By Terri Stipanovich Founder and Director of Faith that Works Imagine for a moment that you are walking a dusty road alongside a group of African women and children and that you are listening to one of the women tell a story. The story comes from her own hard life, but it reflects the experiences and human struggle of thousands of women across the globe. You listen to the words, grasping to understand an experience so different from your own life — one of privilege with educational opportunities and the freedom to choose your future. As you walk this dusty road you try to imagine what it would be like to be your friend who is relating this story, but you cannot even imagine the injustice and heartbreak.   Your mind attempts to find a solution to her struggles because you’ve always lived in a place where there are solutions. You reach for a way to make sense of the situation and solve it.  But every possible answer you come up with is impossible in this place, along this dusty road. Dusty road In this impoverished area, little girls are married against their will to much older men. Others have to leave school at age 8 or 9 to assist their mothers at home with the vast household chores. The stories repeat in different scenarios: abuse, neglect, lack of education, and sickness. Female genital mutilation (FGM) is rampant in this culture. These dusty roads are a harsh place for a girl. She must learn to be resourceful and resilient in the conditions around her. The ground in the area is dry and yields very little reward when farming it. Fresh, clean water is a valuable commodity that is not always available. So as I walk these dusty African roads as others have before me, I ask myself over and over again, “What can we do?” I’ve come to understand that giving money can be just a quick fix, something that makes me feel good as I travel back to my comfortable life with opportunity. But we aren’t after quick fixes. The journey on the dusty road has led me to different solutions — solutions that require more sacrifice and take more time but have a real impact. We are working toward empowering solutions that will bring change for young women, and it’s my joy to invite others to join the work. I am accountable now - the women have lifted a veil and allowed me to see their pain. I consider this a privilege and sacred trust, and I cannot ignore that I am called to work for their future, knowing God cares for these women and will guide me in His solutions and plans. In the coming months you will hear more about Nala, an exciting new initiative that will use African resources to empower African women. We will teach women we work with a practical skill, empowering them to create something beautiful that can be shared and sold in a way that creates a sustainable model for women at risk in the communities we serve.   This effort will be a collaboration of different faiths and new faces to Faith that Works. We have a core group of women who are ready to take a risk to help a sister in need. This will be Nala’s story — women who understand that when you assist another woman, she in turn can change a village, a community, a nation. Stay tuned and join us in this exciting adventure and learn how you too can make change happen!
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