Proceeds and product sales from the Sydney Mind Body Spirit in October enabled a donation to be made to Christmas collection group #itsinthebag.
It's In The Bag work to improve the lives of women and girls experiencing homelessness and poverty. Our donation of 20 bags with pads, personal hygiene products and everyday luxuries was given to homeless women, women at risk or women experiencing domestic violence in the lead up to Christmas.
I was extremely fortunate to have been accepted into the 2018 Leadership Program with The Hunger Project. I travelled to Senegal, Africa in February. It was a life changing experience. My focus late 2017 was on raising funds which will go directly to the people and the community of Senegal. A total of $10,000 was raised through product sales and other events.
The Hunger Project work to break the cycle of poverty, believing that the hungry people themselves are not the problem, but the solution to ending hunger. They support, empower and teach women in starving communities to become powerful leaders and to develop their own solutions to ending poverty and hunger in their communities. The approach on the ground sees the once coined ‘hungry, poor and non-literate’ as the key resource in ending hunger and poverty.
From the moment we arrived into the epicentres we were embraced by our sisters in Senegal. Together we all celebrated the success of working with The Hunger Project with a change in mindset. Vision was created, Commitment established and Action changing the lives of all these beautiful children. The next generation is being fed. Education, Leadership and Community the ingredients to a full Future. We are visited a roadside child care health centre. This is where the babies are weighed and monitored monthly from birth to 36 months. The mothers are handed small bags of cereal to give to their babies, their babies are also handed a bowl of stew if they are a little older and if their statistics fall behind they are sent to a hospital for a thorough check-up.
In some of the epicentres there are classes to teach sewing. Some women now sew and are part of a small group making money for their families and also for the epicentre. There are small market gardens for the communities. They are taught how to grow their own crops. There is a grain store in the epicentre. A food bank where they can loan a bag of grain to return at the end of the season adding some back for the epicentre. This way they can feed their own families and contribute to others being part of the program. Kindergartens are set up and child care centres to monitor children. In one epicentre there was a shop. For 4 months a woman runs this shop. One quarter is kept by this lady, the remainder is balanced between the epicentre and purchasing more stock. Micro-finance loans are available for women who have their vision set. I met women who set up small business like peanut oil.
I met Anne during The Hunger Project Leadership trip to Senegal at the start of 2018. Anne is one of the biggest supporters of 'Cradle of Love' in Tanzania. Anne runs her own charity, 'The Power of One' and demonstrates how one person can step up and create positive change in our world.
In Tanzania there is great need for maternal child health. A variety of health issues face mothers that may lead to death during pregnancy & childbirth. If the mother dies and there is no wet nurse, the father or relatives cannot afford baby formula. So a nursing infant with no one to provide adequate nutrition or care is in trouble. Without intervention the infant would soon die from malnutrition. That is where Cradle of Love steps in to help. They love and care for them until they are weaned and can go home to a family member. Some babies are abandoned, and it here that they love and care for them in the same manner, with hope that they will eventually be adopted. In Tanzania, the Cradle of Love is responding to the cries of orphaned and abandoned babies.
Through product sales and proceeds, a monthly contribution is made to Cradle of Love.
During 2013 I met the most incredible woman at Monash Medical Centre in Melbourne, Australia. Meplin was visiting Australia with her 4 year old daughter Lyn who was under going a number of life saving operations. Lyn had been born with a blockage in the back of her head causing swelling and pressure to her brain. Lyn had severe facial deformation and associated pain. In 2014 I travelled to Meplin (and Lyn's) village in Vanuatu to live along side my Vanuatu 'sister'.
Opening her home to two of my sons and I, we immersed into the rhythm of village life. We were the first white people to stay in the village. During my stay I realised that it wasn't unusual to wake hours before sun up (about 3.30 am). With no power, the wood was needing to be chopped. A lit fire cooked a rice pot, to feed her family for the day. Washing for the family was done by hand. This took 3 hours. I was glad there was water in the well otherwise we would have had to take the long walk to the river to do the washing.
Meplin was working in a kindergarten at the time for a very minimal wage of approximately $50 per month. I suggested to her that she should and could run her own kindergarten. She was shocked by the confidence I had in her.
Sponsoring her family with a taxi, soon funds were raised to leave her job and start her own kindergarten. I am so proud of my Vanuatu family. Meplin's kindergarten now has 55 students. She has her own flushing toilet and is making a difference to the community that she lives in. It has been incredible to watch Meplin and her community flourish.
With so many children now attending her kindergarten we are currently looking into building a new kindergarten.
During a trip to Cambodia in 2013 my family and I took a tuk tuk to find temporary villages on stilts - villages soon to be pulled down for development in Siem Reap, Cambodia. We gifted packs of pencils, paper and money. In each of the streets there was a water pump that they all shared.
We also gifted the floating village full of displaced people who have no true residency. The small children in the floating school were beside themselves to have their own supplies to take home. The impact and devastation is still felt today from the Khmer Rouge over 25 years ago.
My heart exploded with the gratitude from every person we connected with.
It was here I discovered my passion for giving.