Meet the Jua Project

SONY DSC

One year ago, I sat in my economics class and I was introduced to the concept of social entrepreneurship. In a nutshell, it’s the idea that you can take a business and use it for good. In that class I was also introduced to the concept of micro-loans and how women being able to start businesses provided excellent returns on investments as well as broke cycles of poverty in third world countries. I have fallen in love with the concept of using business and turning it into something that brings a bit of good to this world. I believe with all my heart in the ability of capable people with big dreams being able to make a real difference in the world. This is the reason why I’m going into Advertising and PR, because I want to be a megaphone for the dreamers and the doers.

Currently, I have the opportunity to partner with a group that is all about dreaming and doing. I would like to introduce you to Jua Project.

What is Jua Project? Well, they are an organization that works with a group of 9 women in Kenya. They teach these women to make paper beads that they turn into jewelry to sell on Etsy and back in the US. They pay these women for their time and teach them valuable skills. Their goal is to make these women self sufficient and able to provide for themselves and their children. Not only do they work with these women, but they have a Bible study that has about 100 people attending. Jua Project seeks to provide hope in every sense of the word.

One of the cool things about Jua Project is that they also have a US base. This is the business side of things. The dreaming and planning and fundraising side of what they do that makes the rest of the work possible. This base happens to be in Moorhead, MN – right across the river from where I will be attending school at NDSU.

About a month ago, I was contacted by a facebook friend who spent a good portion of last year in Kenya working with the Jua Project. She said they were looking for someone to help with media. Well, I can’t say no to doing something I love for an amazing organization! I’m so excited to get to volunteer with Jua and be a part of this really life changing and personal work in the lives of these beautiful women.

Why is it so important? Because this work, this work of training women and giving them a source of income is vital to both ending poverty and ending human trafficking. There needs to be ways for women to bring in money for their families since they are often the most vulnerable and most abused in places like the Kenyan slums. The ability to help these women provide for their families means that their children are taken care of and have a chance of breaking the cycles of poverty. Jua Project keeps these women safe from exploitation, homelessness, and starvation.

If you would like to poke your hands into the work going on with Jua, there are several ways to give. Firstly, you can buy some of the jewelry made by these women. It’s beautiful and you’ll feel a special connection knowing that it comes from these beautiful women who are working so hard to get by. You can also sponsor one of the women for $10 a month (or more if you want… no one is arguing!) or give a one time donation. For sure, get to know these women and hear their stories. I’m sure that they will inspired you even if you are unable to give financially at the moment.

{Also, if you are a creative, then please consider entering the t-shirt design contest. We are really excited to be involving more and more people into this journey and are attempting to give everyone more chances to get involved.}

SONY DSC

As you may be able to see, this is a group that I am passionate about and excited to support. The work they are doing is beautiful and meaningful and being able to fix technical glitches and promote contests for them is something that gives me great joy. Ultimately, it comes down to the saying that I’ve been told has become a mantra for Jua, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

Time for Goodbyes

location-10

I’m coming to the time of saying goodbye.

I’ve already donned my cap and gown.

I’ve already opened my house to friends and family to eat tacos and congratulate me.

I’ve already had senior night at youth group.

The goodbyes are increasing. It wont be long until I pack up my car and set out, off to new adventures and a new chapter. It wont be a surprise to most to know that I am not saying goodbye with a heavy heart, but one that’s excited and really ready. I eagerly count down the days until I move into my dorm at NDSU and spread my new quilt over a twin sized bed. It’s a welcomed change.

My dear friend Grace said something awesome at senior night that went something like, “I always sat and listened to the seniors all tell me that it goes by so fast. Well it didn’t for me.” I laughed because I knew exactly what she was talking about. Sometimes, it drags on when you feel out of place in a town. There are people you love and beautiful memories, but you know that you need something else.

See, I came here with a heavy heart and eyes full of tears. It was not my first choice, and had I been able to see into the future, it probably would have been my last choice. Tears have fallen to this rusty red ground more times than I could dare to count. Tears of loneliness and frustration and a few attributed to the feeling of soul claustrophobia. To those who have scoffed at those who don’t belong here, it isn’t always our choice. We can’t leave and sometimes, our souls feel trapped – please, don’t blame us for that.

But despite the difficulty and the heartache and the feeling of claustrophobia that I’ve felt so many times before, this place has grown me.

I learned that the crevices and peaks in the land brought me joy. I learned that there were still souls hidden here that I found connection with. I learned so much from this lil’ string of small towns. I learned how to stand my ground and how to stand out. I learned how to skip to my own tune. I learned how to gain some tough skin when I was criticized for being myself.

I don’t pretend that I haven’t had my happy days.  There have been many. There have also been many people along the way that make me thankful that our paths have crossed. From professors who challenged my thinking, to my dearest friends who fit in just as well as I do. I have had little kids who I’ve babysat for who have brightened my heart and I’ve had theatre groups who have formed special bonds by performing side by side. I do not want to belittle any person who has been in my life in the last eight years that I have spent here.

Yet my time here is done.

I say goodbye with peace and closure. I know that Fargo is where I’m supposed to be in the fall of 2013. Getting to that point was a weird story and makes me chuckle a bit, but in the end, God opened doors and enticed me through a few of them. Now, I’m more and more starting so see how I could so easily make sense in that town – in a way that I never really did here. I know full well that it wont be a peaches and cream sort of adventure, but it’ll be an adventure and it’s one I hope to make the most of.

So even as I’m saying goodbye, I’m also saying hello.

And sometimes, that’s the perk of saying goodbye.

I Didn’t Want to be a Feminist

Courtesy of Hannah Nicole

“I like to help women help themselves, as that is, in my opinion, the best way to settle the woman question. Whatever we can do and do well we have a right to, and I don’t think any one will deny us.” – Louisa May Alcott

 I didn’t want to be a feminist.

Growing up homeschooled, being a “feminist” was a dirty thing. Those were the women who want to burn bras and turn all the fairy tales into woman saving herself. Those were the women who didn’t believe in femininity and wanted to act like men. Those were the women who were ruining our society with over-sexualizing everything.

Then, the strangest thing happened around a year ago – I realized that I was a feminist.

The idea sort of shocked me at first. Not just the idea that I could be in favor of property rights and equal pay – I was never against those things. It was the idea that I was extremely passionate about women’s rights as a whole. I was passionate about the fact that my gender did not make me one ounce lesser of a person in any way than my male counterparts. I was passionate that girls should receive a proper education in every corner of the globe. I was passionate that rape was never a woman’s fault and recognized the horrific double sexual standard that permeates our world. I was passionate about utilizing social entrepreneurship and micro loans to females in order to curb poverty in third world nations. I was passionate about human trafficking victims getting a chance at a new life by not prosecuting them, but the men who sell and buy them from sex.

And you know what? I’m pretty sure I was born a feminist.

I’ve always been a feisty little spit fire, ready to take on the world with as much screaming, kicking, and spitting as I needed to. It’d probably be because you insulted my doll’s “realness” and my maternal instinct just went into overdrive. Please, you can’t blame a kid for having spunk. My catch phrase as a toddler was “Ea do it!” See, I was the type of girl who was obsessed with Jane Eyre at the age of seven. Yes, that amazing piece of nineteenth century feminist overtone literature that involves a plain and penniless governess falling in love with a rich man only to assert her free will to leave him in order to stay true to her morals. Uh huh… that’s what I told people my favourite book was when I was seven. They should have known I’d grow up to be a feminist then and there.

I also really liked hatchets. And chopping down trees. And Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. And worms. And make believe. And fishing. And reading. And crafts. And more reading. And my dolls. And dancing. Even though I was never very good at it. Too much facial expression, not enough coordination. 

It wasn’t just my all-over-the-place-do-what-I-want interests that set me up to be a feminist. It was also what made me passionate, even at the age of six. I was determined at the age of six that I was going to go off to India someday and take care of girls. I was inspired by Amy Carmichael and her story of rescuing temple prostitutes – so I decided then and there that I was going to go do something crazy with my life. My independence ran deep. As did my desire for other girls to live a full life.

 That desire never really changed. 

When I was thirteen, I read a book about modern day slavery and I wanted to do something. So I decided to try to get my church to collect loose change through Zach Hunter‘s Loose Change to Loosen Chains campaign. During that process, I started digging more and more into the world of human trafficking and especially sex trafficking. Not only did I read up on the dramatic problem in India, I came to realize that sex trafficking was a problem in my own backyard among girls my own age. While to many others, I seemed too young to care about the problem, the fact is, thirteen is the average age of entry into prostitution and if girls my age were enduring this – I certainly wasn’t too young to try to help. I wanted to see other girls, not that different from me, live a better life.

My life has not been perfect thus far. In my family there has been physical illness, job loss, mental illness, and many struggles. Yet I have also been very blessed. I have a loving family, always have had food and shelter, and I have been emotionally cared for and protected. All throughout my life, I think I had a craving to get the most life had to offer – and for others to get that too.

Not too long ago, I heard a trafficking survivor share her story. She was seventeen when she moved to Minneapolis and started selling her body; the same age I am now. It breaks my heart every time I think of how astoundingly full my life has been and how much I wish that every woman could experience what I have.

I am an empowered female. I’m educated, an entrepreneur, confident in my body and sexuality, and among other things am able to be myself and speak my mind without fear.

While it took me many years before I could admit to the label of feminist, I know today that I am a feminist not because it’s the “hip” thing to do, but because I truly believe that all human beings have an innate and equal worth. I want to see each and every one of them live a healthy and whole life. I want to see every man, woman, and child come to a right relationship with God. I believe that God’s design for the genders was to make us different, but still to make us equals. I believe that women are created as beautiful and unique individuals – individuals with rights and ability and a voice.

 At the core of my beliefs, I believe we are each created with an innate worth as well as with a broken heart. We live in a corrupt world and we have corruption in our souls. This life is a fight and a longing for something better than what we have and something better than we have ever seen. This whole feminism thing is not even in fighting for what I deserve, it’s in realizing that I have more than I deserve and I want others to receive more than they deserve. I want more for myself. I want more for the women who stand beside me. I’m not ashamed for wanting more.

Ultimately, the term feminist means so many different things to different people. There’s a spectrum and there are so many different ways of looking at the term, yet this is how I define a feminist: someone who is fighting from their heart outwards for something better for women than what they currently have and have ever had before.