything off the ground while doing a juggling act…and became utterly horrified at the potential of such embarrassment…and so I decided not to pull it out. (This entire image and decision happened in less than a split second.)
She kindly searched through her bag for a business card as she recommended that I check out the New York chapter since the Acumen office/Google building was right down the block from my office. (Glad I didn’t try to take that book out. I don’t think they let spazes join their meetings.)
Anyways, since I had the honor of speaking with Jacqueline for a brief moment, I decided that I should share one of her TED Talks. Below is one called, “Inspiring A Life Of Immersion.” It was the first one I had seen of her, though I think it’s the most recent one she’s done.
Check out more TED Talks from her too.
Also, she tweeted me back and wished me good luck! Nice people rock.
Isang Litrong Liwanag is a project being done in the Philippines right now that 1) provides solar light to hundreds of dark homes, 2) upcycles plastic bottles, and 3) is overall pretty eco-friendly.
And from the looks of the video, it seems it could possibly support some kind of micro-entrepreneurship in many communities. But maybe I just think that way because I’m me.
Such a simple solution. Amazing.
I had posted this TED Talk a while back on my previous blog but recently came across is again. I think it’s great, and Jacqueline, as I had said in that old post, is an amazing woman.
The video is a bit lengthy but it’s really great, I assure you. Among the many inspiring stories she tells is one of a little girl during the United States’ early stages of desegregation (around 14:25 in the clip), which is a favorite for me.
Jacqueline Novogratz is the author of The Blue Sweater and the founder of Acumen Fund.
A few weeks ago in the Philippines, I had the opportunity to visit a number of organizations. One of them was Red Window, which focuses on developing economic opportunities for adolescent girls and young women who have been sexually exploited — many at a high risk of re-trafficking.
Red Window was actually founded by a former board member of Restore NYC who had also previously worked in a number of anti-trafficking initiatives such as Hagar. I was not able to meet Laura unfortunately as she’s actually in New York getting her PhD at Columbia School of Social Work (we’ve swapped locations).
I met with Amy Collins, who was the first social work intern at Restore back when it was just launching and is currently part of the staff at Red Window. After talking over dinner with me about her work at the organization, she invited me to observe a day of class with the students.
A few days later, I hopped on a jeepney and headed over to her building, just in time for a class. I actually recognized a few of the students from working with them at The Haven and at Welcome House and was glad to be able to take part in a bit more of their post-care experience.
I actually connected with Red Window because they had helped Restore quite a bit this past year in developing our own job readiness program for our clients. It was pretty exciting to see where our program first stemmed from and how it’s tailored for the two different populations in NYC and in Cebu.
The lesson I observed was conducted pretty much all in Cebuano by two locals but fortunately I understood enough to get by. The focus of the class was developing their vision statements.
I cannot express how much I LOVED this class and how it was run. The teachers were phenomenal and handled everything so wonderfully. I can’t go into the details of the lesson for the sake of respecting Red Window’s lesson plan and program that they worked so hard to create, but I’ll try to give a small glimpse into it.
After the first part of the class, which entailed an exercise that encouraged the girls to develop a sense of their strengths, interests, and aspirations, they were given a short explanation on how to create and write a vision statement. Each girl was given a card to write out her statement.
After each one presented her statement, they moved on to a self-awareness portion. When asked how they felt about their statements — what thoughts and feelings they were experiencing in relation to the statement — they began to shout out things such as “hopeful” and “inspired” and “excited.” I started to wonder how the teacher would handle the girls having completely negative reactions of discouragement towards this activity. And then the girls must have read my mind because some began to say things like “not real/possible” and “too ambitious” and “inadequate.”
I loved what the teacher did then. She wrote each one down on the board, just as they were calling them out. After the list was compiled, she acknowledged the positive feelings/thoughts and then circled the negative ones. She asked, “These statements are not as encouraging, right? These feelings can overwhelm us at times and hinder us greatly. But they’re not true statements. What true statements can we tell ourselves to counter these negative ones?” And as she went down the list, each of the girls began to shout out things targeted to each negative statement.
As she wrote them down, she had them all say it loudly.
“I will be strong!”
“You can do it!”
“I will be confident!”
I then had to butt in. I turned to them and said, “You shouldn’t say ‘I will be strong.’ There is no need to tell yourself to be strong and confidence because you already are strong and confident. Do you know what I’m saying?”
And they all began to nod and rephrase the counter statements to be assertive.
“I AM strong!”
“I AM confident!”
“I can do it!”
“I will not quit!”
The teacher asked for added phrases or quotes or verses as well. Since the girls expressed that they enjoyed Bible verses (it’s a heavily Catholic society) I shared with them Joshua 1:9 — “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid for I, the LORD, and with you wherever you go.”
Each girl chose one or two statements to write down for herself before sharing with the class. A number of them recited the verse from Joshua, which was encouraging to hear from them. The teacher made them re-say it if they didn’t say these positive statements with oomph too, haha. It was nice.
Before I left, I noticed their goals and dreams collages on the wall, which was the first lesson that Kelly had conducted with our clients at Restore and which I had conducted with the girls at The Haven also. Loved seeing it done in so many places!
Though I was at Red Window just for one day and only to observe, I absolutely loved my experience there. The program is great and the staff is great. The students there definitely display some difficulties in seeing their own potential and self-worth but at the same time, there is a lot of resilience shining through which is being encouraged even more by Red Window’s program.
Father Hynes told this story:
One time when I was here [in this Redlight District], all the little kids [points around us] were running around me like this. Two little boys, about 5 or 6 years old, came up to me and were very excited to play and talk with me. I chatted with them for a bit and then asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up. The first boy immediately said to me, “I want to be a priest!”
The second boy didn’t answer. The first boy then elbowed him and said, “You want to be a priest too, right!” The second boy furrowed his brows and pushed the elbow away. He said, “No, I want to be a pimp.”
Now you see what kind of environment they grow up in.
I’m going to try to section up the time I’ve spent here in Cebu, Philippines in separate posts rather than one giant post about 3495879 things I’ve done. Here goes!
The first weekend here, I had the chance to visit Good Shepherd Welcome House, a drop-in center for women who are involved in the sex industry in Cebu. Welcome House provides food and temporary safe shelter for women who are sexually abused or exploited, as well as supportive counseling and some case management, especially for heroin-addicted women (whom they call “shooters” in Cebu).
I spent the day with the women who lived there as well as some who were stopping by for food or other services. Some of them were working on the IGP (Income Generating Project — basically a “social enterprise”-like portion of the program at Welcome House), making necklaces that attached to conference name-tag covers. I thought that was an interesting product to focus on…
It was good getting to know the ladies — they were all pretty excited to talk with me and teach me a bit about their lives and the culture in Cebu, especially in the poorer areas and in the Redlight District.
In the late afternoon, before the night-time outreach, the social worker there (her nickname/alias name at the House is “Nice”) took me to walk around Colon Street where most of the women hang around for “work.” She introduced me to some women as she passed out condoms and tried to encourage those who haven’t been around the House to come by.
Much later at night, from around 7:00pm until about midnight, we went out to Camiguyan (don’t know how to spell it & I can’t seem to find it online), the Redlight District of that area. Essentially, it was a squatters’ area with all the “houses” (really just individual small rooms) and stores so close to one another that it seems almost like one giant house with hundreds of people living in it, walking in and out of rooms and running down the hallway-like streets.
I went with Nice and Jiji (my host here in Cebu, and a counselor/professor) as well as Eliza (a local UNICEF worker) and Father Hynes. Father Hynes is a German priest who’s lived in Cebu longer than I’ve been alive. He’s well-known in the community, especially because he helps distribute medicine and supplements to people in need. Also, he’s a riot — everyone thinks he’s hilarious (I have no idea since I don’t speak Cebuano…sadface).
Spent the night chatting with the young girls of the community who are involved in the sex industry. Many of them feel stuck in what they do for various reasons but the most common stories seemed to be:
It was heartbreaking to see so many of them just weaving in and out of the streets and rooms, some leaving our conversations when a customer came for them at their stores (one disguised as a KTV room).
Thus far, a lot of the Philippines is very similar to countries like the Dominican Republic (former Spanish colonies) but I had never seen a place like Camiguyan. It was definitely a new experience for me.