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This summer I read a book that should be required reading for everyone! Pulitzer prize winning couple Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl Wu Dunn open our eyes to humanitarian issues around the world. Their stories of how giving turns oppression into opportunity gives me hope for the world. You cannot read this book without wanting to do something and every chapter is chock full of ideas for the reader to make a difference in the lives of oppressed women.

While in Senegal this past February I visited the office of Ashkoka, an organization that supports Social Entrepreneurs enabling many women to receive the resources to help them start a trade.  Ashoka is mentioned numerous times in the book as an organization helping paving the way for women in developing countries.

There are also many examples of young people in America who make a difference by raising awareness of atrocities or visiting developing countries gaining a richer understanding of other poverty and struggles in other cultures. I am especially proud of my daughter Stehanie who

after seeing the school conditions in La Estrella, Nicaragua begged us to let her return to the small village this past July to teach English in the school she helped build there.

Stephanie traveled through the hills of Nicaragua back to La Estrella, Arriba to live with her host family again where she taught english and art, mixing paint out of coffee beans and giving the people there a new way to express themselves.

To tackle an issue effectively, you need to understand it- and it’s impossible to understand an issue by simply reading about it. You need to see it first hand, even live in its midst.”

Nicholas Kristoff, Half the Sky

This quote leads me to highlight another social entrepreneur. Someone I greatly admire. Andrea Gottschall.

After performing in the Vagina Monologues in 2007, Andrea became passionate about fighting FGM (female Genital Mutilation) and went to visit The Sakutiek Rescue House outside of Kenya.  The rescue house, the second founded by Agnes Pareyeo, a FGM survivor is located in the Rift Valley, 100 miles west of Nairobi. SRC is a safe haven for girls where they can celebrate an alternative “rite of passage” enabling Massai young women to follow in their tradition without experiencing the cutting. Ninety percent of the women in this part of the world have arranged marriages and routinely undergo genital mutilation.

Andrea returned from her trip  and created My Empowered Flower, a jewelry line that raises money for the Rescue House. Through combined efforts in the theatre and jewelry sales Andrea has raised over $70,000 for her cause.

I have tried to teach my children an important lesson. If you see something that bothers you, do something about it, even if it means just telling another person and creating awareness.  I hope to encourage everyone to read “Half The Sky”, and I hope when you’re done reading, you don’t just put it down.. but find your own small way to make a difference.

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