01 Feb 2013 Dining For Women
 |  Category: Main Dish

DFW Jan14Groupattable

Today’s post is a little different but it is about food!

Four years ago I started supporting  and empowering women and children living in extreme poverty.  Yep. Me.  I’ve made a difference.  I know I have. I haven’t done it alone. I have done it through a once a month pot-luck dinner at my house. I have done it through my involvement in Dining For Women. Here are some of the things I have done:

  • Support movers and shakers seeking to end child sex-trafficking and exploitation (who wouldn’t want to support that?), and I also support the “rescued girls” with safe houses, counselling, health care, education and critical life and business skills.
  • Fund micro-loans and micro-enterprises in several developing countries. A micro-enterprise can provide income for three to five women, and I know that each of these women probably support five children.  Yes, that’s five children each.  I know these children now eat better, probably attend more school, and could probably get medical care in an emergency.  In three years I have funded 108 businesses in Northern Kenya alone. WOW!
  • In El Salvador I have funded the training of  healthcare providers in the detection and treatment of cervical cancer, and I have funded examinations for over 600 women and treatment for 80.
  • I have funded life-changing fistula repair surgery and post-operative care for 66 Ethiopian women, and when they were fully recovered, I sent them home in a new dress. What wonderful person thought to send these women home in a new dress?  Of course, I will fund the dresses along with the life-changing surgery and follow up care. This makes me cry every time I think about it. If you don’t know what a fistula is, it’s because you didn’t have to labor in birth for two days in Africa or India…when you were 14.
  • I have supported the re-introduction of the Maya Nut into the Guatemalan diet, funded regular Maya Nut lunches in some of the poorest Guatemalan schools, employed Guatemalan women to make the lunches,  and established Maya Nut tree nurseries in schools–an average 3,000 trees in each school!
  • I’ve provided bicycles, houses, home repair, scholarships, beds, and clothing for poor handicapped children of of single mothers in Vietnam. It’s the bicycles that excite me the most. Giving an impoverished single mother a bicycle can change her life. I’m glad someone figured that out and I am glad to fund such a simple program.
  • I have enabled 450 non-­literate women (hopefully pre-literate women)  to attend and graduate from a life skills and embroidery program in Afghanistan. Amazing.

This month I am supporting 150 girls who had to run from their war-torn country, alone and unaccompanied–because their family members were either missing or killed. I am providing them with basic education, business skills training, human rights education, and leadership skills in programs specifically designed to address their challenges.  I fund their safe spaces, daycare, meals, and transportation to and from the program.  The twenty-one women at my house on Monday night donated $619 to Hemisha, Kenya.

I get a lot of out this, too.  One, it makes me feel good.  I can’t fix everything that’s wrong in this world, but I can do something…, and it feels so good to be doing something. Two, when my money combines with the money of other like-minded women, we make a large  impact in grass roots organizations in remote corners of the world, and we do this every single month.  Three, I adore the women in my Dining For Women chapter.  We’ve bonded through our involvement in Dining For Women.  Some of these women I have known for over twenty  years,  others I have just met, and they are all wonderful… warm, generous, fun, determined, educated, grateful…, and they all have that “it” factor.  I can’t put my finger on what exactly that “it” factor is, but every single one of them has it 🙂  Four, there’s a party at my house every month…, and it’s gone a bit gourmet!  On a monthly basis Dining For Women provides us with recipes from each featured country.  My group has taken to making most of them, so we get some terrific ethnic dishes combined with American classics!  It’s a lot of fun.  This month we had Kenyan Chicken in a Coconut Curry Sauce, two versions of Kenyan sauteed kale, a Kenyan bean and pepper dish, an all-American tossed salad, homemade bread, Gringo Tacquitos and Chinese Chicken Salad!  There were other dishes too, along with Dark Chocolate from Uganda, a boozy bundt cake, and lemon cookies for dessert. Five, I’ve learned a lot. Dining For Women provides a ton of educational materials every month.  I’ve been educated.  I  understand more.  I’ve been changed.  A heaviness has been lifted.  Like I said, I can’t do it all, but I can do something and, through Dining For Women, my little something has added up to many great things.

DFW Feb14 photomerge group


Here’s a link to next month’s program, Midwives for Haiti.  Look at all the information we are provided with!  My friends and I will donate anywhere from $20 to $50 each.  Our chapter donation will probably be in excess of $500. There are about 400 Dining For Women chapters, we’ll send $50,000 to Midwives to Haiti this month, $15,000 Matrichaya in India, and what’s leftover we’ll send to a “Member’s Favorite”.   If you don’t want to click, just read this:

Patricia Lee, a Certified Nurse Midwife from Lancaster, PA, was a volunteer instructor at Midwives For Haiti. Her story of her first delivery at St. Therese Hospital in Hinche provides an introduction to Midwives for Haiti.   “The ‘maternity salon’ holds five old-fashioned metal delivery tables whose stark stirrups jut up and out at all angles. Sheets are unavailable. The laboring women bring pieces of cloth or remove their skirts to cover the tables. Cistern water is available from the faucet for twenty minutes each morning; there is no more water until tomorrow. With intermittent electricity and no oxygen, the incubator in the corner is a lifeless monster. I hear the housekeeper yelling in Creole. Kindness is absent. Other tools of my trade are also missing. Where is labor support, a drink of water or a cool washcloth, help with relaxation breathing? This miserable room is now my workplace. I meet my female interpreter and the three student midwives who are to observe and learn from me for the next two weeks. All four silence their cell phones. I am drawn to the woman on the table in the comer. She wears just a blouse, her skirt providing the table cover. Her clenched hands and taut grimace speak to me and I understand where she is in this labor. In a moment I am at her side, my students next to me, and I introduce myself, and talk to her quietly, trusting my interpreter to repeat my words.  She’s just a girl, I think. I roll her onto her side and rub her back during contractions, fanning her with a package of latex gloves. I give her a drink from my water bottle. I breathe into her ear to get her in synchrony with me, encouraging her to slow her rapid panting. As her grip relaxes, her face releases its tension. Our dance continues until she has to bear down with the pressure of the baby, and we vary our rhythm to include the grunting and groaning of hard work. I feel the housekeeper looking at me and I glance up briefly and smile to her scowl. Maybe an ally one day. The baby arrives and is tucked into her mama’s arms, cuddled to her chest while we wait for the cord to stop beating and the placenta to be born. There are no tears and no complications. We assess the baby in her safe space, clean them both, and prepare to move to the postpartum ward. The girl/mother turns onto her back, her face toward me and speaks. The interpreter inhales and the students murmur. “Do you know what she just said to you” asks my interpreter. “No, I do not understand yet”. She said, ‘You have been kinder to me than anyone else in my whole life and you have done more than anyone else has ever done for me. I wish I had something to give you but I have nothing.’ We reach for each other. Blinking quickly, my voice unsteady through my smile, I tell her she has given me a gift. Her baby girl is my first birth in Haiti, I am honored to be here with her and I will never forget her. The students are tapping my shoulder, talking, insistent. With the help of the interpreter I hear them tell me that I must deliver their babies, that they will not have babies until I return, that they had never seen a birth like this. I answer them. “You don’t understand. I am here to teach you to deliver babies like this. You will learn to do this.” My new mama, my first baby, my students ~ this place has touched my heart.”

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today, and thank you for reading through this long post 🙂  If you are already a member of Dining For Women,  welcome!  If you are not a member, and would like to be, the first step is to click on the Dining For Women link…

We eat well, too.  On this night, we had eight desserts…

DFW Feb14 034

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7 Responses
  1. Sharon says:

    Well said Polly! If I wasn’t in a chapter already (yours!) I’d drop everything and join one or start one right this minute! Everything you say is so true. When we say at every meeting that we are changing one woman at a time, one dinner at a time, we are changing ourselves as well as the women we are helping. And change in such important, meaningful, and heartfelt ways.

  2. Louise says:

    I’ve been a member of ths group since it first met, and this post brought tears to my eyes. We women, acting together, we can change the world. And through Dining for Women we are making that change. I’m so proud to be a member.

  3. Mara says:

    Well done and well said, Polly, Sharon, and Louise!

  4. Sylvia says:

    Louise said exactly what I was thinking! Thank you Polly for starting this group, I look forward to the meeting every month. I feel Dining For Women has given my life more meaning.

  5. Nancy Davenport says:

    Click on the link for DFW, and even if you can’t join now, you can learn about a great organization that you will want to join someday.

  6. Abby says:

    Wow!!! I want to be in Dining or Women! Your stories about the people you’ve helped are amazing. I love you!

  7. Maureen says:

    It’s astonishing then believable that we have collectively been able to help so many women. Thank you Polly for putting into words what we all feel.

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