Archives for December 2011

Give an Unconditional Gift — Free a Heart

Sometimes, the most valuable and empowering gifts we can give a person don’t come from a store, but from our heart.

They are the gifts that money can’t buy. They might take an investment of time, energy or commitment but what we sow, we also reap.  So what do these unconditional gifts look like?  Giving hope or encouragement, taking the time to really listen and connect, showing thoughtfulness or caring, and sometimes, the purest form of all, the one that reflects the true nature and spirit of Christmas: Unconditional Love.

And, one of the greatest extensions of the gift of unconditional love is asking for, or extending, Forgiveness.

When we give one of these unconditional gifts, they aren’t meant for the person on the receiving end alone. They are meant to be shared with us. They give comfort and peace and they bring comfort and peace. Like a healing balm, they relieve and soothe places deep inside of us that couldn’t be touched in any other way outside of the divine.

One of the most common reasons people resist taking action, especially when it comes to giving the gift of forgiveness, is connected with a sense of entitlement or justice. They are unwilling to move until an apology is issued or when an offense is acknowledged or admitted. In their own estimation, the other person is unworthy and doesn’t deserve it.  Justice will come eventually, not always in our timeframe, but it will come.

Life is too short and too precious to put on hold.  What many people do not realize is that by holding on to an offense, negative thoughts or feelings–whether they are justified or not–our own hearts become hard and enslaved in the process.

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you” -Lewis B. Smedes

Some say, “Live today like there’s no tomorrow.” I prefer to take it a step (or heartbeat) further and say, “Love today because you might not get another chance tomorrow.”  What is life lived apart from love, except going through the motion of living on the outside, but not being completely (peacefully, joyfully, gratefully) alive on the inside. 

Is there someone you need to connect with this holiday season?  Don’t stop to over-think, over-analyze or calculate things to death. Just open your heart, pick up the phone, (pen or computer) and give your gift

Remember to give it with no strings attached. Once you open your heart and let it fly away, there’s always a possibility that it will meet with disappointment, but we can’t control the outcome of another’s reaction.

What we can control, is our own internal response. And we will have to live with our own choices–the dullness or brightness, heaviness or freedom within our own hearts.  Give the gift that costs nothing, but is priceless.  Free someone today, and in the process… Free yourself.

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it” -Mark Twain

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

Share

Give the Gift of Hope: 8 Powerful Charities that Empower Women

Who doesn’t enjoy the glitz, the glamor and a little bling around the holidays? We all love the associated aromas, feelings and family traditions the season brings. Logs on the fireplace, cinnamon swirls in the air, decorating cookies, flickering candlelight, laughter and music, not to mention ringing in a new year brimming with promise and hope.

Who indeed.  While the idea of a joy and peace-filled holiday season resonates with some of us, it remains only an idea (if that), never given the chance to become a reality for many.  Christmas is a good time to reflect on the provision and blessings we often take for granted. It offers an opportunity to open our hearts and pocketbooks in the true spirit of Christmas: to share, give and tangibly express life and love with those less fortunate. 

Here are 7 Powerful Charities that Empower Women (Children & Communities):

Women for Women International – “Helping Women Survivors of War Rebuild Their Lives.”  WFWI provides women survivors of war, civil strife and other conflicts with the tools and resources to move from crisis and poverty to stability and self-sufficiency, thereby promoting viable civil societies. We’re changing the world one woman at a time.

International Justice Mission – IJM seeks to make public justice systems work for victims of abuse and oppression who urgently need the protection of the law. IJM  is a human rights agency that brings rescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression.  IJM lawyers, investigators and aftercare professionals work with local governments to ensure victim rescue, to prosecute perpetrators and to strengthen the community and civic factors that promote functioning public justice systems.

  • IJM was founded by Gary Haugen. Vision: “To rescue thousands, protect millions and prove that justice for the poor is possible. ™” (www.ijm.org)

Somebody Cares International – “Equip, Empower, Encourage.”  From restoring hope through feeding and re-building in the poorest areas or expediting and facilitating relief in places devastated by natural disasters to ongoing holistic initiatives restoring families and communities in Japan, Turkey, Haiti, and around the globe.  “A true witness rescues lives” -Proverbs 14:25

  • Founded by Doug Stringer, Somebody Cares America and Somebody Cares International work as trusted first responders and ambassadors, along with a global network of chapters, centers, affiliate and partner churches and organizations working together to bring hope and healing to their communities through Prayer initiatives, Compassion outreaches and Cooperative efforts.(www.somebodycares.org)

Mercy Corps  –  Mission: “To alleviate suffering, poverty and oppression by helping people build secure, productive and just communities.”  From initiatives that empower women to child protection, agricultural developmentmicrofinance and unque gift campaigns, and more.

  • Mercy Corps was founded by Dan O’Neill.  Core values: We believe in the intrinsic value and dignity of human life. We are awed by human resilience, and believe in the ability of all people to thrive, not just exist. We believe that all people have the right to live in peaceful communities and participate fully in the decisions that affect their lives. We value stewardship of the earth’s health, pledging to accountably and efficiently preserve and manage its resources. We believe that it is our duty to be effective stewards of the financial resources entrusted to us. (www.mercycorps.org)

Operation Blessing’s Orphan Care – “Compassionate Care for Orphans and Vulnerable Children around the Word” From providing practical needs like an education or a pair of shoes to orphans in Afghanistan and mobile dental care to orphans in Guatemala; or solar power, language lessons, computers and supplies for Bedouin and disadvantaged children living in the Negev desert in Israel.

  • Operation Blessing was founded by businessman and philanthropist, M.G. Robertson. OBI’s Orphan’s Care helps orphans and vulnerable children around the world through health care programs, food and nutrition aid, refugee care, educational opportunities, life skills training, mentoring & advocacy. (Orphans’s Care, Operation Blessing)

Compassion International – “Releasing Children from Poverty in Jesus’ Name.” CI is a Christian child advocacy ministry that today helps more than 1.2 million children in 26 countries, serving women and children with programs like Rescue Babies and Mothers and by providing neccessary needs through their Child Sponsorship program.

  • Founded by Rev. Everett Swanson in 1952, CI’s primary focus is individual child development—an inside-out, bottom-up approach that recognizes the God-given value and potential of each individual child, with the belief that many of the assisted children grow up to become positive influences in their own communities. (www.compassion.com)

Catholic Charities USA – “Working to Reduce Poverty in America”.  It is the national office for Catholic Charities agencies and affiliates nationwide. They provide a number of services that aid women, children and families, including poverty reduction programs, adoption services and human trafficking campaigns.

  • As a professional association and social justice movement, Catholic Charities USA provides help and creates hope for over 9 million people each year regardless of religious, social, or economic backgrounds. (www.catholiccharitiesusa.org)

The Salvation Army – “Doing the Most Good.” You can help fight against human trafficking, or choose to help fund housing and homeless services, adult rehab programs, prisoner and elder services, or others that directly impact women and children in any community. 

  • The Salvation Army was founded by William Booth. The “miracle” of Christmas is repeated over and over again through the joy of caring and sharing. The traditional red kettle is an integral part of the Christmas scene, with millions of dollars donated each year to aid needy families, seniors, and the homeless, in keeping with the spirit of the season. The Salvation Army has been providing assistance to women and families with a variety of social and spiritual afflictions for over 100 years. (www.salvationarmy.com)

Remember, Love given freely always comes back as a gift to YOU.  Spread some peace, hope and goodwill to women who need it this year!

As promised, I will be highlighting organizations throughout the remainder of the year that offer unique ways to give the gifts of love, joy and hope to women and girls in need. Share the true spirit of Christmas and spread the love… Share this List with a Friend.

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

Share

Give the Gift of Awareness: Ten Books that will Open Your Eyes (and Heart) about the Oppression of Women

This is the time of year when most people’s hearts are a little bit bigger and a little more open. We create space for friends and family in our otherwise busy lives, enjoy the sparkle of the holiday season and benevolently spread joy and cheer—even to strangers.

And yet, while the world celebrates the good news of Christmas in the holiday spirit, countless women and girls around the world are enslaved in one form or another. They are not celebrating. They don’t feel loved and their hearts are not filled with joy. Trapped in hopelessness, many have even stopped dreaming about their futures, their destinies. 

Why not give the gift of awareness this season?  Do it for yourself and do it for them–the nameless faceless ones that are the unseen among us.

Here’s a list of Ten Books that will help raise awareness about the very real issues women face living as modern-day slaves or under some other form of oppression. 

A Thousand Sisters: My Journey into the Worst Place on Earth to Be a Woman 

After viewing an Oprah episode highlighting women in the Congo that depicted atrocities too horrible to comprehend: millions dead, women gang-raped and tortured, children starving and dying in shocking numbers, everything changed. Lisa Shannon woke up to her dissatisfaction with the “good” life and to her role as an activist and a sister. She created a foundation called Run for Congo Women and what started as a solo 30-mile run for Congolese women has now grown into a national organization in connection with Women for Women International.

The book chronicles her journey to the Congo to meet the women sponsored by her run and shares their incredible stories.

The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine 

From the deep forests of Cambodia to street brothels–Somaly Mam’s grandfather sold her into sexual slavery at age 12 where she suffered unspeakable acts of brutality and witnessed horrors that would haunt her for the rest of her life.

Unable to forget the girls left behind after her escape, she became a tenacious and brave leader in the fight against human trafficking, rescuing sex workers–some as young as five and six–offering them shelter, rehabilitation, healing, and love and leading them into new life.  The Somaly Mam Foundation is a non-profit charity Foundation committed to ending modern day slavery in North America and around the world.

Disfigured: A Saudi Woman’s Story of Triumph Over Violence

Rania al-Baz was a young, beautiful Saudi TV news anchor–the first woman to have such a job–when her abusive husband beat her into a coma and left her for dead. She remained in a coma for four days and underwent thirteen operations to reconstruct her face. When she agreed to let horrifying pictures of her ravaged face be made public, her story sparked general criticism of Saudi culture

Read about her journey as a public figure, a mother, a survivor of domestic violence and cultural oppression, and subsequent role as an activist on behalf of women.

Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia

Sultana is a Saudi Arabian princess–a woman born to fabulous, uncountable wealth. She has four mansions on three continents, her own private jet, glittering jewels, designer dresses galore.  But in reality she lives in a gilded cage.   She has no freedom, no control over her own life, no value but as a bearer of sons.  Hidden behind her black floor-length veil, she is a prisoner,  jailed by her father, her husband, sons, and her country

For the sake of her daughters, she has decided to take the risk of speaking out about the life of women in her country, regardless of their rank. She hides her identity for fear that the religous leaders in her country would call for her death to punish her from speaking out. 

I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced

“I’m a simple village girl who has always obeyed the orders of my father and brothers. Since forever, I have learned to say yes to everything.  Today I have decided to say no.”–Nujood, age 10.  Nujood was honored alongside Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice as one of Glamour magazine’s women of the year.

Hazel Rochman writes: “Nujood of Yemen has become an international hero for her astonishingly brave resistance to child marriage. Sold off by her impoverished family at the age of 10, continually raped by her husband before she even reached puberty, Nujood found the courage to run away, and with the help of an activist lawyer, sympathetic judges, and the international press, she divorced her husband and returned home. Readers will find it incredible that such unbelievable abuse and such courageous resistance are happening now.”  

Between Two Worlds, Escape from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam

When Zainab Salbi was a young girl, her father was chosen as Saddam Hussein’s personal pilot which grafted her family’s life onto his. She saw things, felt things and feared things most of us never experience. In her memoir, she describes tyranny as she saw it–through the eyes of a privileged child, a rebellious teenager, a violated wife, and ultimately a public figure fighting to overcome the skill that once kept her alive: silence. 

Later, an arranged marriage that was intended to save her, turned out to be yet another world of tyranny and abuse. Salbi gives an enlightening revelation of  how at barely perceptible stages, decent people make accommodations in a horrific regime.  Eventually, she garnered the courage to forge a new identity as a champion of women survivors of war and founded Women for Women International–an organization that assists women victimized by war.

Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War

As a young woman, Leymah Gbowee was broken by the Liberian civil war, a brutal conflict that tore apart her life and claimed the lives of countless relatives and friends. Years of fighting destroyed her country—and shattered Gbowee’s girlhood hopes and dreams.  She was also trapped in a nightmare of domestic abuse as a young mother, but found the courage to turn her bitterness into action, propelled by her realization that it is women who suffer most during conflicts—and that the power of women working together can create an unstoppable force.  She was honored as a recipient of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize.

Gbowee helped organize and lead the Liberian Mass Action for Peace, a coalition of Christian and Muslim women who sat in public protest, confronting Liberia’s ruthless president and rebel warlords, and even held a sex strike, and in the process, emerged as an international leader who changed history. Mighty Be Our Powers is the gripping chronicle of a journey from hopelessness to empowerment.

Deliver Me From Evil

Kathi Macias’s Deliver Me From Evil, a novel about sex slavery, introduces readers to a girl who has been enslaved for nearly ten years, having been sold by her parents in Mexico and then smuggled across the border into San Diego where she was forced into sexual slavery. Readers will also meet a boy and his sister whose paths cross hers and who become involved in her dramatic rescue. Interwoven between their stories is the heartbreaking story of another young woman in captivity in the Golden Triangle of Thailand, whose past life mysteriously connects to the young people in San Diego.

Partnering with New Hope Publishers, the author has created a three-part Freedom Series devoted to spreading the truth about sexual exploitation and human trafficking.  This is the first book in the series that issues a call for the abolition of modern-day slavery.

Rogue Angel: The Spiritual Journey of One of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted

Now you can read the whole remarkable story of Mary Kay Beard who started Angel Tree, a ministry of Prison Fellowship that connects and reconciles the children of prison inmates with their incarcerated parents. As a young woman, Mary Kay Beard let the pain and anger from an abusive childhood drive her into a life of crime and danger.

By the time she was 27, she was on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List, wanted in four states, and was the target of a mafia contract. Finally captured and convicted of grand larceny and armed robbery, she was sentenced to 21 years in prison. While in solitary confinement in an Alabama prison, Mary Kay took stock of her life, took hold of her destiny and thus began her amazing transformation of a broken, bitter criminal into a beautiful woman of faith, compassion and service.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

Trumpeting a passionate call to arms against our era’s most pervasive human rights violation: the oppression of women and girls in the developing world.  Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn take readers on a journey through Africa and Asia to meet the extraordinary women struggling there–from a Cambodian teenager sold into sex slavery to an Ethiopian woman who suffered devastating injuries in childbirth.”

More girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the wars of the twentieth century, they write, detailing the rampant ‘gendercide’ in the developing world, particularly in India and Pakistan,” says Publisher’s Weekly.  Through their advocacy and the Half the Sky Movement, the authors show how a little help can transform the lives of women and girls abroad.

Reading these women’s heroic and courageous stories not only educates us and raises awareness on a more personal level, but in sharing them, we help give voice to the women and girls who are still living under oppression.  We are stronger when we walk together.  Consider giving the gift of awareness by sharing with your friends, daughters (and sons)!

To purchase a book featured in this list, just click on any title above.

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

Share

Mary Kay Beard, Angel on Earth: From Emptying Banks to Filling Hearts

Mary Kay Beard, Founder of Angel Tree

Was she the woman raised in an abusive home, leading a life of crime and danger–wanted by both federal and state authorities and the target of a mafia contract?   Or, was she a benevolent compassionate big-hearted woman who cared for women and children separated physically and emotionally by the prison system, and the breakdown of the family structure? 

Mary Kay Beard was both.  The pain and anger she suffered in childhood set the stage for pivotol choices in her life.  Which road would she take?  By age 27, she became famous–but for all the wrong reasons. Her face became a target for both federal and state law enforcement agencies.

At an age in many young women’s lives when they are finishing college degrees, raising families or embarking on life-changing missions, her destiny seemed set.  She was captured and convicted for armed robbery and grand larceny. Mary was sentenced to 21 years behind prison bars. 

She also spent time in solitary confinement in an Alabama prison. But it wasn’t exactly solitary confinement, because she wasn’t “alone-alone”.  She was alone with her thoughts, her dreams and… God.

In the confines of prison and the confines of her own thoughts, she found herself at another pivotal juncture in her journey. Would she push back her hope of becoming the woman she was meant to be because of the bad choices she’d made along the way? Would she allow herself, or other voices, to silence the dreams that were meant for her because she didn’t feel deserving, capable or good enough to fulfill her own destiny?

It was in that dark place in her life, that she said “yes.”   Yes to the tiny pinpoint of light, the tug on her heart, and that seemingly insignificant amount of hope. She gave what she had to give at that crucial point in time–her faith for something not yet seen.  And in doing so, she met so unexpectedly with a re-written script: A future that was meant for good, and not the presumed destruction of her hope, her life, her dreams.

That’s why Mary Kay Beard, Prison Fellowship staffer and ex-bank robber, began Angel Tree®–an outreach to share the message of love, joy, hope and reconciliation to millions of prisoners’ children through volunteers who deliver gifts on behalf of their incarcerated parents. They reach across the U.S. and 90 countries worldwide. Since the birth of Angel Tree in 1982, it has reached millions of prisoners’ children with the true message of Christmas and the love of Christ.

Families are meant to be together, and when one of us is missing, be it physically, like prison inmates, or even emotionally, like countless other situations–it hurts and children remember.

She is quoted as saying, “I didn’t do it. God did it. I had no idea God could use me after the mess I had made of my life. God is not limited by us in any way.” 

Read: “Rogue Angel” by Judi Werhanowicz, The spiritual journey of one of the FBI’s ten most wanted — the official biography of Mary Kay Beard’s life experiences.

Watch the Video Clip: “The First Angels – Mary Kay Beard”

Related Articles: “Angel Tree: Gifts of Comfort & Joy for Children of Imprisoned Parents”, “Christmas Gifts of Love, Joy & Hope”and “Angels on Earth: Advocates of Freedom”

As promised, I will be highlighting organizations throughout the remainder of the year that offer unique ways to give the gifts of love, joy and hope to women and girls in need. Share the true spirit of Christmas and, spread the love… Tell a friend! 

To learn more about how you can continue to spread the light of hope to the hopeless through Angel Tree®, call 1-800-55-ANGEL or visit the website 

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

(Photos by Prison Fellowship)

Share

Angel Tree: Gifts of Comfort & Joy for Children of Imprisoned Parents

One in three prisoners is a parent, and about 75 percent of women in prison are mothers. One in every 43 children has a parent in prison, which means more than 1.7 million children will spend Christmas separated from their incarcerated mom or dad.

Oftentimes, the child doesn’t know or understand why their parent is in prision, only that they feel abandoned, forgotten or left behind.  Families are meant to be together, and when one of us is missing, be it physically, like these prison inmates, or even emotionally, like countless other situations–it hurts and children remember.

Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree®, is a unique program that works by connecting parents in prison with their children through the delivery of Christmas gifts.  Gifts are wrapped and delivered to the children, usually with a personal card from the child’s imprisoned parent.

Children of incarcerated parents can struggle with feelings of anger, abandonment, loneliness and despair. A simple Christmas gift from their absent parent can show a hurting child that even though they are absent physically, they are not absent in their hearts and minds. These simple gestures can help overcome the feelings these children carry of being rejected or unloved, bringing even greater gifts of comfort and joy. 

“Every time a parent goes to prison, their sentence is also a form of punishment for their children. These kids don’t necessarily understand why their parents are not with them for the holidays. They only want to be with their parents, and to feel their parents’ love, just as any other child would during this special time of year” –Jim Liske, CEO of Prison Fellowship

At 10, Robert watched his dad handcuffed and driven away to prison. To keep the family afloat, Robert’s mom packed up and moved them from their comfortable home in the country to a gang-ridden urban neighborhood. As she struggled to put bread on the table, she warned her children that Christmas might not look like much that first year without their dad.

On Christmas morning, Robert woke up to find a bare room and his mother crying on the couch. He went over to her and wrapped his arms around her. He told her that he did not mind that they didn’t have any gifts; that they were not all that important.

But her tears were tears of joy. She told Robert to go look out on their front porch. There he saw gifts piled high, some with labels with his dad’s name on them. They were Angel Tree gifts, given by volunteers from a local church. But Robert did not know that at the time. All he knew was that his dad loved him and remembered him.

 A Little Angel Tree History…

In 1982, Angel Tree® debuted in Birmingham, Ala., when Mary Kay Beard, an ex-prisoner, received permission to erect Christmas trees in shopping malls to recruit shoppers to purchase presents for prisoners’ children. Beard, who served part of a 22-year sentence for burglary, grand larceny, and robbery, said she spent six Christmases in state prison watching women gather soap, shampoo, and toothpaste they received from charity groups to wrap and give to their kids as gifts. “I realized that children don’t care as much about things as they do about being loved,” Beard said.

And on visiting day at the prison, instead of the kids turning up their noses at such simple gifts, “there was such joy on their faces,” Mary Kay remembers. “It didn’t really matter to them what they got–it was from Mama!”

Related Article: Mary Kay Beard, Angel on Earth: From Emptying Banks to Filling Hearts

As promised, I will be highlighting organizations throughout the remainder of the year that offer unique ways to give the gifts of love, joy and hope to women and girls in need. Share the true spirit of Christmas and, spread the love… Tell a friend! 

To learn more about how you can continue to spread the light of hope to the hopeless through Angel Tree®, call 1-800-55-ANGEL or visit the website 

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

(Photos by Prison Fellowship and Seeds of Hope Ministries)

Share

Operation Christmas Child: Love in a Shoebox

 

There are little girls all across the world who fall asleep hungry, sad, lonely and feeling unloved.  Poverty, hunger or neglect tend to do that. The joy that should accompany their young lives is missing, along with smiles on their faces and contentment in their hearts.  And when the sun comes up the next morning, life is the same as the day before.

Samaritan’s Purse has developed a very special program called Operation Christmas Child.  The mission is to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to needy children around the world. It allows people like you and me a chance to reach out to little girls like these, and show them that they are not forgotten, that someone somewhere really does care, and that there is hope for a brighter tomorrow!

And in a such a brilliantly simple way: a shoebox. Yes, a shoebox!

 HOW IT WORKS

love & joy!

All you need to do is choose the age of the girl (categories: 2-4, 5-9, or 10-14), print out the appropriate label from the website marking the correct age category on it, fill your girl’s shoebox with small fun and practical items, tape the label to the top of your box, include $7 for shipping costs and then wrap with a rubber band.  You can even tuck in a love note and photo of yourself if you want. (You can drop off at a location, otherwise shoeboxes are accepted at the headquarters location year-round).

Ideas to Get You Started…

  • Small Toys (dolls, musical items, stuffed animals, jump ropes, flashlights, balls)
  • School Supplies (pens, pencils, books, writing pads, sharpeners, solar calculators)
  • Art Supplies (crayons, colored pencils, stickers, stamps & ink pads, coloring books)
  • Personal Items & Candy (t-shirts, hair accessories, jewlery, socks, hats,  sunglasses, hard candy & gum)
  • Hygiene Items ( toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, washcloth, hairbrush or combs)

There are over 100,000 volunteers supporting Operation Christmas Child in the U.S. and more than 8 million shoeboxes were collected and distributed to needy children last year!

Wonder if a little shoebox could really make an impact on someone across the world? 

One woman who received a shoebox as an orphaned child says, “Living in an orphanage with 550 kids where there is never enough love and never enough of anything else can be lonely.  You don’t have many people that you really want to share yourself with.  I kept wondering why a little girl from far away who doesn’t even know me, would care enough to give such a beautiful gift to a girl like me.”

There are countless stories of how one little shoebox traveled around the world and touched a child’s life forever.  

It’s amazing how such a little love gift can make such a big (and lasting) love impact. And it’s even more fun to get creative with your friends, family or at a group event by packing shoeboxes together!  The result?  Smiling faces, content hearts and a glimmer of hope for brighter days ahead.

As promised, I will be highlighting organizations throughout the remainder of the year that offer unique ways to give the gifts of love, joy and hope to women and girls in need. Share the true spirit of Christmas and, spread the love… Tell a friend! 

Learn more about Operation Christmas Child online at www.samaritanspurse.org  or, call 800-353-5949 for more information.

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

Share

Dalit Freedom Network: Touching the Untouchable Women of India

Who are the Dalits?  They are known as “untouchables”.  Born into the lowest socio-economic class in India’s oppressive caste-system, these people live under the unrelenting fear of discrimination, dehumanization, segregation, and violence–every day.  Dalit women and children are especially vulnerable to sexual exploitation and human trafficking. 

According to the Dalit Freedom Network (DFN), Dalits are history’s longest standing oppressed people group and the largest numbers of people on earth categorized as victims of modern-day slavery. Dalits are still considered subhuman, contaminating to others, worthy of being outcasted, and untouchable.

DFN represents a vast network of justice-minded, modern-day abolitionists committed to bringing freedom to history’s longest standing oppressed people group.  A group of more than 250 million people–a shocking number estimated at 25 percent of India’s 1.2 billion population.

According to Ana Aspras Steele, President of Dalit Freedom Network USA, “Despite being one of the longest-oppressed groups in human history, the Dalits or ‘untouchables’ of India face a hopeful future in their fight for equal rights”.  That’s because of organizations like DFN, socially and morally responsible advocate networks and individuals that believe that every human being has the right to life, freedom, and dignity. She invites “all justice-minded Americans to join the present ground-swelling, worldwide campaign for Dalit freedom”.

Dalit Freedom Network partners with the Dalits in their quest for freedom, justice, and human dignity by mobilizing human, intellectual, and financial resources -DFN Mission Statement

They are a human rights, non-government organization that partners with the Dalit people in India.  Their goal?  To help end Dalit injustices, such as human trafficking, gender and caste discrimination, child labor–and, to “make slavery history in India”.

How Can You Touch a Dalit Woman or Child? 

These are just some of the very practical, personal and tangible ways you can help a Dalit woman or child this holiday season.  (You can review several more options on the DFN website).

Sewing Maching, Table & Chair – A simple sewing machine, table, and chair will change the lives of many Dalit women. This equipment allows one woman to start her own tailoring business and gradually pay for the machine into a revolving fund so other women may receive a similar opportunity. ($150 suggested price)

Tools & Supplies to Accompany a Sewing Machine – This kit includes basic tailoring tools and cloth for one woman in a tailoring center, enabling her to begin learning and practicing her new trade immediately. ($50 suggested price)

Supplies for a Salon – Dalits are not welcome in upper caste beauty salons because of the stigma of “Untouchability.” DFN’s partners train Dalit women in beauty and hair treatments. The women then receive a set of supplies to start their own home-based salon that can generate income and meet a need in the community. ($25 suggested price)

Free a Dalit Child – This is DFN’s most critical need and the way you can make the most immediate impact.  There are more children in India than any other country in the world. Every day many of them live in acute danger of being trafficked, maimed, or sold into slavery. Learn more about this project.

Holiday Matching Fund Challenge – During this holiday season, you can double your gift of education to unsponsored Dalit children through DFN.  

More Ways to Give: To donate airline miles, stocks or mutual funds, email: accounting@dalitnetwork.org or Support Dalit women through DFN by trading on eBay

DFN’s International President, Dr. Joseph D’souza has written two books: “Dalit Freedom Now and Forever: The Epic Struggle for Dalit Emancipation”, and “On the Side of the Angels: Justice, Human Rights and Kingdom Mission”, and also writes a blog about Seeking to Transform Lives & Communities in India.

Visit the Dalit Freedom Network Website

Additional Reading:

History of the Dalit Freedom Network

Dalit women find their voice through a newspaper – Los Angeles Times

Untouchable – National Geographic Magazine

As promised, I will be highlighting organizations throughout the remainder of the year that offer unique ways to give the gifts of love, joy and hope to women and girls in need. Share the true spirit of Christmas and, spread the love… Tell a friend! 

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

(Photos by the Dalit Freedom Network)

Share

Peace, Hope and… Fashion? — WORN for Peace Project Serves Refugee Women

She was born in the jungle between Burma and Thailand. Her family's home was burned down during the war. She fled to a Thai refugee camp where she lived for 20 years before finding her way to the U.S. and her work with the WORN Project.

Do you have a special interest in women’s issues?   Do you have a heart for disenfranchised women who could use a hand up to make their life just a little bit brighter?  Then maybe like me, you look for ways to personally plug into social enterprises with a life-changing purpose. 

There are a number of organizations whose missions fit that description, but let me share just one with you today:  Catholic Charities, Fort Worth–an organization focused on serving women (and families) that have fled persecution and oppression in their homelands.

Gratefully, these women find themselves welcome in the United States of America, yet they are not fully equipped to function in a foreign society. Many need help learning a new language, fitting into the culture, caring for the needs of their families and earning an income. As such, the vision is, “to provide the necessary skills that allow these refugees to be self-sufficient and regain a sense of both self and dignity”.  Over 113,000 individuals, families and children were assisted just last year alone.

And although a majority of assistance comes from local charities, supplemental income is pivotal to the long-term financial stability of these refugees. Enter: WORN–a scarf-knitting project that provides a supplemental income for refugee women and an opportunity to rise above the poverty level.  Each circle scarf is hand-knit by women who have survived the afflictions of their war-torn and poverty-stricken homelands.

             WORN symbolizes:

  • Peace – Teaching that peace is more than just security, it’s dignity
  • Hope – Enabling refugees to find value in both product and self
  • Fashion – Making a statement for those in need by wearing it over the heart

Purple "Eternity" Scarf handmade and initialed by a Refugee Woman. A soft blend of alpaca and wool, available in a variety of colors.

Catholic Charities also provides social services to strengthen families, reduce infant mortality, resettle refugees, assist the elderly and disabled, and prevent child abuse. One of my favorite parts: 100% of the profits from this project go directly back into the community to further equip the women with the necessary skills to become self-sufficient.  As the website states:“WORN but not abandoned…”

WORN is a socially-conscious business founded by Catholic Charities Fort Worth, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that has served the community since 1910.

Visit the WORN for Peace Website, Blog, or on Facebook and Shop!

Read Article: “Knitting Hope”, Agencies Helping Hand Venture Tailored for Refugee Women”

Read Article: “Refugee Women Knit Scarves as Part of Catholic Charities Project”

As promised, I will be highlighting organizations throughout the remainder of the year that offer unique ways to give the gifts of love, joy and hope to women and girls in need. Share the true spirit of Christmas and, spread the love… Tell a friend! 

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

(Photos by WORN, a Catholic Charities, Ft Worth organization)

Share

Christmas Gifts of Love, Joy & Hope

 

Christmas, the time of year that symbolizes love, joy and hope, is here once again. 

Some of us know Christmas is near from the chill in the air. Crimson leaves have finally fallen. Trees stand still and stark against the bitter cold.  For those of us who enjoy the distinctness of the seasons however, it is a welcome chill that transports us to the warmth of our crackling fireplace sipping warm drinks, enveloped in music, family, festivities and cheer.  Our hearts swell with gratitude as we reflect on the love given and received throughout the year.  Our imaginations flow with dreams and visions for the New Year. Peace and joy abound.

But peace and joy escape many women, especially at this time of the year. Countless women and girls have received little or no love so there is no capacity for reflection, no warm memories to buoy their hearts. They experience another kind of chill. The coldness from a world, that, like the perpetual motion of a merry-go-round at a fair, just keeps going without a care.  

And there are ones who are locked away in the darkness of addiction, the bitter chill of un-forgiveness or some other form of dysfunction. They are not living their potential or destiny. Gripped with fear, self-loathing or pain, they feel powerless and incapacitated. Their hearts and imaginations are strangled by the icy fingers of hopelessness that wrap around them, causing their hearts to grow cold and sometimes, hard.

Life doesn’t stop for anyone. We live in a world that applauds wealth, status, beauty and accomplishment.  But, for many women and girls, the world’s definition of success is not even within their grasp. They are overlooked and in many cases, even viewed with distain. They feel forgotten, abandoned, neglected or unloved. They begin to believe the lie that the beauty, kindness and goodness in the world is not for them.

The orphaned feel abandoned. The abused feel neglected.  The unloved feel unworthy.  The marginalized feel trapped. The used feel shame.  And, those are the “lucky” ones, because many no longer feel anything at all.

But Christmas at its core symbolizes unconditional love, hope for the future, and God making a way (for the forgotten, addicted, dysfunctional, marginalized, abandoned and unloved) when there appeared to be no sign of deliverance or remedy. Gratefully, the ultimate gift of Christmas isn’t for a select or elite few, it is for all people, everywhere.

Don’t get swept up believing that people want to be left alone or that they have a “need” to be independent. Sometimes it’s good to gently press in and invite, welcome, encourage or simply reach out to those in our lives (or even strangers) that need to see the good in Christmas. They need to know someone feels, someone sees, someone cares. Their dreams are worthwhile and their life does matter.  And as long as they have breath, there is hope.  They need to feel the kiss of heaven.

It is with great joy that I will be highlighting several unique ways you can get involved to give the gifts of love, joy and hope to women and girls who desperately need to know that their life matters this Christmas season.  For if not for the grace of God, we could be her.

I challenge you to join me this month in helping in some small way, to ease the pain, soothe the sorrows and reignite the hope of a woman or girl in need.  Let’s put our feet to the street and prove that love does conquer and heal. Make a commitment to yourself (or maybe even take on a project with a group of friends) to love on a sister-friend unconditionally in some special “you” way this season.  I’d love for you to share how you decided to reach out, and how it also touched you in the process!

Who will you reach out to this holiday season by sharing the true meaning of Christmas?

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

Share
©Destiny's Women™ is a blog founded, written and published by April McCallum -- "Championing the Life, Freedom and Destiny of Women" Creative Commons License
This work by April McCallum is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.