Archives for May 2011

Journey of Compassion: Walking a Mile in Her Shoes

Homeless Woman, Los Angeles, California


You’ve no doubt heard the expression: You never truly know someone until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.  Make that her shoes. Our lives seem to have become so self-focused and self-serving that our compassion level for others has become dull and taken a backseat. So what exactly is compassion? It is defined as sympathy for the suffering of others, often including a desire to help.

It’s easy to poke a stick at something, or someone, from a distance. We taunt, ridicule, make uninformed accusations and false assumptions. And it is all too easy to judge externals, becoming self-proclaimed critics of that which we do not understand. We hide behind shadows or sit on lofty perches as we dispense judgments, but regardless of our methodology, they are only our judgments—our limited and flawed estimation of the truth.

How can we know where a woman has really been until we know her — know her story, know her life and until we have in essence, walked a mile in her shoes?

Offering a Hand Up

If only we were to sit down and speak eye to eye and listen heart to heart, we would understand the full truth about her life. It’s likely that in more cases than not, our conclusions would be dramatically altered. Giving a hand up benefits two people, the recipient and the giver. But extending no hand and holding another person down serves no one. How much more powerful to funnel our energy into benevolence, prayer, positive words and action through things like social justice, spiritual transformation, practical compassion and creative advocacy.
 

Empathy is the ability to identify with and understand another
person’s feelings or difficulties.


Circumstances Do Not Define a Person

Masai Women, Tanzania

Many women suffer from the fallout of oppression. While some struggle with cultural and gender discrimination resulting in a lack of education, opportunity and personal freedom, others suffer under the oppression of violence, forced labor or are sex trafficked resulting in stolen lives. Many girls and women are basically discarded. Scarred and despairing, they live their lives in the wake of abandonment.

Maybe you know of a woman burdened by lies she was told about herself. Like the story of Cinderella, she was told that the better shoes weren’t for her and she was relegated to “her place” in life. And then, there are women who have, for whatever reason, made bad choices and because of those decisions, are not wearing the shoes intended for them. They are not alive to their own destiny and higher purpose.

The good news is, as long as there is still a road ahead to travel, she can make positive choices in the place where she finds herself and with what is in her hand. The journey is still in the making.

“Circumstances do not define a person, they are only stepping stones in their journey to wherever they intend to go” –April McCallum

Choice of Shoes

Women's Shoes Shanghai Market


Just because she was born into a land of less opportunity, a different color skin, a culture where women don’t have a voice and equal rights, or she has made unwise decisions maybe unlike our own–it doesn’t make us better, it makes us different.

We may not relate to the devastating poverty, abuse or discrimination she has faced, but it doesn’t make her less of a person for suffering from it as a result.

We may have made better choices, but it doesn’t make her dreams or destiny less valuable. It doesn’t make her less worthy as a human being.
 

“Suffering and joy teach us, if we allow them, how to make the leap of empathy, which transports us into the soul and heart of another person. ln those transparent moments we know other people’s joys and sorrows, and we care about their concerns as if they were our own.” -Fritz Williams

But for the Grace of God


There’s a familiar quote that says: There but for the grace of God, go I. None of us choose the family, nation, time in history, political persuasion, talents, physical body, intellectual capacity or skin color that we are born into. We cannot take credit. We had nothing to do with it. We only have control over what we choose to do with what we’ve been dealt.

Are we compassionate, kind, giving, loving, forgiving, understanding and honest? Do we hoard all that is within our power—our talents, influence, abilities, wealth and creativity—for ourselves, our own pleasure? Or do we steward these gifts well by sharing them with others. Are we givers, or are we merely takers?

If we look not only where her shoes have taken her, but why, and are honest about it… we become softer, kinder and more compassionate. If we are willing to take the lenses off to see her maybe even for the first time through a transparent filter — She becomes us, and we, her.

We can commit to swap shoes once in awhile, and teach our daughters, and the next generation, to do the same. Therein lies the journey of compassion.

“One who walks the road with love… will never walk the road alone.”

© by April McCallum, Destiny’s Women

(Photos by Dave Blume, Jess McCullochDavid Dennis, World Bank, Markusram)

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Trafficking Film–Sacrifice: The Story of Child Prostitutes from Burma


Each year thousands of young girls are recruited from rural Burmese villages to work in the sex industry in neighboring Thailand. Held for years in debt bondage in illegal Thai brothels, they suffer extreme abuse by pimps, clients, and the police.

The basic provisions awarding children protection from sexual abuse is found in the Penal Code of Myanmar: Legislation against child prostitution –Human Trafficking.org

As in any culture, laws cannot control the appetites that force the demand. Unfortunately, the trafficking of Burmese girls has soared in recent years as a direct result of political repression in Burma. Human rights abuses, war and ethnic discrimination have displaced hundreds of thousands of families, leaving families with no means of livelihood. An offer of employment in Thailand is a rare chance for many families to escape extreme poverty.

High demand in the sex industry has forced business operators to find other sources of prostitutes and they have attracted children from Myanmar and hill tribes in neighboring areas to replace the Thai children.
Conflict, violence and a higher level of poverty in Myanmar have forced girls and women into the Thai sex industry. -Asian Economic News

Sacrifice examines the social, cultural, and economic forces at work in the trafficking of Burmese girls into prostitution in Thailand. It is the story of the valuation and sale of human beings, and the efforts of teenage girls to survive a personal crisis born of economic and political repression.

Burma has the third highest HIV prevalence rate in Asia, after Cambodia and Thailand, sex workers are particularly at risk, with 32% infected with the disease. -UNAIDS

Film Reviews

“Unflinching in its account of abuse and corruption, Sacrifice derives much of its power from the testimonies of four girls, who speak directly to viewers with a painful directness beyond their young years. Bruno demonstrates an exceptional knack for conveying the complex facts and emotional upheaval of globally relevant true stories. In the sobering yet poetic Sacrifice, Bruno presents the terribly moving first-person accounts of four young girls from Burma who were virtually kidnapped from their homes and forced into a life of prostitution in Thailand. As with all her films. Bruno approaches difficult issues with the intent of uncovering hard truths and giving voice to people who are too often marginalized or misrepresented by mainstream media.”
–Steven Jenkins, Film/Tape World



Sacrifice offers a view of the terrible odds faced by women born into poverty where the only commodity for sale are their bodies.” These are complicated stories that get beneath tabloid headlines to capture, with great visual invention, the dignity and damaged nobility of young Burmese victims. The lives of these women are revealed to be the stuff of fairy tale…
 the magic goes bad and the witch, the ogre, and the monster win the day in this chilling view of sexual exploitation… one we have never seen before.”
–B. Ruby Rich, San Francisco Bay Guardian



“Compelling interviews and beautiful photography create a complex portrait of economic conditions in Burma, and the impact this has on families, rural villages and the young women themselves.”–San Francisco International Film Festival



Sacrifice counterpoints forthright tales of four young prostitutes with mesmerizing images: a woman standing in a door frame awaiting her fate juxtaposed with farmers cultivating the fields. The images make a poignant plea for survival, both of the exiled women and the tormented land.”
–Andrea Alsberg, Sundance Film Festival



About the Filmmaker: Ellen Bruno

Filmmaker and international relief worker Ellen Bruno has spent much of the last 20 years in Southeast Asia.

Bruno began her relief efforts more than 25 years ago in Mexico, working in remote Mayan villages. Since then she worked in refugee camps on the Thai-Cambodian border, as field coordinator for the International Rescue Committee and served for four years as director of the Cambodian Women’s Project for the American Friends Service Committee. She has also worked as a hospice worker for the Zen Hospice Project in San Francisco, providing bedside assistance for people dying of AIDS and cancer.

Sacrifice is the final film in her Asian trilogy, all of which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

More Info on the Issues:
Open Society Foundations: Burma Project Southeast Asia Initiative
Human Trafficking in Burma
Human Trafficking in Thailand

More Info on the Film:
About the Filmmaker: Ellen Bruno, About Bruno Films
Order the Film: Sacrifice

© By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women -“Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

(Photo by Daniel N. Reid)

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Women: Sex, Drugs, Alcohol & Other Addictions

 

What is Addiction?

Addiction can be defined as the pursuit of reward and/or relief by use of drugs, alcohol and/or a combination of other behaviors (according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine). 

The term addiction is also sometimes applied to compulsions that are not substance-related, such as compulsive shopping, sex addiction, pornography, compulsive sex, overeating, problem gambling and computer addiction. In these kinds of common usages, the term addiction is used to describe a recurring compulsion by an individual to engage in some specific activity, despite harmful consequences, as deemed by the user himself to his individual health, mental state, or social life.

Catalysts for Addiction

Women are unique in that the catalysts for their addiction or substance abuse are often quite different from those of men. These may include:

  • Sexual victimization in childhood or adolescence
  • Domestic abuse from a partner or spouse
  • Anxiety disorders and depression
  • Low self-esteem

In some cases, the trauma of abuse and violence leads to substance abuse and other addictive behaviors, which can create phobic, depressive, and antisocial personality disorders that can affect the outcome of a woman’s recovery.  Women in America are far more likely to struggle with certain issues like anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Different histories and experiences inevitably spawn different psychologies, meaning women in search of better recovery often require approaches geared toward their emotional needs. 

Facts About Women & Drug Abuse

– 9 million women have used illegal drugs in the past year

– 3.7 million women have taken prescription drugs non-medically during the past year

– More than 28,000 (70%) of the AIDS cases among women are drug-related

– More than 4 million women of all ages, races and cultures living in the U.S. abuse drugs 

Most women drug abusers use more than one drug.  Women can also become addicted quickly to certain drugs, such as crack cocaine, therefore, by the time they seek help, their addiction may be difficult to treat. Women who use drugs often suffer from other serious health problems, sexually transmitted diseases, and mental health problems, such as depression.

Many women who use drugs have had troubled lives. Studies have found that at least 70 percent of women drug users have been sexually abused by the age of 16 and most of these women had at least one parent who abused alcohol or drugs.

Alcohol, Drugs, Sex & Death

Drugs can have an oppressive hold on women placing them in a bondage they never dreamed of before their addiction took hold. It can turn them into slaves of their preferred substance, to lifestyles they wouldn’t have initially chosen for themselves and to the people who enable their addiction for personal gain.

Women who use drugs risk becoming infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The virus can be spread through needles used to inject drugs and through sexual contact. Women who have sex with men who inject drugs are at great risk. Today, almost 70 percent of AIDS cases in women are related to either injecting drugs or having sex with a man who injects drugs.

AIDS is now the fourth leading cause of death among women

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “Chronic alcohol abuse exacts a greater physical toll on women than on men. Female alcoholics have death rates 50 to 100 percent higher than those of male alcoholics”. Also, women who drink while they are pregnant not only jeopardize their own health, but place their unborn babies at very high risk.

The Not-So-Pretty Side of Substance Abuse

You’ve heard the expression: “Girls just wanna have fun”. Unfortunately, the sleek, fun, fast-living portrayal of women enjoying life through hard partying and sexual freedom doesn’t match reality. What it doesn’t show is girls puking their guts out because once again, they drank or drugged way too much, compromised their ethics to satisfy their addiction, entertained a string of lovers who really didn’t love them, but used her body for their own pleasure or women selling their soul only to meet the devil on the other side, often leaving their children physically hungry and emotionally starved.

The morning after never looks quite as pretty as in the movies. Maybe you remember the lyrics from the Eagles song, Life in the Fast Lane:

“They knew all the right people, they took all the right pills They threw outrageous parties, they paid heavenly bills. There were lines on the mirror, lines on her face She pretended not to notice, she was caught up in the race” 

Women who abuse drugs and alcohol often have low self-esteem, little self-confidence, and feel powerless. They often feel lonely and are isolated from support networks. They become separated from their true self and destiny.

Other Seductive & Powerful Addictions

There is another form of bondage women wrestle with categorized by some as “Soft Addictions”. Unlike drugs or alcohol (considered “hard addictions”) they captivate us, bring us pleasure and seem harmless. Soft addictions may be unhealthy habits, compulsive behaviors, chronic moods or negative thought patterns. Their essential defining quality is that they satisfy a surface want but disregard or block the deeper need. They bring a superficial high instead of true feelings of accomplishment.

Numerous addictions of this sort concern necessary activities such as eating, reading, and sleeping. They turn into addictions as soon as we overdo them and start using them for things other than their intended purpose. When we realize how much time, energy and emotion we dedicate to them, however, we can see how they will soon compromise the quality of our lives.

Why Not Get Help?

Unfortunately, there are many reasons why women do not seek help, but fear is a strong silencer.  In the case of substance abuse it might be the fear of authorities, the inability to provide childcare, loss of income from their job, that their children may be taken away or violence from their husbands, boyfriends, traffickers or pimps.

In the case of other compulsions and addictions that keep her bound, fear still rules. The fear of being “found out” or exposed, of losing the false control she thought she’d found through her soft addictions, and/or giving up the temporary pleasure high in exchange for a genuine cleansing and freedom she’s never experienced.  But, it is possible to break free!

Will the Real Me Please Stand Up

Sociologist Judith Grant conducted research at Ohio University where she observed that many women could not specify a turning point that prompted their recovery.  In most cases, the awareness of the need to overcome their substance abuse was a slow process. Their recovery success did not hinge on changing their identities from “addict” to “ex-addict,” rather, by unearthing their real selves. The women viewed using drugs and alcohol as an activity they were involved in, not an identity they had assumed.

“They bring back an old identity from before they got addicted, before the violence and drug abuse,” she said. “This is really me now,’ they say. ‘The blanket is gone.'”

Judith Wright, author of Soft Addictions: There Must Be More Than This, writes: “It’s not like it’s a quick fix. It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s really about learning to live the journey of life. It’s cumulative. You’re discovering who you really are.”

Breaking Free & Living Free

Family and friends play an important role in helping a woman get clean, sober and free. Addiction treatment programs plus family education, spiritual and practical counseling will help in her recovery, along with everyday help with things like childcare, employment and transportation.

Although community support and addiction treatment programs are key, it’s critical to cut out the root of the cause–not just treat the symptoms of substance abuse or addiction.

Once a woman understands the underlying issues of her perceived need and misplaced dependence on a substance or behavior to cope with everyday life, she can begin to face the hurts, failures, disappointments and pain of her past. Then, with the aid of a good counselor or professional support system, she can begin to honestly peel back the layers and regain confidence and the truth about herself and her future.

Life is for living—for living free.  Free from the voices, whether external or internal, that tell her lies about herself–her abilities, her status in life and about her future. She needs to understand that she matters and life doesn’t have to be this way. Her children also deserve a better life, free from the shackles of her addictions. Her choices will eventually set the course for their futures as well.      

Whatever keeps us in bondage, out of reach of our God-given destinies and opposes our freedom–enslaves us and keeps us from truly living. Wake up, breathe and help others to do the same.  Time is short.  Choose life!

© by April McCallum, Destiny’s Women

More Information:

National Institute on Drug Abuse

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

There Must Be More Than This: Finding More Life, Love and Meaning by Overcoming Your Soft Addictions by Judith Wright

Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous

Sources: (NIH) National Institute on Drug Abuse, CHPA, CASA Columbia University, Ohio University, GMS Psycho-Social Medicine

(Photos by Gabriela Camerotti, Alexandre Normand, Andronicusmax, pretty saro)

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Domestic Violence: But He Really is a Good Person

How many times have you heard a woman say these words after she’s been abused: “But he really is a good person”. She then goes into all of the things that have been difficult in his life, all of the things that have kept him down and made him a victim.

The Victim Card

As if to say what?  He really doesn’t mean to be a bad person. Just look at his life, the cards were stacked against him. As if to say: Because of his past, he doesn’t have a personal choice in his future actions? As if to say: If those bad things didn’t happen in his life he wouldn’t be the way he is today. Wouldn’t he?

Over and over we have seen statistics and read stories about women who have been caught in the storm of violence perpetrated by a husband or lover—someone she knows intimately.  They sit on their friends’ couches, in their therapist’s office, in a bar, or at a police station, with their bruises, cuts and outward scars. They say things like: “But he really is a good person.  I know he didn’t mean to do it.  He loves me.”

The Past Does Not Dictate the Future

We have to stop and think. We have to stop and think for ourselves. We all make choices. We all have the opportunity to make good choices or bad choices–choices that will eventually affect other people for better or worse.

Have you ever known a person who had difficult or even heartbreaking circumstances growing up, that ended up being a good person who made good choices?  A person who, even under tragic or seemingly hopeless circumstances, lived a life that positively impacted others and the world around them?  In my experience, the answer is a resounding “yes!”  No one really just “ends up” being anything. We all make decisions—based on our past, present, future, or some mindset or belief—but we make them. WE make them.

I have known people whose lives were filled with experiences that anyone would consider atrocities, travesties. Some, by one choice at a time, built a life filled with garbage that they in turn, perpetrated on others. They patterned their lives after their own hurt, betrayal and rejection. I have also known people who intentionally built their lives one step at a time, on goodness and wholeness. They made conscious decisions to not pattern their lives on more of the same, rather, to decisively take back control and make something good out of something very bad. Because of their choices, they live positive lives that impact others and the world around them in constructive ways.

Mistake, Accident, or Choice?

There are people who purposely hurt other people for whatever reasons and it is never acceptable. Do people make mistakes and truly regret them? Yes. Do people hurt other people on accident? No, I don’t believe so. Inflicting harm on another person is always intentional. Whether purposely abusing someone, or by claim of mistake or accident, something in a person acts as a catalyst to reach the point of anger, rage or eventual violence.

No matter how we slice it, we don’t even need to know the reasons why or understand what that catalyst is. What we need to do is run. Run hard, run fast, and encourage our loved ones to do the same. Because today we may see a bruise, a cut or a scar outwardly that will eventually mend. But, tomorrow will most certainly reveal inner damage, psychological trauma and scarring that can last a lifetime.

No, he really isn’t a good person. Every human being has the ability to make choices and he has made very bad ones.

Can good people make bad choices sometimes? Yes, of course, but trying to analyze all of the compartments of a person only complicates things. Let’s be clear on the issue of violence and abuse.

If a man physically and/or psychologically abuses a woman, it is not by accident and it is not by mistake… It is by choice.

Statistics Don’t Lie

Statistics don’t lie. The abuse will repeat itself. Love does not choose to hurt another person we claim to love.  And never forget, it is a choice. He needs help, but you are not the one to give it.  While defending him as a victim, you will only become his victim again.

In the worst cases, the reality is that we may not see the bruises, the cuts or the scars tomorrow… because tomorrow may never come.

© by April McCallum, Destiny’s Women

(Photos by Dave Blume, Meg Yarsh, Pietro Izzo)

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Generational Oppression: Girls Become Women who Become Mothers

If it is true that we are products of our environment, how important it is for us women who are mothers to pay close attention to the messages we send to our daughters–step-daughters, granddaughters, nieces, foster children–and other girls in our lives.

The Power of Influence

On one hand, it is exciting to know the power of positive influence that we have in our control as women. By the same token, it is sobering to understand that we can easily abuse that power and cause great intentional or unintentional damage as well.

Women who suffer neglect or abuse as children may grow up to become mothers who neglect and abuse their own. This is also true for men who become fathers. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

There are some mothers who are perpetually self-focused and make decisions based on satisfying their own (real or perceived) needs and desires. How many stories have we heard about a mother who had multiple lovers in and out of her home, chronic drug/alcohol addictions, or stood by her abusive man?  Maybe she longed for the elusive happily-ever-after, but looked for it in all of the wrong places. Or maybe, she watched her own mother and became–just like her.

Is Home Where the Heart is?

“Home” for some, is a place where a family grows together in love.  In a healthy environment it may conjure up memories of laughter, the smell of cookies baking, the expectation of celebrating holidays and family vacations together, playing games or sharing stories and the security of loving parents.

Yet, for others, home, the place that was meant to offer love, nurturing and safety, may invoke memories of a living hell.

It may have been a dark place where in some cases, not only did mother have lovers in and out of her home, but in and out of her bed–and eventually, in and out of her daughter’s bed. For others, it was an abusive place where the one who was supposed to protect us from an abusive father, step-father or boyfriend, instead looked the other way, told us it was somehow our fault, or taught us that was just how men were. Or, a depressing place where when we needed her to be strong–for herself and for us—she chose instead to be weak and not stand up for what was right: to sober up, wise up, or, to simply think for herself.

We Are Our Daughter’s Teacher

When our daughters watch with their little soft sparking eyes, the abuse, addictions, constant verbal bullying, or violence that their mothers endure, they learn by default that this is how life is.  It is the environment that we have created for her. 

                           To be exposed to something, someone has to be the “exposer”

Through the process, she is wrongly taught who she is, what her station is in life and how life is to be lived. She wrongly believes that’s just how men are, and how a woman is to be treated. As time passes, her senses may become increasingly dull and she may accept it as her life. Eventually, those little soft eyes become hard, along with her heart, and her sparkle is stripped away. 

Then one day, she meets a man that will “take her away” and “make it all better.” Often she mistakes a type of man she has seen somewhere in her childhood, as a hero, someone who will really love her. “Love her” as defined by the only definition she has ever known. Before long, she discovers her knight in shining armor was only a fantasy in her imagination. 

The Cycle Repeats 

Sadly, the cycle repeats itself.  All too often, she believes the lie and settles. She settles because she was a good student. She watched very attentively how her mother taught her–either by words or actions–to keep quiet, to not stand up for herself, to not respect herself and that her opinion didn’t matter. She surmised in fact, that she didn’t matter.
 

     “The mother’s heart is the child’s school-room.” –Henry Ward Beecher

She learned to shut down her feelings because they weren’t important. Shut down her senses so she would forget the grave disappointment and abuse. Shut down her hopes because to have hope, you have to want for something better. But she’s convinced that she doesn’t deserve something better.

There are so many stories and reasons why women are oppressed. But in the cases where there is a choice to flee from an oppressor, be it an abusive relationship or a prison she finds herself in from her own poor choices—we need to love our daughters enough to not take them there with us.

If you are a mother who has made choices to live with abuse in any form, don’t think you are hiding the truth, absorbing the hurt, or living through it alone. You are living it, but she is also living it. You are your daughter’s primary teacher and role model and she is watching you.

She is Watching You… Choose Love.

As mothers, we have the privilege and responsibility to teach our daughter’s about life and love—to nurture them and help grow them into strong women who understand the value of their life, and how life is to be lived.

Like little wooden stacking dolls, we regenerate ourselves. Girls become women who become mothers. When your daughter looks to you as her mirror, what will your reflection say to her? Will she see emptiness, betrayal, disappointment and failure—or, will it speak of her value, self-worth and a promising future? Gift her with the greatest keys a mother can give, the strength of love and hope.

© by April McCallum, Destiny’s Women
(Photo by yazmdg )

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Her Story: Women’s Stories of Oppression & Freedom

 

When you think of a woman who is being held captive, what does your mind’s eye see?  Do you imagine some form of restraint, a cryptic strong-armed figure or a cage that demands a key?  

Cages of Oppression & Keys to Freedom

Oppression comes in many forms, but however it emerges, it is not always visible to the human eye.  Ask the women who know.

They may have suffered at the hands of a violent oppressor who beat them, sexually abused or raped them, or by a tyrannical greed-driven taskmaster who coerced them into a position of forced labor.

Others have been cruelly subjected to verbal or psychological abuse, and while their bodies show no outward signs of harm, their hidden self is bruised, battered and twisted–weighted down by the heavy burden of chronic inner turmoil. 

Some may appear to lead “normal” lives, free from the aggressive abuse wielded by a strange or familiar hand, but they are women who live in the extreme bondage and heavy cloak of oppression brought on by physical or mental illness, acute self-image issues or some form of strangling addiction.

Freedom is the oxygen of the soul.  –Moshe Dayan

 A woman contending with anything that hinders, suppresses or tries to snuff out her ability to be free and to live out her life’s purpose, is in bondage, and—whether shackled on the outside or from within—she is not yet liberated.

 

Telling Her Story – Propagating Hope

Every life has a story. With the first breath a baby takes, their outward journey begins. While some paths lead to success, health and wholeness—free from the death grip of oppression–sadly, others do not.

For those who exist under some form of bondage, whether by another’s will or by their own choices, they have a story to tell. Some are heroic, triumphant or inspiring. Others are tragic, disheartening or senseless. Not every story has a positive ending.  Not every life is set free. 

Learn from yesterday, live today, hope for tomorrow –Albert Einstein

We must learn from the stories—from the lives of women who lived as captives—both from the ones who broke free, and from the ones who did not.  For in telling the stories, we bring life to others who still have a chance.  It is called hope. 

In some cases, we can play an active role in rescuing and redeeming, while in others, we advocate for change or for the discovery of a cure. 

In telling her story–women’s stories of oppression and freedom–we rejoice in the victories of those who have found freedom from their captors and in doing so, we find inspiration, challenge and hope for ourselves.  For those who did not find freedom, we purpose to not let the seed fall into the ground without bearing fruit for others who still have a chance to find their freedom.  May their stories take root and bloom to also bring life and hope.

Let’s continue to champion our sisters who have found their path to freedom and also commit in our own way to bring life through the fallen petals of the lives of those who did not. 

© by April McCallum, Destiny’s Women

(Photos by BairoPretty Saro, Tina Sea)

 

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Just Cards Direct: Providing Justice, Dignity and Hope for Disadvantaged Women


Just Cards Direct – The Vision
Once in awhile a story comes along about people who get together and dream about how to help other people live better. This is one of those stories. In 2007, a group of friends who shared a common interest—a heart for the poor and disadvantaged—began thinking and talking about opportunity and possibility, and out of that place, a dream was birthed to create handmade greeting cards.

Coupling their creativity with their desire to advocate and make a tangible difference in the lives of others less fortunate, they began to plot out their vision. Soliciting the use of their prayers, hearts and hands to guide in the process, their vision began to take shape, and before they knew it–Just Cards Direct became a reality.

Just Cards doesn’t just sell greeting cards—the heart of their mission is to help provide justice, dignity and hope for the disadvantaged through the promotion and sales of their handmade treasures. Just Cards imports and sells handmade greetings cards from Africa and printed cards from around the world.

Offering Hope to the Hopeless
Working in partnership with card-making community projects in the developing world, Just Cards helps to provide jobs, self-worth and security to women and children who live under oppressive circumstances. In many cases the cards provide the only income to a widow or an orphan. They practice fair-trade principles and strive to bring hope to those who have been neglected, downtrodden and traumatized.

“Together, may we loose the chains of injustice, untie the cords of the yoke and set the oppressed free.” –Anne Horrobin 
Director, Just Cards Direct Ltd

Supporting Oppressed Women in Africa

The Handicraft Card Project — Rwanda

Just Cards Direct supports two special projects in Rwanda. Cards from Africa employs young people who were orphaned in the 1994 genocide and another that supports widows.

They buy from several banana leaf card-making projects in Rwanda. The cards are made by harvesting banana bark and leaves from the local area, before cutting and shaping them into complex designs portraying local life.

Kipepeo Cards Project — Kenya

In Kenya, Just Cards supports Kipepeo Cards, a project based in Kibera Slum that employs 16 women. Kipepeo Designs cards are handmade by women who live in Kibera using recycled paper.

Karabo Card Project — Mamelodi Township, South Africa

The Karabo Card Project was established in 2007 as a “community upliftment” project in Mamelodi Township, South Africa. The Township is home to 1.5 million people, many of whom are unemployed, and 25% of whom are infected with HIV. The people who work at the project would otherwise have little means of feeding themselves and their families. Materials from soda pop cans and recycled paper are incorporated into their designs.

The name of the project ‘Karabo’, was chosen by the local people. It means ‘answer’ in the local Pedi language. They chose this name as they believe the project was God’s answer to the cry for help which came from their hearts. 

Making a Difference

Just Card’s offers a wide range of high-quality handmade cards from Africa, plus some printed in the UK and Australia, which are available through their website, individual traders, conferences and a number of retail outlets.  

They also give away over 25% of their profits to Christian charities who share their values in providing justice, dignity and hope to disadvantaged women and their families.

Jennifer Brown is a Trader for Just Cards. Originally from South Africa, she understands the oppression of women and the reality for the disenfranchised people who live there. She says:

“I have witnessed the desperate need for employment – work that offers people not only an income to survive but a dignified purpose to their lives. These are beautiful, individually unique cards that are lovingly made by local community projects. It’s nice to know I can make a difference and help by selling them.”

Mother Theresa said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”  Think of creative avenues you may pursue to help oppressed women or disadvantaged children to live better lives. Who knows what dream might unfold as you consider opportunities and possibilities with your heart wide open.

Learn more about Just Cards Direct.  Click here to view and purchase cards

© by April McCallum, Destiny’s Women

(Photos by Just Cards Direct)

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