The Future is Female

Meet Monei.

She is 20 years old and the first friend I made in Zanzibar. Her English is impeccable, but it was her sassy attitude and whit that quickly made us friends.

I asked her about what it is like living as a woman in a rural Muslim village. Many around us would speak quietly in fear of the local men overhearing, but she would confidently proclaim her frustrations.

She doesn’t want to marry a man who has other wives. She doesn’t want to be married young because she longs to continue her education, and she dreams of a better education for her children.

As we sat together and chatted, she continuously mentioned how she wanted my long blonde hair and my white skin and live in America. In that moment, I recognized her dreams were slightly skewed by the white ideal and assimilating success to a skin color or nationality.

I wanted to empower her to feel comfortable and confident in her own skin. I wanted to show her that despite our looks, we are the same on the inside- two girls in their 20’s with big dreams that may seem a bit unconventional. Although our barriers and circumstances differ, we can fight against the norms with great tenacity together.

So, I decided to cover up as she does so that for the rest of our time together we could focus on each other’s insides. At the end of my 9 days in Zanzibar, we referred to each other as sisters. For her and all the women that feel silenced by male dominance or feel trapped in their circumstance because of their gender, religion, socioeconomic status, or any other factor, you are seen and you are heard. You have an army of strong women and brave men behind, beside, and in front of you paving the way for a better future. And to all the awesome women of Kairo village, THE FUTURE IS FEMALE!!

Challenging the Paradox

Poverty or simplicity.
Need or innovation.
Aid or empowerment. 
Lack or opportunity.
Power or leadership.
Challenge or strength.
Primitiveness or connectedness.

Let’s all pray for eyes to see the strength and resilience in communities that may seem different than our own. These dichotomies tend to promote a sort of isolation, but let us rise above. Let us learn from each other and work together to build a better future.

Together

I passed by you on my daily run when we shared smiles and a wai
You had been walking in the rain and sludge with a heavy bag of rice
Your petite figure and wrinkled skin proved me of your strength
The bamboo strap around your head couldn’t hide your heart’s length
I heard the rice bag from afar slam down right as you reached the final hill
I turned around and helped you place that burden on your back again
I wish I could share the load you’ve been carrying all this way
And if I could communicate with more than a smile, this is what I would say
I may look a little different
I may sound a little funny
See, the difference between me and you is like sweetener and honey
Your sweetness is so pure and connected to the land
While my sweetness comes from factories and plentiful like sand
I am not attempting to belittle your circumstances I will never understand
When it rains on you, let it rain on me
Forward together we can move hand in hand
We share this earth together
Each one will a purposeful job
I want to give you a voice
Of which many have been robbed
I think of you everyday
Your story and smile alike
It inspires me to wake up each day and challenge this crazy thing called life

Home

Moving around a lot growing up, considering my future after graduation, and traveling out of a 30 liter pack for three months has caused me to question my definition of home.

Home is simply something you carry with you. It is an overwhelming peacefulness causing a sensation of safety and freedom to be yourself. So cheers to all of the people who make me feel at home no matter where I may be.

GIVE Thailand Permaculture Farm

During my time volunteering in Thailand with GIVE volunteers, I had the opportunity to spend a week on a Permaculture Farm about 6 hours North of Chiang Mai. This Permaculture site is located at a primary school called NongBua and supplements the diets of the students that are boarded there. I fell in love with this project and created a video to show how amazing it truly is.

Permaculture, as stated in the video, utilizes the relationships between different types of plants and how their biological make-up can allow for a symbiotic relationship. The plants, the environment, and even the farmer in terms of yield benefits exponentially compared to conventional mono-cropping techniques.

Likewise, when traveling to a place where people may live, sound, or look differently, it is mutually beneficial for each individual to recognize those differences and learn how to harmonize the diversity. Coming to the conversation with an open mind, being slow to speak, and quick to listen can create an opportunity for growth for both parties. This fosters strength and empowerment at the local level that can inspire a global movement for coexistence.

Many times “the white savior” complex can infiltrate our experiences when coming to developing countries and communities. These preconceived notions can hinder our opportunity to learn and grow from and alongside others in communities. The local farmers working with GIVE volunteers at the permaculture site at NongBua school had immense knowledge and experience of farming. They were eager to teach me and humor my silly questions. They would take the time to walk me through each of the projects and how they would come to fruition.

Permaculture– and this site specifically- inspired me to see people for who they are, to challenge my understanding of their reality, to give people a voice and hear their story, and to fall in love with how beautiful diversity can be. That’s how we can change the world- using our differences as a way of strengthening and uplifting each other.

New Roots Internship Spring 2018

Every year, thousands of people are forced to flee their home due to violence and persecution and are welcomed into the United States for safety, freedom, and a chance to rewrite their story. During 2016, 84,995 refugees entered the United States under the Obama Administration (US Department of State). On January 27, 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that temporarily barred citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US indefinitely (Ferwerda, Flynn, & Horiuchi, 2017). Refugees are now placed in 232 metropolitan areas, including Atlanta, across the United States coming from several complex traumas of war and oppression, and multiple separations and losses over prolonged periods (Gangamma, 2017).

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Atlanta, Georgia helps refugees during their transition into America.

The New Roots program, under the IRC’s Education and Learning Program, focuses on bringing refugees together to build connections with their new home through nutrition, healthy lifestyles, and community gardening.

As an intern, I was involved with the Youth Food Justice program. This program includes a youth internship at Clarkston High School, a garden club, and classes on nutrition and healthy lifestyles. I led the interns and other student volunteers through several lesson plans on gardening practices and nutritional habits.

I compiled recorded videos and interviews into a summary of the Youth Food Justice program.

Sources:

Ferwerda, J., Flynn, D.J., & Horiuchi, Y. (2017). Explaining opposition to refugee resettlement: The role of NIMBYism and perceived threats. Science Advances, 3(9) e1700812.

Gangamma, R. (2017). A Phenomenological Study of Family Experiences of Resettled Iraqi Refugees. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 0(0).

International Rescue Committee. (2015). The IRC in Atlanta, GA. International Rescue Committee. 

365 days without her / 365 days closer to her

Being one of the nine Great Walks in New Zealand, Tongariro mounted up another form of overcoming today.

I decided to pick a bouquet of flowers at the bottom of the mountain to take up to the summit in honor of my mom. I did this because I wanted a piece of her to hold on to (as she did love gardening), I wanted her to be as close as possible to me- little did I know the symbolism and impact they would take on. As the hike went on, many asked why I was holding flowers so I was able to share my beautiful mother’s story. Not to mention the absolutely breathtaking panorama at the summit, my most favorite part was planting her flowers in the arid volcanic sand. I stood about 5 yards away and watched as people would notice the burst of color among the sunburned rocks and gasp in awe at its beauty as they nudged all of their friends to share in its magnificence. They would take the time to get on their knees and capture it in all of its glory with the backdrop of New Zealand’s rolling landscape and pristine blue lakes.

That’s exactly what my mother was (and now continues to be to me and to people who have never even met her). She brings a story of hope to the world, color to the dullness, a smile to the stranger, worship in the desert, and beauty from the ashes. Give Jesus a hug for me, mommy.

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