Daraja Education Fund/June 2016
'My Passion, My Philanthropy': Deborah Santana Carries Forward Stewardship Tradition
(WOMENSENEWS)—As did many African Americans, my paternal grandparents left the Jim Crow South to make a better life for themselves. From Louisiana, they settled in Oakland, California, and devoted themselves to church ministry.
I was born in the San Francisco Bay Area into a family tradition of stewardship. I was taught the teachings of Jesus, which were to be loving, kind, generous and community building. Love was the theme and stewardship an essential expression of that love—“philanthropy” means, literally, “love of people."
Our congregation regularly shared what we had. It was woven into our daily lives. Pound Fridays, for example, were a time to anonymously deliver a pound of flour, a loaf of bread, a macaroni and cheese casserole or a dozen eggs to a struggling church member. Other times stewardship meant our presence. We visited the homes of those who weren’t well. Some women in the congregation were in their 90s and lived alone. I remember time spent with two elders: Nanny and Sister Fields. We brought homemade cookies and sat with them. Their stories formed the basis for my faith as I heard how they overcame hardships.
My mother wore the gift of sharing as a light shawl. She was the main financial support of our family, as a social security administrator. My father was a successful jazz/blues musician who chose to stop touring to be home with his wife and two daughters. He cared daily for my sister and me, getting us to school and being there when we returned, a rather revolutionary act as a stay-at-home father in the 1950s and ‘60s. My mother was always a feminist. She clearly saw that the face of poverty was often female, and she also knew that women were the pillars of their communities.
I brought these deeply rooted values to my adult life and my own family. Professional success led us to see the needs of people around the world. We established a family foundation to support the causes and values we cared about.
After I divorced, with my children grown and launched, I wanted to engage more deeply in philanthropy with my entire self—not just by writing a check. My passions were education and health, and included wanting to support women whose lives were impacted by domestic violence.
I established my foundation, Do A Little, to help women and girls in these areas. Do A Little supports each woman’s story and potential to live creative and free, believing each of us is equal, and no amount of fame, fortune, beauty or acclaim makes one person more important or significant than another. I want women to live from their inner power and to transform their lives from a dream into a reality of purpose and success as powerful and strong leaders. As the Dalai Lama writes, “I believe everyone has the responsibility to develop a happier world. We need, ultimately, to have a greater concern for others’ well-being."
San Francisco to Kenya
The causes I support stretch from those in the San Francisco Bay Area to distant nations. In Kenya there’s the Daraja Academy, a school that is transforming the lives of girls and equipping them with a full array of life skills necessary to rise from poverty and return to their communities as advocates of change. The 224 young women, some currently attending and others graduated from the secondary school, have all received scholarships provided by generous donors.
One student, Benny, was born in Kibera, the largest slum in Nairobi. She came to Daraja with her mother believing she could grow beyond her beginnings. She is now studying to be a nurse. Faith came from an elementary school with a mud floor and few supplies. She blossomed into her class valedictorian and is now at university studying to become a teacher. Two young women at Daraja live with HIV/AIDS and foster open communication about this health challenge.
In the United States, Do A Little works with centers for domestic violence that provide groundbreaking programs, policies and campaigns to empower individuals and organizations to end violence against women and children.
Through this work my intention is to quietly and purposefully serve others. The experiences of my life have taught me that we can all reach out to strengthen and uplift another person. Throughout this time, my heroes have inspired and helped guide me. A few of them include Marian Wright Edelman, CEO and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, the luminous freedom fighter Nelson Mandela and Bryan Stevenson, who is steadfastly working to challenge bias against people of low-incomes and people of color in our nation’s judicial system.
Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu, a dear friend and a source of lasting inspiration, said it best: "Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world."
Visit the Women's E-News Article: www.womensenews.org »
The flyer read "Join us in Belize, Central America for our Global Citizenship and Human Service Delegation," an invitation from Ambassador Shabazz, who has spent over 35 years developing curriculums and programs for educational institutions, executive forums, diplomatic networks, penal systems, conferences, and human service organizations globally.
For the past 14 years, she has been the Ambassador at Large to Belize.
I had the joyous opportunity to meet Ambassador Shabazz in 2015. We connected through conversations about our shared values and mutual appreciation of diverse cultures, continued search for justice in our society, and personal spiritual quests.
The prospect of a "working retreat" with other women was intriguing, but I had no premonition of how significant this journey would be for me. Do A Little's mission is to serve women and girls in the areas of health, education, and happiness. In Belize, I met women of Maya, Garufina, Guatemalan, Honduran, and Mestizo descent, working in their communities to further opportunities in business, health, commerce, education, and beauty. Our delegation visited the Old Belize Museum, a prison, Lamanai Mayan ruin, and on my own, I went to a baboon sanctuary. Following Geraldine, my tour guide, she told me the names of trees and birds, pointed out the split leaf philodendrun that provides water for the howler monkeys who live in the canopy of trees. I witnessed the destruction of Hurricane Earl’s winds that had downed palms, fig trees and splintered the wood of walking bridges.
At the woman’s prison, we followed Ambassador Shabazz’s vision to transform the gray walls beyond the buildings into a colorful mosaic so that the women’s time outside would be uplifting. We met Dr. Lisa Johnson, Belize’s first female general surgeon outside the gates, and together with the incarcerated women, painted the walls of the garden. We dipped our sponges into red, purple, yellow, and green paint, listening to the women speak about their families, their long hours inside, and the legal system. In my three visits to the prison, the women I met became my friends, and their stories came alive in my heart and mind. The last night we had a ceremony honoring our work together, singing, offering prayers, and holding hands. I silently chanted the principles I hold dear – equanimity, justice, lovingkindness, compassion, integrity, truth - as we walked outside looking up at stars and a half moon, the women in awe of the open sky they seldom see.
I led two sessions of writing practice with the delegation. We used the prompt from the last line of "The Summer Day," Mary Oliver's well-known poem: "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” As each woman read her piece out loud, the air in the room was electrified with our personal commitments to elevate our lives, to follow our inspirations, and to believe that life will continue to unfold in wild and magnificent ways.
I said goodbye to Belize acknowledging the experience had challenged me in new ways. Working outside in the 90 degree weather, bumping along rutted roads in vans, I had memorized faces of Belizians whose eyes showcase a rich history of migration, Afro-Meztizo culture, the knowledge of eight different languages, and embrace visitors like me with sincere smiles and Kriol phrases. "Evryting gud/aarite" translates “Everything’s fine.”
And so it is.
Daraja Education Fund/June 2016
I have just completed two documentary screenings & my annual fundraiser for the Daraja Academy in Kenya. Each time co-founder Jenni Doherty & I spoke about the secondary school, I felt as if I were back on campus, sitting with the exemplary students, drinking in their enthusiasm for education & changing our world for the better. I imagined hearing their laughter & seeing the bright light in their eyes.
Jenni’s husband, co-founder Jason Doherty has been a feminist for many years. He traveled to Africa with his parents as a young boy and fell in love with the continent and its many different cultures & people. It does not take being a feminist to care about educating girls. It takes a desire to level the playing field so that access to education & self-determination exists for all. Unicef reports: “Despite progress in recent years, girls continue to suffer severe disadvantage and exclusion in education systems throughout their lives. An estimated 31 million girls of primary school age and 32 million girls of lower secondary school age were out of school in 2013.”
In my latest documentary about Daraja Academy, Daraja Girls: Powerful Beyond Measure, we address the issue of forced marriage for young girls, as early as the age of 10. Two Daraja students speak about their experiences: one who was taken at a young age as an older relative’s wife; another who announces she will become a lawyer to stop child marriage in Kenya. Unicef states: “If all girls had secondary education in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia, child marriage would fall by 64 per cent, from almost 2.9 million to just over 1 million.”
Social activist & scholar bell hooks wrote: “Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.” The girls at Daraja Academy have overcome tremendous barriers to receive the educations that move them into active community leadership positions & win them scholarships to attend colleges & universities around the world. They live their empowerment as feminists and use their voices to advocate for young girls & women.
hooks writes: “Feminists are made, not born. One does not become an advocate of feminist politics simply by having the privilege of having been born female. Like all political positions one becomes a believer in feminist politics through choice and action.” (Feminism is For Everybody: passionate politics / bell hooks.)
I continue to live my passion for girls’ education, & for the Daraja Academy in Nanyuki, Kenya. Please consider joining me to support & sponsor these girls.
“Millions of people all over the world feed the wild animals in their gardens,” writes Helen Macdonald in a New York Times Magazine article, “On Nature.” The author goes on to tell us about people who have spent years watching badgers, foxes, migratory warblers, and hundreds of other creatures fly or scurry through their backyards or nearby forests, feeling concern and connection to them, especially during cold winters. “Americans spend over $3 billion each year on food for wild birds, ranging from peanuts to specialized seed mixes, suet cakes, hummingbird nectar and freeze-dried mealworms,” Macdonald writes.
I try to live with compassion for all sentient beings, and this article raised a question for me: With so many human beings in America living in poverty — in their September, 2015 issue, the Atlantic Magazine quoted 47 million Americans live below the poverty threshold of earning about $24,000 annually, including 15.5 million children under the age of 18 — what is my responsibility in helping others? Offering $3 billion annually to programs would most likely eradicate the hunger of our country’s children.
I care deeply for the wellbeing of people. For the past 8 years, Do A Little’s mission has been to serve women and girls in the areas of health, education and happiness. Since last year, my attention has been drawn to all people who suffer daily living in poverty. The news of innocent or unjustly sentenced people in jails and prisons, predominantly people of color and women, is the civil rights issue of our time. Bryan Stevenson’s book, Just Mercy, gives the statistics of this “discrimination and inequality.” It is a shocking, heartbreaking read, exposing the public policies that affect people’s lives — forever — from a biased, racist infrastructure.
Last night, I had the privilege of hearing Mr. Stevenson speak in my hometown. His message filled me with hope that I can change the narrative that our country has built about people of color, that I can become proximate with those who are unfairly denied justice and work for their rights, that I can support volunteer programs that serve incarcerated people. As Mr. Stevenson said, “We are all broken.”
What has now occurred in my heart and life is a desire to work for the poor, to recognize that the civil rights movement of my youth continues to be the civil rights crisis of today.
Please join with me by doing your little bits of good in our world.
Visit the Equal Justice Initiative’s website:
Do A Little May 2015
I have believed in and supported the Daraja Academy, a free boarding school for girls in Nanyuki, Kenya, for six years. One of the great attributes of Daraja Academy is that it empowers girls to become creators, activists, and leaders of our world.
Daraja’s founders & I connect through our shared values & our belief that girls deserve to be highly educated & given access to health care, sex education, & the inspiration of women around the world who guide them to success. We are kindred souls.
No Ceilings: The Full Participation Report sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates & the Clinton Foundations writes: “Today, we have strong evidence that when women and girls participate fully, economies grow and nations are more secure. Awareness of women’s rights has spread from the streets to state capitals. Powerful tools, such as technology, and a broad range of partners—from the private sector to the faith community—offer the opportunity to accelerate the full participation of women and girls. Now is the time to continue that work so we can ensure a promising future for the next generation of women and girls, along with their families, communities, and countries…However, gaps in education remain, and marginalized girls lag farthest behind.
Poor, rural, minority, and conflict-affected girls are significantly less likely to be educated. Almost two-thirds of the world’s illiterate adults—496 million—are women, many of whom are disadvantaged. Despite a narrowing of the gender gap in secondary education, many girls remain out of school. Although more girls are attending secondary school, and the gap between the sexes has narrowed from 92 girls per 100 boys enrolled in 1998 to 96 girls today, in some regions too many girls are still out of secondary school. Less than a third of girls in Sub-Saharan Africa and fewer than half in South Asia are enrolled in secondary school. These are also the regions most likely to charge tuition fees at the secondary level.”
This is exactly why we raise funds to pay the tuitions for the girls at Daraja Academy – to close this gap.
Being kind to others & sharing abundance has been called charity. In medieval times, charity was considered a ‘personal action evoked by dearness & contributing to the well-being of its giver as well as its receiver.’ (Dr. Victoria Sweet – God’s Hotel pg. 255)
This is true for me. By contributing to the well-being of Daraja Academy girls, I have well-being, fullness, & a life so much better than it was before I knew Daraja Academy (http://daraja-academy.org/).
Please watch this video of a news story about two students & the principal’s visit to America: www.abc7news.com/video
Read about Do A Little in the San Francisco Foundation's Fall Newsletter:
Do A Little blog
The Unsung Heroes of Compassion is an event that began in 1999, as a result of a private conversation between His Holiness, the Dalai Lama and Dick Grace of Grace Family Foundation. Dick shared the kernel of an idea he was formulating: Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could do a better job of transforming our contemplative practice into compassionate action? His Holiness enthusiastically embraced the idea replying, “We have to work hard on that.”
The first Unsung Heroes of Compassion event was created in 2001, with subsequent events held in 2005 and 2009. This year I am humbled to be one of the 2014 Unsung Heroes - 24 women and 27 men— who range in age from 16 to 85, work in 18 countries worldwide, and represent many ethnicities, cultures, faiths, and backgrounds.
“These individuals have been selected as representatives of the tens of thousands of people worldwide who quietly serve the disenfranchised and work to improve our communities through their personal efforts,” says Dick Grace, founder of Grace Family Vineyards and board chair of Wisdom in Action, the organization hosting the unique celebration. “We don’t see them or hear about them in the daily news, but they exemplify a humanism and heroism to which we must each aspire.”
Do A Little just turned 5 years old. We have had the glorious opportunity to support over 40 non-profit organizations that bring positive change to people’s lives. I started my first foundation, Milagro, in 1998, but the business of philanthropy began when I was a young girl. My parents taught me that giving is more fulfilling than receiving, and that it isn’t how much you give, but how freely.
I have quite a few mentors who tirelessly show up to serve the needs of others. My friend, Dick Grace, says, “I try to bring the messages of kindness and compassion and helping underserved people down to reality. I don’t want to think about building a medical clinic, I want to build it. I don’t want to think about delivering medical equipment, I want to deliver it. I don’t want to think about helping a family, I want to help that family.
My friend, Vee Griffin Tabor, Executive Director of Center for Community Solutions says, “I am continually humbled and inspired by the courage, compassion and strength of the people we serve. They teach us about love and tolerance, and that change is not only possible but inevitable."
One of the young women of the first graduating class of the Daraja Academy in Kenya said of her summer volunteer job, “My favorite part about teaching is spreading education across my country. Education is power.”
One of Do A Little’s missions is to encourage giving on a small scale or a large scale. One does not need millions of dollars or thousands of hours to create change, heal wounds, feed the hungry, build affordable housing, or support microfinance. We only need to follow our calling and serve where we can, by offering our wisdom in solidarity and love.
Happy birthday, Do A Little! We thank every donor and grantee who participates with us as a part of our beloved community.
Dear Daraja friends and supporters,
I leave for Kenya in two weeks to visit the Daraja Academy. It has been two years since I stepped onto the rich red soil of the secondary school campus and much has changed. The first girls I met, whose faces you saw in the Girls of Daraja film, are now seniors. There were 26 girls on campus in 2010; now there will be 104. I have not yet seen the newest dorm, the expanded garden, the medals each girl was given by the Bay to Breakers race organizers for their Lap-A-Thon and connection with Kenyan race winner, Lineth Chepkurui. Some of the girls I met now wear eyeglasses; the girls have set goals to be trustworthy, faithful, honest, respectful, self-controlled and mindful.
This time when I reach Daraja Academy, I will take a poetry project to work on with the girls. Documentary filmmaker Barbara Rick and her husband, Jim Anderson, will meet me on campus to shoot a new film about the school, and I will carry gifts and good wishes from many of you to share.
Being a part of Daraja Academy has fulfilled a goal I set when I created my non-profit, Do A Little in 2008. I sought connection with a community that serves women and girls in the areas of health, education, and happiness. I wanted to meet and become friends with people who were passionate about changing the lives of others because it fills their hearts with joy and purpose, and gives deeper meaning to life.
On July 14, 2012, I will hold my annual fundraiser to continue to support a free education for the girls at Daraja Academy. I will premiere the new documentary film we produce, and we will Skype with girls on campus! Please save the date to join me at the David Brower Center, 2150 Allston Way Berkeley, CA 94704. We will enjoy great food, music, and each other’s company as we celebrate and support Daraja Academy once again.
I carry you in my heart,
People often ask me why I give. What is sad about this is that they find it unusual, or abnormal. However, the hearts of people are giving. We intrinsically know that we are part of each other, that another person's well being depends upon our oneness with their plight, their wellness, their education, their safety and human rights.
My community of love has expanded exponentially since I founded Do A Little in 2008. I am now surrounded by people who work daily to effect change in the world in varied ways: through advocating for reform in discriminatory issues that affect armed service members and provide direct services to wounded veterans, service members and their families; by taking underserved high school students to tour colleges; by rescuing very young children from working in dangerous garbage heaps in Cambodia and giving them free educations, health care and basic living costs; by providing women and children with legal representation, housing, food and employment when they have fled homes where they suffered domestic violence.
There are thousands of non-profits serving the needs of their villages. That is what our world is: villages filled with others just like us. I believe that serving is sacred work. It involves reallocating the world's financial resources from consumption and greed to sharing what each of us has to transform society so that no one will be marginalized, abused, or left behind.
We can all be channels through which spirit illumines the world. We were all put here to love, support one another and dispel the darkness of fear and separation.
Rina Swentzell, a member of the Santa Clara Pueblo in New Mexico, writes that "every thing, every body, and every place is sacred and has essential worth...there is no need to individuate. The people and their world are sacred and indivisible."
May it be so.
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I begin this new year with effusive joy and gratitude for the opportunities given to Do A Little to work in tandem with organizations that are improving lives around the world. One of the projects I first funded in 2008, Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement, is a film documenting the life of 85-year-old James Armstrong, a barber in Birmingham, Alabama. A character-driven documentary, the film reconstructs the history of one of the most segregated cities in the South. Mr. Armstrong was a civil rights activist since the 1950’s. He was in the army in WWII, stationed in Europe and said of his return home, "I went all over Germany and France but I came back here and caught more hell from George Wallace than I did from the Germans." Mr. Armstrong was not a religious or political leader but he worked closely with Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth who, along with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). A dynamite charge set beneath his bedroom window left Rev. Shuttlesworth's house severely damaged and nearly killed him. Rev. Shuttlesworth says of Mr. Armstrong, he "was one of the sweetest people I've ever met. Every time I went to jail, he went to jail to protect me. And he was the first to put his children in school and even in the years that followed, everything about freedom, any sort of a movement or gathering, James Armstrong was there."
While the filmmakers worked on the film, Barack Obama was elected President, Mr. Armstrong passed away, and before the film was completed, one of the directors, Gail Dolgin an independent documentary filmmaker who produced and directed Daughter from Danang, winner of the Sundance Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary and nominated for an Academy Award, passed away after a long battle with cancer.
Against this backdrop, Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement was awarded entry into the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. An amazing accomplishment and gift to Gail's co-director in the film, Robin Fryday, this recognition is a lasting tribute to Mr. Armstrong and Gail Dolgin.
I believe, as President Obama said in his speech in Tucson Wednesday January 12, 2011, that when we live for the good of all humanity, "We recognize our own mortality, and we are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this Earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame - but rather, how well we have loved and what small part we have played in making the lives of other people better."
Happy New Year.
July 15, 2010
Our documentary short film about the Daraja Academy in Nanyuki, Kenya has been chosen to premiere at the Lights. Camera. Help. Film festival in Austin, Texas on Friday, July 30, 2010!
One of 36 films selected from 235 entries from around the world, Girls of Daraja tells the story of Daraja Academy, a free secondary boarding school for girls who would not be able to attend school without the scholarships provided.
Do A Little has been a passionate supporter of this school for over a year, and I was fortunate to travel to Kenya in February to meet the 52 remarkable students, their teachers, staff, volunteers and founders. What makes Daraja Academy special is the oneness of everyone involved, from the board members to the donors, who have written checks to fund a full scholarship for a girl, medical exams, meals, textbooks, and one of our favorites: a cow. Each teacher works with volunteers and staff to create a vibrant educational environment for the girls. I saw a couple of the villages where the girls lived. Most do not have running water or electricity, but many of the girls were able to persevere in their studies to be in the top of their primary classes.
Please view the short version of Girls of Daraja documentary on my website, and tell anyone who lives close to Austin to join me at the festival!
I had the great opportunity to speak at the City of Oakland Mayor Ronald Dellums’ Summit on Women in May. The Summit's theme was Enlighten. Engage. Empower. That was definitely my experience. I listened to the words of Nell Davis, who stressed the importance of each person, no matter what age, getting tested for HIV. She was eloquent and frank with her own experience and I heard her message. Sheryl Lee Ralph gave the keynote address with great power and creative beauty. An actress and magnificent singer, Ms. Ralph was passionate about this same issue - HIV/AIDS prevention and testing.
Oakland also has a Get Screened Oakland Program, a public health initiative designed to support a community-wide goal for everyone to know their HIV status, to get tested for HIV, and, if necessary, to be linked to care and treatment. It is estimated that there are 1.1 million people living with HIV in the United States, with nearly 21% not knowing that they are infected. Tests take as little as 20 minutes and can save lives. Know your status! Get tested!
Thank you to everyone who has joined with me in support of Daraja Academy in Nanyuki, Kenya. A student there wrote, "I accept the realities and never give up. The purpose of this life is to be useful. Everything is achievable if we have passion and energy towards it."
I share these same sentiments with you, my friends. Your power is in your heart.
For information, call 1-888-8ENDHIV, or go to www.getscreenedoakland.org.
Since my return from Kenya in March, I have been feverishly working to find new connections on this continent for the Daraja Academy, planning a fundraiser to support scholarships for the school, and working on a documentary film showing the brilliance of the secondary school girls, staff and administration.
Spring took me on travels to visit my own children in three different states; Daraja founders, Jason & Jenni Doherty came to California; the International Museum of Women held a spectacular gala, and the Global Fund for Women presented a "Day of Shared Learning," with reporting from their staff about the global political and economic climate for women’s rights in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, North Africa, and other parts of the world. The comprehensive outline of how women and men experience war and peace differentially, suffer from violence differently, and how being displaced from homes affects women in a more powerful way was enlightening. The fact that internally displaced populations (IDP) is 26 million people in 52 countries shows how wars have dismantled and destroyed lives.
Once again, Do A Little is privileged to support the Violence Intervention Program (VIP) in Los Angeles. Dr. Astrid Heppenstall Heger reports, "Just this week, I was able to help a mother and her eleven children and grandchildren avoid homelessness because of [people's] generosity. And they won't have to live in a one-room apartment anymore because [supporters] remember VIP every year."
At the dinner for The Feminist Majority Foundation, a Los Angeles group founded in 1987 that works for women’s equality, I was inspired by honorees Gloria Steinem, Dolores Huerta, Khaled Hosseini, and Esha Momeni (http://feminist.org). Women's rights and equal access to education and freedom continues to need our attention and dedication as evidenced by graduate student, Esha Momeni, who was arrested on October 15, 2008 in Tehran for videotaping interviews for her master's thesis with feminist activists in the One Million Signatures Campaign for Equality. She was held in solitary confinement for 25 days in Evin prison and detained for almost a year. Eloquent and powerful, Ms. Momeni told us how brave the women in Iran are – to speak out when they may be imprisoned for their defiance.
Dolores Huerta remembered that United Farm Worker founder Cesar Chavez asked the activists on the picket lines, "Where is your power?" And he would answer the question himself: "It's in your person," and point to his heart.
Thank you to everyone who has joined with me in support of Daraja Academy in Nanyuki, Kenya. A student there wrote, "I accept the realities and never give up. The purpose of this life is to be useful. Everything is achievable if we have passion and energy towards it."
I share these same sentiments with you, my friends. Your power is in your heart.
Please visit to view the "Girls of Daraja" video.
February 19, 2010
With great joy and gratitude, in just three days, I will leave on a pilgrimage to visit grantee Daraja Academy in Nanyuki, Kenya. The intent of this journey is to meet the 26 girls who began their secondary education at the school last year, and to welcome the new class of 26 girls who will arrive while I am there. From various tribes and villages across the country, these girls have been chosen from 100 who applied this year. Without Daraja and the dedicated work of the directors, teachers and staff, these girls would not have the opportunity to expand their minds and create dreams that they will be able to fulfill.
This year, the selection process was especially difficult because of the high level of grades and test scores of the applicants. Some of the girls live in Internally Displaced Peoples Camps, and others are from the slums of Likii Village. The words of one girl are quite remarkable: "...the only thing you [can] carry is your education."
It is humbling to have this opportunity to connect with people I have only communicated with through photos, letters, and video. I hope to offer my deep respect and oneness to these girls. As my friend said, "One of those girls might transform Africa and maybe, the whole world."
I will send more news from Daraja after I touch the land near the equator...
I was introduced to Haiti many years ago through the heart-opening work of a former nun and school teacher, Barbara Wander. She has served Haiti with the Little Sisters of St. Therese who work with over 125,000 Haitians each year. Barbara was with the sisters and some of the students who live at the main center, Riviere Froide, when the earthquake struck. We have heard that everyone in this particular group is fine, although there are no services to the orphanages or school. I believe that the nuns I have come to know through letters and photographs will survive with their great faith and hard work.
If anyone is able to send funds to help the Sisters at Riviere Froide and the children they take care of, please, please send a donation to: Sisters of Loretto Development Office, 4000 South Wordsworth Blvd., Littleton, CO 80123-1308 and indicate that your contribution is for the work of Barbara Wander in Haiti.
Another trustworthy, selfless person I had the privilege to hear speak about Haiti is Dr. Paul Farmer of Partners in Health. Dr. Farmer has been working to eradicate TB and AIDS in Haiti and around the world for over 20 years. Do A Little made a contribution to their Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund and we encourage you to do so, if you can: www.standwithhaiti.org/haiti.
Our prayers and hearts are with the people of Haiti...
Do A Little has started the new year with support for the San Francisco Art Commission Gallery's 40th Anniversary season. All of the municipal gallery's exhibitions are free and open to the public, and the gallery displays the work of emerging as well as established artists, and serves independent curators who encourage thoughtful dialogue. Please visit their website to peruse the fascinating information about their projects. www.sfartscommission.org/gallery
I am most excited for their summer 2010's Economica: Women and the Global Economy, which partners with the International Museum of Women. This exhibit will be at SF City Hall.
I heard an interesting definition of stewardship: one who uses her/his resources to soothe the life of another. We all have gifts to share with others: an inspiring word, a helping hand, financial support, in kind services, love.
November begins the season of giving, of remembering what is most important, which to me is love, and times of gathering together. Do A Little has had a remarkable year of meeting new humanitarians and activists, of partnering to support lives, and of cherishing the freedom and light of our grantees.
In Oakland, Covenant Sisters serves women who have suffered from addictions. Ninety eight percent of the women were sexually abused as girls, and Covenant Sisters helps them heal from the pain and become successful in their lives. When I asked the director for statistics on their recovery program, she reported that they have charted a 78% success rate for clients maintaining sobriety, and the women serve their community by preparing and giving away groceries for 300 people each week.
DrawBridge is a Bay Area arts program for homeless children. I have known about this program for many years, and it was founded by Gloria Simoneaux, who is a current grantee of Do A Little for her yoga and art programs in Kenya through Harambee Arts : Let's Pull Together™. DrawBridge gives children an outlet for their feelings and creativity.
I learned about the Cambodian Children's Fund in April at the Yoga Off the Mat, Into the World Workshop I attended. Founder Scott Neeson left a high profile career in Hollywood, the "successful" American life, and moved to Cambodia where he set up a shelter for 45 poverty- stricken children who spent their days laboring in the extremely dangerous 11 acre, 100-foot deep Steung Meanchey garbage dump. Four hundred children later, the Cambodian Children's Fund provides food, clothing, education, vocational training, and healthcare to create a community of strong children and families.
Do a Little is thankful to all of our grantees and to those of you who have generously contributed to us so that we can share our gifts with others.
Have a beautiful holiday season and be filled with joy.
"We are always able to do something, and we are always able to be touched. This is compassion." – Rupert Neudeck (founder of Green Helmets, which reconstructs villages in destroyed regions)
I grew up reading Bible stories, fairytales, parables and poetry. Wisdom was imparted from the pages of books and from Sunday School, Girl Scouts, and talks around the kitchen table. Our family had an intention to care for others, which I am so grateful to have learned. I am now reading Half the Sky, a book written by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Pulitzer Prize winning journalists, who have brought together statistics and stories of human rights violations of women around the world. It is a heartbreaking read, but promises to give me direction and tools to help transform the lives of girls and women who have been oppressed, abused, and stripped of all that is rightfully theirs. The book focuses on "three particular abuses: sex trafficking and forced prostitution; gender-based violence, including honor killings and mass rape; and maternal mortality, which still needlessly claims one woman a minute" (from the introduction).
That women "hold up half the sky" a Chinese Proverb from which the book's title is taken - is quite an image to behold. It is Do A Little's mission to support women in education, health, and happiness as we raise our arms to the clouds and stand, open and powerful, offering our strength and funds to the world.
Do A Little has started a new connection with World Vision. I have sponsored children through the non-profit for many, many years, and now have an opportunity to specifically support programs for women and girls in Ethiopia for micro enterprise development, a midwifery training program in Afghanistan, and in Cambodia a program where children will be given opportunities to leave lives of danger on the streets. World Vision's programs build up entire communities and assist with food aid, health care services, water purification & supply, as well as psychosocial support for children. More than 2,000 children die each day from malaria somewhere in the world- approximately one every 40 seconds. World Vision offers, for only $3 a piece, life-saving bed nets along with other prevention and education tools to children and families in the hard-hit African nations of Zambia, Mozambique, Kenya and Mali. Online donations can be made at www.worldvision.org/ReadandRespond.
For those of you in the San Francisco Bay Area, please join the San Francisco Foundation’s Community Leadership Awards program Tuesday, September 22 from 6:30 - 8:30 PM at the Herbst Theater, War Memorial Veterans Building in San Francisco. As a former CLA Board member, I can assure you that the evening will be inspiring. Honorees are chosen from hundreds of recommendations, and individuals and organizations whose leadership has made a significant impact in their particular Bay Area communities are awarded monetary gifts to further their work. This work may confront societal or civic issues, address health or environmental concerns, or promote arts and humanities. This year Mary Lou Breslin, co-founder of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Michael Franti, artist, activist and founds of Spearhead, Eugene Rodriguez, founder of Los Cenzontles Mexican Cultural Arts Center, Children's Book Press, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights will receive recognition. Also, Koshland Young Leader Awards will go to eight Bay Area youth.
I wish each of you great success in every area of your lives.
I am excited about Do A Little's partnership with Global Fund for Women. My commitment to the project: Reclaiming Peace & Genuine Security: Women Dismantling Militarism touches a deep chord of need in our world. Global Fund for Women believes that their grantees have valuable insights into the root causes of militarism and armed conflict. How better to institute paths to peace than through women-led groups who have experienced the brutality of militarism. Do A Little's grant is a founding gift to this new program.
Daraja Academy has welcomed Do A Little as a sponsor to four girls who attend the school in Nanyuki, Kenya. A tuition-free, non-religious boarding high school founded by Jason and Jennilyn Doherty, Daraja has 26 students who are working hard to make a difference in our world, and who are committed to becoming leaders in the fields of education and medicine. Daraja is the Swahili word for bridge. When I met Jason Doherty, I immediately felt a bridge from my heart to the girls in Kenya. Please visit their website and watch the video of the girls arriving at the beautiful academy, studying in classrooms, and playing sports. It is inspiring to see youth excited to learn and grateful for developing their minds.
May your summer continue to be filled with joy and light.
May 20th I attended the Center for Community Solutions' Annual Tea in San Diego and heard the eloquent human rights advocate Marian Wright Edelman counsel us to create a new paradigm for our world, to reject violence as an answer to our differences, and to be defiant addressing corporate and political rejection of healthcare for all. Her work as President of Children's Defense Fund has brought attention and positive change to policies that criminalize and attack children.
Oakland Tech has produced a video of their amazing arts programs, highlighting the students' work and testimonials from teachers. The Advanced Drama Department has just been selected as one of 50 in the country (of 2,000 nominated) to represent the U.S. with the American High School Theatre Festival at the 2010 Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, the largest theatre festival in the world. Our students have been invited to perform next summer!
Cinnamon Girl will host its Fourth Annual Ladies Tea to raise funds and present the success of their programs Sunday, June 28, 2009 at the Claremont Country Club in Oakland. Tickets are $50 for adults and $25 for 18 and under. There will be spoken word and live music to support a great mentoring program for girls.
These are exciting times for Do A Little's work in the world and I thank everyone who feels the fire to partner with our grantees.