Sure you can. Don’t fight it. Don’t deny it. Own it. It’s been poking and stoking you for a little while now. Can you feel the relentless tapping and rapping? The kneeing and the freeing of you?
Teasing and breezing right by you, like a butterfly tornado, faster and faster, trillions of flapping wings, an infinite number of times over, until it finally gets your attention. And it never gives up, because we both know that it already gets you. It knows, that you know, that I know, that you know, the deal.
The Europeans have it all figured out. At the first sign of any aches they don’t take to bed with a bottle of Aleve. No, they head for the thermae of Italy, the baden of Germany, the baths of England, and station thermales of France The treatments at these detox meccas include water (fresh and sea) and mud therapies that promise freedom from pain — not to mention a cleaner liver. And the concept goes back millennia. After all, Spa is not an acronym for Super Place for Aerobics. Rather, it is named after the town in Belgium favored by Peter the Great. (Yes, that Peter the Great!). They are based, instead, on the restorative and healing powers of thermal and mineral springs and imbibing waters that come directly from those sources.
Alas, we in America may be hard pressed to find these types of cures closer to home as there are only a handful of natural hot springs indigenous to this country. And, truth be told, most people don’t even know they exist. Just ask someone in your office to name a liquid that makes you feel really good. I doubt hot, bubbling water would be the first thing that comes to mind. In fact, make mine a kale and celery smoothie — and a Dirty Margarita for The Lawyer.
Does this mean, though, that we have to suffer such inflammatory ailments as arthritis in silence? After all, about 50 million Americans have been diagnosed with one of the seven common forms of Arthritis. Yes, I am one of them. But limited space will not allow me to regale you with stories about my recent hip replacement! (Call me!) Curative spas aside, it is important, therefore, for patients and care givers to understand the potential impact of the disease and how best to manage it. It can be a critical part of making the decisions to make good on your intent to live a healthier lifestyle that is Better Than Before.
Let’s start with learning a little more about the illness itself. For this I turned to Phyllis Crockett, a specialty-trained pharmacist in the Accredo Rheumatoid Arthritis and Inflammatory Disease TRC.
“Arthritis is a complex family of musculoskeletal disorders consisting of more than 100 different diseases or conditions,” she says. “Although common belief is that arthritis is a condition affecting the elderly, two-thirds of people with arthritis are under the age of 65, including 300,000 children. Also, arthritis affects people of all ethnicities.”
According to Crockett the vast majority of sufferers, about 27 million Americans, have what I have, Osteoarthritis (OA), which is characterized by a breakdown of joint cartridge. A vast majority of OA patients are elderly. (But it could be genetic, and the result of what sets in after you’ve sustained an injury! Hellooo!!)
The rest of arthritis sufferers have the more severe form: Rheumatoid arthritis. “Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is characterized by inflammation of the membranes lining the joint. Although it can strike at any age, women are typically diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 60, while male patients are usually older. There are about 1.5 million affected individuals in the United States. Finally, Juvenile Arthritis (JA) is a term used to describe many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that can affect children ages 16 and younger.”
The disease takes a heavy toll. “Each year, arthritis accounts for 44 million outpatient visits and over 900,000 hospitalizations. In fact, it’s the leading cause of disability in the United States and is a more frequent cause of activity limitations than heart disease, cancer or diabetes. By some estimates, 67 million Americans will have arthritis by 2030.”
So what do we do?
“Managing the disease so that patients can continue to live normal lives is important,” Crockett continues. “Each patient is different and a physician can help determine the best treatment plan, including pain management and managing the symptoms of arthritis.”
She shared with me some tips that she offers her patients, starting with exercise. “It is a valuable tool in the fight against arthritis. OA and RA patients particularly can benefit from both endurance and resistance training.”
Maintaining a healthy weight and protecting against joint injury can help prevent OA. “Every pound of weight lost reduces the pressure on each knee by 4 pounds. Even a small weight loss can be a big help in fighting it.”
Apart from lifestyle modifications, there are also many drug therapies available for arthritis patients—and doctors and specialist pharmacists can help identify the best one for you.
For patients who already are on medication to treat the condition, adherence – taking medications as prescribed – is critical to healthier outcomes.
“But do not self-medicate!” she cautions: “Combining over-the-counter medications with prescription medications can be risky, and can cause side effects such as an increase in GI irritation or a GI bleed. And don’t adjust doses or making changes to the medication regimen without checking with your health care team.”
“Watch for drug interactions: Some common medications like acetaminophen can have a drug-drug interaction with arthritis medications. Limit intake and remember that acetaminophen is often a component in common sinus, cough/cold and pain medications.”
Opt for an anti-inflammatory regimen like the Mediterranean diet – you know the drill, easy on the acidic foods like sugar, white flours, and alcohol, and sticking with leafy greens, whole grains, and lean proteins. “But some foods and beverages can block the effects of arthritis medications,” Crockett concludes. “These include grapefruit, apple and orange juice as well as milk and yogurt. Wait at least four hours after taking medications. Exact times can vary depending on the disease and the treatment. Check with a trained clinician.”
I can assure you from very painful, personal experience that if arthritis does go too far, surgery may be the only option. So if your intent is to help avoid – or at the very least, prolong – this possible outcome, be aware that lifestyle modification and medication may be the answer.
April showers bring May flowers – so the idiom goes, but who talks about how hard those April showers can be to get through? There are weeks during the year when it feels like the flood tides are rising and all you can do is let go into the current. Sometimes those weeks turn into months or longer, and that kind of depression takes different shapes in every person. However, there’s hope. There is a crazy idea that no matter what storms we whether there will be sunshine on the other side, and if we can make it there we’ll be better people for it. There’s hope and optimism that hard times lead to better things. Hope that our trials and tribulations will pay out in positive dividends. We have to believe that to keep going. At Intent we encourage that hope because we believe it to be absolutely true. It turns out we aren’t the only ones – check out these hopeful quotes below and spread them to anyone that could use a little joy.
“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”
There’s something unstoppable about a group of people dreaming big in conjunction.
It’s like one truly passionate person creates this open door for more and more people to dream big and join the party. It just takes that one to be bold, to have the audacity to believe that they could be the one who sees the vision in their head become a reality. It’s that one who gives you permission to be audacious along with them.
So, it’s Monday. If you were waiting for the one, here are three.
Three images to click on leading to projects that are in the dream phase.
Three people who are saying “this is where I’m headed because I believe in this.”
Read their stories. Share you’re own.
You could be one!
Imagine you could let all of your worries and troubles go for one second, what would that moment look like? A french non-profit called the Mimi Foundation gave 20 cancer patients that chance a few weeks ago.
Each patient suffers from a terminal form of cancer. Many have completely lost their hair due to radiation treatments and their days are filled with dread of the next hurdle in fighting the disease. For one day they were invited to a studio to have their hair and make-up done, all while keeping their eyes closed. Then they were placed in front of a one way mirror that had a photographer on the other side. As they opened their eyes he took a photo of that first few seconds of happiness. He captured the pure joy of a carefree moment, something they so rarely get to experience in their current every day lives.
As we come to the close of our week on stress, what would your carefree moment look like? If you could choose it, where would you be? What do you think would bring you that joy? Tell us in the comments below.
To an outsider it might appear that my day was just like any other college student. I got up, went to my morning class, grabbed lunch with a friend, went to my afternoon class, worked out at the gym, did some home work, ate dinner, chatted with friends, got a late night snack then went to bed.
But that façade was far from reality. In fact, I was struggling all day to keep my composure, and desperately trying to hide the fact that I hated myself. I had fallen into a nasty cycle. I would go to bed with my stomach filled to the brim with over 5,000 calories worth of desserts and fried foods. I would wake up ravished and hating myself for needing to eat after the type of dinner I had. So I would try to go as long as possible without eating, and aim to eat only 500 calories a day. My thought process was – if I ate over 5,000 calories yesterday, I should have enough fuel in my body to last me three days. My starvation definitely slowed my weight gain but I still inevitably gained 15 pounds in as little as three months.
The worst part was, I had absolutely no control. NONE. People would look at me like I was crazy when I told them I couldn’t stop myself from eating. Why can’t you just stop when you’re full? They didn’t understand that stuffing my face wasn’t a choice for me. It was a necessity. My hands were not attached to my mind, and I could only stop when I felt so full I wanted to puke. During a binge attack, half of my mind would try to reason why it was okay to eat a whole box of Oreos. The other half of my mind would hate myself and hate the fact that I had no control. There was not an ounce of compassion in my bones. I found myself devouring a whole large pizza, or three whole entrees, or an entire large bag of potato chips. It’s rather astounding how much food my stomach could fit. And the greasier, cheesier or chocolaty the food was – the better.
I do not remember the exact day but I do remember the period of my life when I started having these binge attacks. I was in my second semester in college, and my first real boyfriend and I broke up. I was heartbroken beyond belief, and the sense of abandonment I felt was equal to when I thought my father had abandoned me so many years ago. In reality, my mom divorced my father and moved us to the United States. But to a 7-year-old, all I knew was that my dad was no longer there.
My binges occurred in waves and was never severe enough that I could be officially diagnosed with a binge eating disorder. But that doesn’t take away from the gravity of my situation. My self-loathing only escalated as time after time I would find myself pigging out in front of the fridge. Friends and family tried to help but I knew how to keep my eating a secret. I constantly felt judged and shame ran deep in my veins. WHY ME?!? So many other people in this world have it worse than me, so why do I punish myself? I worried that people would think I was incapable of handing life, and in fact, I did not feel capable at all! No one understood what I was going through. I was more alone than ever. And so I ate.
I decided to start counseling a month after my first binge and 5 years later I am just starting to understand the triggers behind my binge. The difficulty with this type of disorder, at least for me, is that there is not one cause. A variety of different factors play into my disorder, and its difficult to understand it myself, let alone describe it to others.
What I can tell you is that my binges come more often when I am insecure. When I am lonely. When I feel scared. I was forced to grow up quickly, and to protect myself I was never attuned to what I was feeling. When my boyfriend and I broke up, my heart was ripped oven and all the emotions I repressed since I was a little girl came out. And I couldn’t handle it. So I searched for something to make me feel okay again, and I found food. The feeling of fullness and heaviness was the grounding I so desperately needed.
Food is a tough drug of choice because unlike alcohol, you need food to survive. I cannot abstain from food. The battle happens everyday I sit down with a plate in front of me.
In my sessions, I learned that the most important first step was to find compassion for myself. For the little girl inside me who was terrified of the world. In my seemingly endless binge cycle, it was hard to do. But I started to read books about other people with this problem, and it brought comfort to know I was not alone. Slowly but surely compassion came, and a few times I was even grateful for my disorder. My binges were my body’s way of telling me that I was feeling lonely, overwhelmed, powerless and abandoned. How lucky I am to have such an aware body! Now I just have to get my mind there BEFORE my body finds the need to be comforted through food.
It has been quite some time now since I’ve had a huge binge. In the five years since I first started binging, I have learned to be a little less judgmental. A little nicer to myself. And being nicer to myself includes working on the inner critic as well as letting go of what my diet “should” look like. Allowing myself to eat whatever I want has given me the freedom to eat healthier foods as well as enjoy chocolate here and there. The key is to let go of the guilt.
It’s been a long journey of self-hatred, self-love, suffering and compassion. And I know the journey is far from over. I am still learning how to have a normal relationship with food. I am still learning to treat my disorder as a gift from God. I am still learning that no one is perfect, no one is put together, and all we can do is the best we can at every moment. And I am still learning that self-forgiveness is the most powerful key you can hold in life.
But I also know that because of this disorder, I am stronger than ever. I have faith in life. And if the binge comes again, then so be it. I cannot be scared about the future. Life is a roller coaster and that’s what makes it exciting and livable. And as long as I open myself up to my feelings, and do not allow fear to consume me, then I know I have grown.
We are all imperfect beings trying to live a perfect life. Let me be the first to say – I do not wish to live the perfect life. I just wish to accept my life exactly as it is. That is the true gift of God.
We don’t have a letter this week and I thought I’d try something a little different. Something sort of extraordinary has happened that has inspired me and I’d like to share it with all of you.
I’ve been a writer all my life. Not always professionally, but a good pen (preferably blue) with college ruled notebook paper has been where I’ve felt home since I was a child. I’ve gone through several evolutions with how writing would fit into my life – taking turns as a journalist, wannabe novelist, “hobby”-est – you name it and I tried it/thought about it/didn’t make it through. It was in a dark movie theater in Queens that it all sort of clicked into place – screenwriting. After all that time it was strange how easy it was to see that’s what I needed, that’s where home truly was. It just made sense.
So I packed up my bags and I moved west. It took a year to get my feet on the ground and off of generous family members and friends’ couches, but I finally found a job that would allow me to have my own place, afford to live and give me time to keep chasing the dream. I started taking classes and soon the dream started evolving. I developed a new-found confidence on stage and performing started edging its way in to my frequent success fantasies. I found the story I wanted to write, knew the part I wanted to play, all I had to do was get out my pen, put it to paper and write my way to where I truly felt I belonged.
Of course, especially in this town, self-doubt creeped in with the new desires. Do you know how many aspiring screenwriters there are in Los Angeles? More than you can count, and those are just the ones that managed to make it into city limits. And acting? I had no experience outside of high school drama. I sure as hell didn’t look like someone meant to be in front of a camera. The doubt made me bitter and negative. Even though I had a great job that afforded me so much I felt miserable because it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. I hated myself for being so ungrateful, for not being more motivated, for not working harder. Maybe I didn’t want it as badly as I thought, and just that idea made me sick to my stomach.
I began bargaining with the ordering forces of the universe, begging for a sign that I was doing the right thing. I wanted it so badly but the obstacles seemed insurmountable. I just needed some help. I was already on the trail, I just needed a magic dose of courage to put on my shoes and really chase what I wanted.
Then I heard from a friend that she was leaving her steady job to pursue her passion project full-time (you’ll actually be hearing about it quite soon!). I was in awe of her courage – the journey she is about to embark on will be challenging and daunting and beautiful and will save lives. She said she knew it was what she wanted for a while but it took a few other things to push her into taking the plunge, and now that it was here she was terrified but invigorated. She hadn’t worked so hard on anything in a long time. The passion was evident – it radiated off of her. And while being so happy for her, I found myself feeling jealous. I wanted to feel that passion again, as I had when I was sitting in that movie theater, when I first moved to Los Angeles, so sure and so excited.
That’s when I remembered a scene from the Steve Carrell movie, “Evan Almighty.” It is mostly a physical comedy about a man who is tasked with building an ark by God himself. In the midst of the madness, Evan’s wife, played by Lauren Graham, gets some unsolicited advice from a kind stranger that has always stuck with me.
We are not just handed the answers, but given the opportunity to find them for ourselves. My friend was creating her own opportunity, and my envious feelings stemmed purely from me waiting around for someone to hand me my dreams with a bow wrapped around them. She stopped floundering or wondering and decided to just do it.
So this week I say let’s all take a page from her book. Let’s stop waiting for answers in signs or feeling sorry for ourselves when our lives don’t take the immediate direction we want them to. See each turn as an opportunity and take it. Find your passion and follow it.
Tell me how it goes lovelies. I’ll see you again in two weeks, but as for now I have to head out to get a box of red hair dye, a gym membership and new box of blue pens.
The way I think of it, there are really only two ways this happens:
The friendship fades naturally.
You actually come up with a concrete reason why the relationship needs to end in order to preserve your sanity, and do everything you can within your resources to get out cleanly.
Two really sucks.
In a recent case of option 2, I found myself completely dumbfounded that there’s no handbook for this cluster of a situation. Just as I began feeling like I’d lost a family member, I questioned why we give so little thought to the gut-wrenching reality of a lost friendship.
As I stood in my feeling-really-empty apartment, I asked myself, is there really no legal contract here? Do I not get to write something off or give you back some of your stuff that’s at my place? Are there really no airline fees I need to reimburse you for? Do we really just go on living?
How is it that in the world of business, where there are so few emotional exchanges, we have mile-long legal contracts that outline exactly how things will be distributed and dealt with if the relationship doesn’t go as planned, yet in friendship, there is no such thing? How is it that after romantic relationships, we go on yoga retreats and take trips to India, yet in friendship there really is no Eat-Pray-Love breakup protocol to go by? How is it that in the case of a lost partner-in-crime, we merely take ourselves out of the picture without so much getting into down-dog?
I felt like I owed a debt, like for all of the phone conversations and pillow talk and crying and laughing and crying all over again that there had to be some kind of compensation I was either owed or required to distribute. How could this not be the case, I asked myself. How, when someone has seen my insides inside-out, can there be no lawyer involved, no damages collected, no ashram to speak of when the relationship falls apart?
We can find pre-written breakup speeches on Google but almost nothing to lead us through the loss of a friend. We hold these people’s hands through every boyfriend or girlfriend who walks in and out of our lives; we let them stand by while we Google how to let those people go for good. Then, when our Googling, champagne drinking, chocolate-eating partners in crime are no-more, we don’t so much as get the post break-up haircut.
I was mystified.
Friendships gone awry can be very much like relationships gone awry: everything is going great, you’re madly in love, until one day you realize you’re still telling people you’re in love but you haven’t actually felt that way in a while. In fact, as much as you were thriving with this person’s companionship at the beginning of your relationship, you’d probably be just as well off now, if not even better, if you were to abandon the relationship entirely. When you finally decide to pull the plug, memories of the good old days come rushing back, memories that can leave one thinking “hey, wait a second, it wasn’t really that bad…was it?”
This is where the mind plays tricks, and where the mind has tricked me many times during the end-of-relationship grief process. Since there’s not nearly enough written on the case of the lost friendship, here are my two cents:
Trust your gut. This can be absolutely terrifying when you’re worried your gut is going to tell you what you don’t want to hear, so be gentle with yourself.
Surround yourself with people who nurture you, inspire you and uplift you.
Make the space around you safe enough so that you can acknowledge any feeling that might come up and let it be okay.
Tell yourself that no matter what happens, you’re not going anywhere. Remember that the universe has your back.
If something is telling you that friend might be pushing you down instead of up, find someone you feel safe enough to talk to and explore that feeling.
And, if in the worst case, you do find yourself needing to make a clean break from the friendship, set up a support network of people around you that can remind you why you decided to call it quits when you’re stuck in a rut and can’t remember.
Then, once all is said and done, remember this:
Of all the people that may come and go in your life, you are the one who will always be there. Trust yourself enough to know what’s right for you, and don’t let anyone else tell you any differently.
Because of all the best friends you’ve ever had, you were the first.
On October 9, 2012, Malala Yousafzai, a 15-year-old Pakistani student and education activist, was shot in the head and neck in an assassination attempt by the Taliban. Like people around the world, I was stunned. My shock quickly turned to outrage at such horrific violence against a young girl courageously speaking out for girls’ right to education.
I thought about the significance of education in my life, and my very early recognition of its significance. When we migrated to Canada from Kenya, I missed my nursery school so much, I begged my mother to take me to school. I was below the cut-off age to start Junior Kindergarten, so my mother was unable to enroll me. That didn’t stop me. I kept pleading until my mother begged the principal to let me start. He did. I wouldn’t be the person I am without that opportunity; without my right to education being honoured.
A few months ago, I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Gardiner Museum for a preview of “Bullets to Butterflies”, an interactive art exhibit by Canadian artists Unaiza Karim, Saba Syed, and Huma Durrani, inspired by Malala Yousafzai. I was deeply moved by the artists’ passion for the issues underlying Malala’s story, and their determination to transform violence into peace and positive change.
I felt strongly that the exhibit was an ideal fit with the mission of my agency, Farahway Global, that engages the global public in action for human rights and mental health. In the process of planning with the Centre for Social Innovation – Regent Park, where Farahway Global is based, Artscape requested that we host the exhibit in the Daniels Spectrum South Lobby for Asian Heritage Month. In anticipation of our Closing Reception on Thursday, May 30, 2013, I interviewed Huma Durrani about the show.
FNM: What inspired you to create this exhibit?
HD: After the shooting of Malala, there was a strong desire to do something more about the education problems in Pakistan. Saba and Unaiza have children who go to Sunday school together, and while their children were in class, they discussed putting together an art show about Malala’s courage, to raise awareness and funds for schools in Pakistan. When Unaiza told me about the project, I immediately asked to join forces with them.
FNM: Tell me about your professional backgrounds that enabled you to come together and create such a beautiful, powerful exhibit.
HD: All three of us are artists, and were referred to each other by other friends who insisted we needed to connect.
Saba Syed is a Canadian artist specializing silk screening based in Port Perry, Ontario. Saba completed her Fine Arts education at York University in Toronto, Canada. She runs her own silk-screen printing studio and teaches art to local children.
Unaiza Karim graduated with her Masters degree from The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, London. She has specialized in the Art of Illumination from the Islamic tradition and was professionally trained in Turkey.
I am a Canadian artist based in Mississauga. My work is inspired by Islamic art, geometrical patterns and a modern contemporary aesthetic. The majority of my work is done by hand cutting delicate Japanese papers into intricate and precise designs.
FNM: How does your exhibit address girls’ right to education?
HD: All of our pieces address different issues related to the story of Malala Yousafzai – her courage, her mission to speak out for all children to be educated – and also to the education crisis that currently exists in Pakistan. Many people, including Pakistanis who are living abroad, are not even aware of how serious the situation is. We wanted to bring attention to this emergency, and do something about it. The beauty of this exhibit, is that all three artists have different specializations that they are bringing to this show. With the combination of detailed illuminations, silk-screen prints, and delicate paper cuts, the show brings together different art forms and ideas addressing a single issue.
FNM: Can you tell me more about each of your unique pieces in the exhibit?
HD: In Saba Syed’s piece, ‘See Me’, the young veiled child provokes ideas of gender and religion. ‘See Me’ challenges our assumptions that this is an image of a veiled girl but is in fact of a veiled boy. Saba explains, “I wanted a piece that would remind us that we should always question our ‘truths’. Often understanding only comes when we are open to the realization that all may not be as it seems.”
In relation to the Taliban, the veiled boy represents their inability to see themselves within the feminine. Encumbered by this mindset, this creation of ‘The Other’ creates a separation that justifies the use of violence on those who are ‘different’. The butterflies symbolize metamorphosis; that although Malala’s was shot down for her views on the rights for girls to an education, she survived. Her message actually spread and has gathered many supporters.
Unaiza’s piece, ‘The Invitation “Dawat”‘ is based on traditional book arts. In this style, each page is carefully decorated to prepare the reader for what is written on the page they are looking at and what is to come. Many medieval Qurans begin with the ‘garden page’ – a visual feast of natural world themes, symbolism and geometry that sets the tone and serves as an invitation to continue.
Unaiza elaborates, “I offer a similar ‘dawat’ (invitation) in this traditionally ornamented page, inviting the onlooker to read, to learn and to grow – every child’s right.”
My piece, ‘The Butterfly Effect’, is made from hand cut Japanese paper. It speaks to the importance of education for all, regardless of gender. The first revelation of the Holy Quran is this verse: “Read, in the name of your Lord” – Qur’an (Chapter 96, Verse 1). Reading is an act of worship and has been encouraged in Islam for all people. The holy verse is hand cut into the wings of the butterfly. This piece presents that when the feminine power takes hold and implements the command to read, the power that she will hold and share with the world will have an impact on all that surround her. The extent of the effects of women having knowledge is boundless.
FNM: How have you made the exhibit interactive?
HD: We wanted to engage people coming to the exhibit, and make them a part of the art. Our bullet-ridden wall was designed by Saba Syed. In our first exhibit, we invited attendees to answer the question “If you could trade all the bullets in the world for something else, what would you trade them for?” and insert their responses in the bullet holes.
One of the most thoughtful responses was from 7 year old Zain Rashid:
“I would trade for more schools. Because if there are more schools, people will learn more, and when people will learn more about peace. When there is more peace, there is less fighting.”
FNM: You say you wanted to “do something” about the education crisis in Pakistan. I am sure that your exhibit inspires the same desire in others. How are you integrating the potential for such action into your exhibit?
HD: At the show, we sell prints and other items of merchandise to support schools in Pakistan. For our first show we supported Developments in Literacy (DIL) Canada, and for our second show we are supporting the Hope Uplift Foundation. Both of these organizations are doing incredible things to address the education crisis in Pakistan. In December, we were able to raise $500 for DIL Canada. We have also set up an Etsy page where people can buy prints with partial proceeds going towards schools in Pakistan.
Schools, museums, libraries, and other organizations and spaces can host the exhibit to continue reflection, discussion and action on these critical issues.
FNM: Thank you so much for sharing your powerful work and thoughts. I hope this piece will encourage people to join us at the Bullets to Butterflies Closing Reception: May 30, 6-8pm, South Lobby, Daniels Spectrum, 585 Dundas St. E., Toronto, ON. I also hope people will participate in the exhibit on Facebook and Twitter.
UPDATE: The exhibition has been extended to June 10
We just heard two inspiring, heart wrenching, gut churning, funny, amazing life stories, from two Ugandan women, Joan and Teddy, who lifted themselves out of dire poverty and suffering by making and selling paper beads.
The poverty is huge. For example, Millie lives on $1 a day earned from crushing rocks in a quarry, and she has asthma. This is enough money for one meal every day for her whole family. She lives in a 4×7 hut with her six children, two of whom are AIDS orphans she has adopted. They have no water, no electricity, and no possessions. It is so small that one person is appointed to say when everyone should roll over at night.
At least, that was how Millie was living. Now she has a small house of her own, financed by a brick-making business she runs. And this was made possible because she learned how to roll beads out of strips of recycled paper.
How did this happen? Some years ago friends of ours went to Uganda, Africa. Dr. Charles Steinberg was there to teach the local doctors how to use AIDS medicines. Before the family left the US, he, his wife Torkin, daughter Devin, and friend Ginny sat together in prayer. “We said we were tired of talking about how hard the world is, and asked for something to do. This very clear intention was voiced within the context of prayer and sacred commitment,” Torkin told us. “We never dreamt it would manifest through paper beads!”
A few months later, the four of them were in Kampala, the capital of Uganda. On a chance encounter in a Kampala slum, on their way to visit an AIDS patient, the women met Millie who was rolling paper beads. She told them that she had no real market to sell them. They bought a few of her necklaces and, as they wore them, found that many people admired and wanted them. “So we went back to find this woman and discovered a group of her friends who also made beads. We bought about a 100 necklaces. We came back to the US for the summer and began to sell them to friends and at craft fairs.”
The beads began to generate interest, including a magazine article. They realized there was a market, but that most importantly it was about the story and the heartfelt desire to help those in need. One man, who loved the beads so much and wanted to give money to the beaders, offered $200 for a necklace that was on sale for $20.
The women who become beaders all live in slums in Kampala. Many of them are HIV positive, malaria is rampant, and nearly all are raising, alongside their own children, other children they have adopted from some of the 1.4 million AIDS orphans in Uganda. At least 95% of the beaders are women and 40% are refugees, living in huts as small as Millie did with just enough room for them to lie down. All have multiple life challenges. As Torkin says, “It was very humbling to work with these people who struggle so deeply yet also know how to lift themselves up, to laugh, sing and have joy. In a song they wrote there is one line that remains in my heart: ‘We dance while we are suffering.’”
A beader who joins the BeadForLife program gets paid twice a month for their beads and they have to open a savings account. The program is 27 months long and the beaders all receive health care, optional family planning, and business training. By month 20, BeadForLife tops up their savings to $800, enough so that each one can begin their own business to support themselves after the bead-making program has finished. One woman, who used to wash prostitutes’ clothes in a nightclub, now owns a nightclub; there are restaurants, chicken farms, dry good stores, and clothing stores, all begun this way.
Beads can be bought on line, but because of the power of the beader’s stories, most beads are sold through BeadParties hosted in people’s own homes. This is how EVERYONE can help. Many times 2-3 women do this together and it is really FUN. And most importantly, the beads are BEAUTIFUL—vibrant colors and different shapes.
This week and next, between April 9-23, Beadforlife is hosting The Opportunity Tour, with events in Washington D.C., Pittsburg, New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Join Joan and Teddy, hear their stories, and buy beads. Get all the details at: www.BeadForLife.org
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