The Collection

The passion get’s me every time!

BY MECHELLE MOORE | WRITER @ A KIWI CHICK IN ASIA

Article re-posted with permission from A Kiwi Chick In Asia

Mechelle B Moore

I constantly find inspiration through working with a friend of mine. The resilience of this woman just puts my puny weak mindedness to shame. My friend is visually impaired with only 15% left of her sight. Her childhood was not the most ‘easy going’ experience, with some very dark moments scattered throughout her teen years. Despite all the trials she has in her life, she manages to challenge me constantly with her ‘this will not break me’ positive attitude. Everyone naturally has moments of doubt and worry, but to date I have not met anyone that bounces back like she does. I love her quirky ‘Aussie inspired’ sense of humor and cheeky nature. This just adds to the beauty of her gorgeous independent nature.

My friends name is Khun Bunsiri Phuengkaew or ‘Boonie’ as we tend to affectionately call her. I feel totally blown away to have met her, let alone work alongside this woman. I…

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The Cost

BY JOANNE FRIEND | WRITER

“One didn’t really believe till one saw it demonstrated that giving one up completely to art, to emotion, to enjoyment, without planning for the future or counting the cost, produced dreadful disabilities and bankruptcies later.” – Edmund Wilson

Over the last few days I have been in a position of watching my daughter handle and attend the death of her young friend, 12 years of age. While I was watching her go through this traumatic time I was informed that a friend of mine was murdered doing what she loved; helping others that were in a very vulnerable position in their lives.

During these few days, I could not be with my daughter as she went through this heart wrenching time. I also couldn’t sit in a quiet place myself and grieve for what my friend went through; for what her family and friends were going through, the grieving of losing someone dear to them. Last night I sat with my special mum as I watched my daughter sleep. I felt lost. I felt I had let my daughter down. I wasn’t with her at this most important life changing time for her.

You see, in my life I have made critical decisions; some good, some bad, thankfully most were good. Being absent was a decision I made years ago, before I had a daughter (only recently adopted), it was for me to acquire and run my own business. It was not only to be a business, but to be successful in every way. To do that I had to count the cost concerning my life and what I was prepared to give up to achieve success. When you sit down and say, “oh yea working 12 hours a day, no problem” or “cutting down on my social life, no problem”. Everything was ‘no problem’, because I wasn’t facing any issue that may challenge me at the time of making the decision.

A wise old man told me when I was in high school, “The decisions you make today, you will see the results, 3-5 years further down the track”. I thought 3-5 years, that’s so far away and I’m only in high school. Surely decisions I’m making today aren’t going to affect me way down there into the future. I learnt quickly that not only decisions I made affected me, it also affects other people that were/are close to me.

“Who you hang around with, will dictate how people see you and what opportunities come your way.”

I knew someone from high school who had a lot of opportunities. If she had of just stayed away from people that didn’t have her best interests at heart, then this girl would be a very famous person today. She took bad advice, never counted the cost and turned into a compulsive liar. As a result, people lost their trust in her and it went from maybe becoming famous to just serving coffee. There is nothing wrong with serving coffee, but if you could have traveled the world making a difference in people lives, which would you choose?

Making decisions and counting the cost.

“Don’t do the right thing for the wrong reasons. It is the “why” that keeps us committed to our choices and defines our character.” – Shannon L. Alder

My friend, the young woman that was murdered, was also in the position of making decisions and counting the cost. She made a decision to leave her home, to start up a place of refuge that would feed women and children involved in domestic violence and sexual assault.

The decision she made was one she knew would come at a cost. Away from her family and friends all the things that she knew and were near and dear to her. There were many things she had to work through, e.g. finding accommodation, learning the language. She had to find out what the laws and street rules were for sexual assault, rape and domestic violence. Street rules are very different to laws and are dealt out by the people in the street.

One issue we would chat about often, was her safety and the safety of her clients. I would talk with her about the violence in the area; the violence from husbands and boyfriends that could happen at any time. This was a cost she was not willing to consider. She decided to start up this organisation, she had funding and clients; “What could possibly go wrong? … they love us in this community!”. Well, a few years down the track, she is dead, with her body being transported back to the States.

Yes, she made the decision to ignore safety concerns, but she didn’t work out the cost. In life, you can never work out the cost of everything, but violence should have been high on her agenda. She had staff, her clients and herself, so protection should have been right up there in the cost and decision making. Now, that decision she made a few years back, has cost her life.

Making decisions and counting the cost.

The reason I couldn’t be with my daughter … I was working three 12 hour days. When I made the decision to start my business, I knew the cost. When I adopted a young girl, I thought I knew the cost. I’m finding out not everything can be planned, but I can adjust.

As females, we are strange. We can be dictated by our emotions, by culture, by friends and by what we see in the press. To be business women, we need to consider the hours we work, looking after the home, having children and making sure our husbands are alright.

Why do we not break the glass ceiling?

Usually this is because we don’t do the things the men do and when we do, we are told “Oh you’re not a good wife” or “you’re not a good mother”. Why is that? I have found, as women, we do make a lot of emotional decisions in our lives. We are not as ruthless in business like men. Plus, we always seem to be living up to a role model that is 50 years past its use by date.

Please if you want to succeed, make the decision, but always count the cost. Whatever you do, can you live with the decisions you make? Can you pay the price if you make the wrong or right decision?

“People always say in the end you only regret the choices you didn’t make, but I really think you also regret the choices you were foolish enough to make.” – Melizena

JF.

Are Men The Enemy?

BY MECHELLE MOORE | WRITER

I consider myself a feminist, but as I have explained to many women, not all ‘feminists’ are the man hating, hairy legged, bra burning activists who wear pink beanies in the shape of nipples. It comes down to your version of feminism. When you say that word out loud, for many people it invokes cringe worthy expressions and reeks of a man hating vibe. I have seen women degrade men and rebuke their efforts to value women, simply because they are men. To these women, to stand for equality means making men obsolete.

For me … men are not the enemy!

As a woman, I have had moments in my life where men have treated me like dirt in a power-hungry rage. I have had unspeakable things done to my body. My spirit has been broken, my heart shattered and I lost myself-respect.

For me … men are not the enemy!

I have witnessed the aftermath of beaten bodies; women so helpless that they would prefer to kill themselves just to have a moment of peace in their world. I have seen human remains kicked and walked over like they are rubble and debris in the dirt. I have seen people strung up, hung from trees, like an upturned hung beast after slaughter. These are horrid things that one person has inflicted onto another when they’ve been fighting for a cause, or for their lives.

For me … men are not the enemy!

I admire people who marry, but I also love being single. I married young and it was a challenge. Looking back, there are many things that happened in my marriage that now I would handle differently, but the past cannot be changed. So, I move forward holding onto lessons learnt. I think for me to be in that position again, God will need to bring along an incredibly strong man to love me and walk beside me. I do not see marriage as a burden, it is a partnership and a blessing.

For me … men are not the enemy!

In life, terrible things happen to people. What one person, irrespective of gender, does to another can be incredibly horrific or an absolute marvel. I think everyone is capable of evil acts, not just ‘bad’ people. The difference is the choice we make and whether we choose to act or react on our feelings, impulses or urges. Sometimes violence and terrible circumstances are unavoidable, but it is how you collect yourself, learn from these instances and move forward that counts.

For me … men are not the enemy!

I have always been taught the character of a man is the key to understanding how he will treat you. If you see a man’s character in action, you will have a better idea of who he is as a man.

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” – Malcolm S. Forbes.

A friend taught me to watch how a man treats his mother, sisters and aunties, as that will show you how he treats women in his life. Nothing is ever 100% foolproof, but putting in the time and watching their actions will show you who that man really is, especially when he is angry or under pressure.

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” – Helen Keller

My father was the first man I ever loved and his corny jokes still make me laugh. He taught me the values of remaining approachable and teachable, that prayer is a necessity and to seek wisdom from others. He taught me to consider all aspects of a situation and to choose my battles wisely. He is quiet and reserved; only speaking when he has something to say. He considers his words carefully and will sit back watching a situation rather than diving in head first callously. These are the men I admire.

I think men and women go hand in hand. Men and women have different aspects that complement each other; one without the other in life leaves a massive, gaping hole. Understanding, acknowledging and appreciating those differences, renders them insignificant. There is a reason we were created one from the other.

Despite loving my independence, I have found that I want strong men in my life. I purposefully seek them out. I appreciate learning from men with wisdom, experience and perspective. Many are friends, teachers, colleagues and some now my mentors. The more I learn from our experiences, both good and bad, the more I am driven towards success.

For me … men are not the enemy! In fact, they are my ally, and yours too.

MM.

 

Shape of You

BY RUTH LESMANA | WRITER

I have this friend …

From a very young age, she had always struggled to accept and love her own shape.

“You’ve gained weight!”Body Image

“Be careful, don’t eat too much …”

“You’re not as skinny as you were when I first met you.”

“You don’t need to eat that.”

“You’re so big now! Not fat … but big and strong!”

At first, she didn’t really understand why people felt like they had the right to make such comments. She grew to believe that these observations meant she wasn’t good enough. That she fell short of society’s standards, and the standards of those she trusted.

So she wore baggy clothes that would cover up her curves; and pants or shorts that would help to tuck everything in. She preferred to stay under the radar in order to draw less attention to herself.

Over time, this friend of mine began to accept herself for who she was; but also to heed the concerned advice of those who loved her. So she, along with the help of her friends and family, began to change her lifestyle. She exercised, she changed her eating habits, she listened to herself to develop healthier habits. Her curves and folds began to minimize, and although they still exist, she could see the differences developing in herself. But still, sometimes … she felt less than others.

She also began to notice that she wasn’t alone. That throughout her life, the hurt, tears, feelings of inadequacy that she felt – were mirrored by many others. As if not being ‘skinny’, or having fat or curves showing through clothes meant that they weren’t beautiful. As if not being curvy, or having certain bones or muscles showing through meant that they weren’t ‘womanly’. Funny that, huh? Who can win, with standards like that? Who can feel accepted, with values like that?

Nonetheless, my friend eventually realized that she was capable of many good things, and that their comments weren’t appropriate standards of measurement. That just because people voiced those opinions or tried to change her, that she was her own master. That within her, there were many more important things to be concerned about rather than her shape.

This friend of mine …

My body

Has taught me many things.

She has taught me that I am strong.

That I am capable of continually improving and become a healthier version of myself, when I choose to do so. That I am capable of working hard and to the fullest, as long as I take good care of her. That I am capable of setting a good example for others, so that they too can live confidently and with acceptance of their own bodies – instead of listening to condescending voices. That the shape of her gratitude, compassion, humility, and attitude; were the qualities worth prioritizing. And most of all, she has taught me to own her, and not allow anyone else to have any say in what happens to her.

“It’s not my responsibility to be beautiful. I’m not alive for that purpose. My existence is not about how desirable you find me.” – Warsan Shire

It’s taken me a long time to love and accept my friend for who she is. But I’m glad that I have, because she carries me.

RL.

My Person

BY JALAINE7 | WRITER @ LIVING WITH ANXIETY ME

Article re-posted with permission from Living with anxiety me.

Living with Anxiety Me

I was always told as a girl that I wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea and that no matter how good I am or how perfect I am, I still won’t be good enough for everyone.
As a young woman dreaming of one day finding the man of my dreams, and also watching my parents go through a troubling divorce, it was important for me to realise that even at my absolute best, I will still not be good enough for the wrong person.

I was always fearful of not being able to find a man who could accept me, anxiety and all. I imagined that having a girlfriend who will sometimes have panic attacks in public, a girlfriend who will overthink small things and who will sometimes be overly emotional and feel rejected by small hurts would be exhausting. Having a girlfriend who has no self esteem constantly looking…

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Deep in My Heart I Know I Am a Loner

BY KAMAND | WRITER

Deep in my heart I know I am a loner. I have tried to blend in with the world or be more sociable, but the more people I meet the more disappointed I am. So I’ve learned to enjoy myself, my family, and a few good friends.

I am a loner, I have a small circle of friends that I trust. They know my life, they know my heart and they know me. I don’t have a lot of people that I would socialize with, I am careful with who tries to get close to me.

“I have found loneliness isn’t always the enemy …”

Over the tears I have become more aware that people seem to want their needs met rather than try and meet others. If we showed less selfishness or ‘me’ attitude by helping other’s we would find our own needs being met by not dwelling on our needs/wants. I wonder over the years what we teach our children about life and what we show (mirror) them. Adults are supposed to have it all together, but we don’t. We are sometimes more of a mess then our children.

“Maybe I like to be in a place where I make the decision about my life!”

Today I was acutely aware of how I have isolated myself from people that are being negative or angry, they are not the only reasons. I have kept away from being put in hole that says I should be married I should have children you’re getting old no one will want you (I’m 25). Maybe I like this singleness!! Maybe I like to be in a place where I make the decision about my life! Maybe my future is controlled by me not everyone else’s desire for my life. I look around at people doing jobs they hate going home to a house full of people that they are not happy about. Some are in relationships that have gone past there use by date and are so locked in; they are dying.

I have found loneliness isn’t always the enemy, yours and people’s expectation are.

I choose what I do.

What I eat.

When I eat it.

What I spend my money on.

Who I spend my time with.

What I wear.

What I look like.

Yes, there are times when I’m at home and I wish somebody was there but it is my choice no one to blame but me. So, I am happy to be a loner because it is my choice. What is yours?

K.

Knock Knock!

BY AMINA | WRITER

KNOCK KNOCK …

Its night and cold, I lay on the floor close to the door, which has wood across it to hold it shut. To stop or delay the entrance of the intruders known as the Taliban, a group of terrorists under the guise of being Muslim. They rape and they kill! You can be beaten because there is no hot food for them or no food at all to feed them.

My sister lies at the other end of the room. My mother and my two younger sisters are in the next room with the door locked. Every night we pray that in the morning we will be alive, we will not be one of those that are dragged out at night beaten, killed or raped.

Welcome to my village and my house in Afghanistan; a Muslim country at war with itself.

I was in an area under government control maybe in the day, but at night the soldiers and the police go to the safety of their compounds and houses in secure areas, leaving the rest of us to defend ourselves. We were mostly women, children and old men. The young men have either been killed, kidnapped or left the area to survive.

In the middle of the night you hear voices, movement … your mouth dries up, your heart is beating. Is this the time they come for you or members of your family? Then it may be just neighbours getting up early or someone who is going on a long journey, so they start early to try and avoid the terrorists.

Then there are the times when you hear the voices of angry people yelling, doors being kicked in and the screaming of women and children. The terrorists, the cowards, are here they come at night they attack women, children and the elderly. As they brutalize the women, they call out, “Allāhu Akbar” at the top of their voices. So the killing and raping brings honour to Allah and the Prophet Mohammed (PHUH)? No, I don’t think so!

They lie by sending people to their death, telling them they will go immediately to Jannah (Heaven) killing other Muslims. No, this is not Islam.

My sisters lay close to the wall with a knife, in case they break down the door and take me and my other sister; then come after them, one 8 yrs old and one 10 yrs old. They will use the knife to kill themselves; rather than be taken, raped by half dozen men, then killed or kept for another day to go through it all again.

These men do this all in the name of Islam.

We escaped eventually and I work in another country. I look after people. I am now trained in security. I look after my employer’s child, a young girl, who has never seen the violence in the name of Allah.

Over the years of living in Afghanistan and wondering if I would be next, I never slept a full night. Even now, I wake up from dreams of violence. I wake up with a sweat not knowing where I am. No one knocks on my door at night, no one touches me while I am asleep because I sleep with a weapon. The only one that comes into my room at night, is the young girl of the house, it’s as though my senses pick her up and there is peace there. She knows …. when I have had a nightmare she comes into the room, jumps on my bed and reads to me soothing verses that give me hope and peace.

I was asked by my younger sister once, “why are people so angry with the foreigners that are here protecting us, but none of our brothers from other countries protect us?”. I couldn’t answer the question. Why as Muslims don’t we sort ourselves out? Why do we allow terrorists to hijack Islam?

It is easy to live in a peaceful country and be critics, BUT much harder to be where you have no food, no running water, bombs going off day and night. Yes, you give Dua for the people in these countries. Will you stand up against the bad element in your country that blacken what Islam is about?

I lived because I have a goal and a dream to live a better life style. My determination to live and get my family to safety was important.

When your father is killed in front of you by terrorists, your brother is blown up in the markets. You understand that it’s up to this 16 year old girl to lead the family to safety.

KNOCK KNOCK …

A.

Things girls in high school need to hear but no one tells them!

BY KENZIE ROBERTS | WRITER

If you are in high school listen up and learn from my lessons …

There is so much more to who you are as a person than what you look like. When you die, you will be remembered by the things you did in life and how you treated people, not that one time you got a really big zit on your nose.

Speaking of which, acne is so beyond normal. Acne occurs when hair follicles are clogged with dead skin cells and oil from the skin. It can also be caused by an excess of sugar in the body and fluctuating hormones. It happens to everyone, including that girl with the annoyingly smooth face. It may not be on your face either. It can be your arms, legs, and back as well. It’s totally normal. Find a nice powerful cleanser and a soothing moisturizer to keep your skin from getting too dry.

Nothing good happens past midnight. Seriously. Go to sleep.

That one time that you were caught without any pads or tampons and bled through your pants, yeah, so not a big deal. It happens to literally everyone. It’s totally mortifying in the moment, but next week, there will be something else for everyone to focus on. Don’t let stupid people make fun of you because you have your period. Your body and every process it goes through is beautiful. Don’t let people undermine that.

girl-holding-a-lightbulb-kevin-curtis

*Fun Fact: Your uterus is mad influential. It can sync up with other uterus’s so your cycles will occur at the same time (this is something I still have to convince others of which speaks volumes about what they’re teaching in Health class). They can get on the same wavelength so you and your sisters, mothers, aunts, girlfriends can ride the crimson wave together. 

You will survive through these next 4 years. I know this feels like forever with all the judgmental eyes and gossiping mouths. I seriously get it.

“Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

– Bernard M. Baruch

From junior high to my 11th grade year, I had a pixie cut. Think Shailene Woodley ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ era. I was called every name in the book. Lesbian, Butch, Man. I was asked if I wanted to be a boy now. People constantly told me I looked better with long hair and that I should grow it out; especially family members.

The comment that affected me the most was, “boys like girls with long hair”. I would get so upset and tell people (more like yell at people) that I don’t do things for boys and I don’t care what they like. I liked it and that was enough. Defend yourself but don’t drive yourself crazy. You are enough for the people that are really important.

You do not know everything. No matter how much it sucks to hear, you are still young. Find wise counsel, someone who has lived a bit of life (your friends may have good advice, but they are in the same boat as you), someone who is older. A youth pastor, a church leader, an aunt, the mom of a friend, even an older sister. Take what they say, and listen.

“Be professional, be polite, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet.”

– General James Mattis USMC

That being said, do not let yourself be silenced. I cannot stress this one enough. Your thoughts, opinions and ideas are just as important and hold value like everyone else’s. These are yours and do not need to be justified. Be respectful and do not let people interrupt or undermine you. Clearly I don’t think you should go around killing people, but you need to learn how to be strategic in the way you communicate with others.

There is so much more than romantic love. Do not take the lack of a boyfriend or girlfriend as a sign that you are a failure and unloved. The love from people in your life like parents, brothers, sisters, Grandparents, best friends is more rewarding than from your latest crush. There is so much more to love, than that which is romantic.

If your friends and/or parents are telling you that he isn’t treating you right, listen to them. You may not be able to see it, but they do. Also, if he cheats on you, do not rationalize it. Do not blame yourself and do not let him explain. There is no excuse. Drop him like it’s hot.

This one might be the most important. Stand up for other girls. We are in this together. If you hear a boy or girl talking down about a girl, stop them. Defend her. No matter how you feel about her personally. We are not supposed to be against each other. Life is not a competition between girls. It’s not one big cat fight. You are not impressing anyone by being bitchy and dissing another girl. Do not waste time tearing other girls down to build yourself up. When you call other girls names and treat them like crap, other people think they can do the same. And they will.

“The measure of any society is how it treats its women and girls.”

–  Michelle Obama

You are as much as a part of this society as anyone else. Treat every girl with the respect and consideration that you want and appreciate. These are your sisters. These are the girls who will stand in solidarity with you.

These girls will be lesbians, transgender, bisexual, straight, and everything in-between. They will have big teeth, small butts, tiny waists, big hips, broad shoulders, and everything in-between. These girls will want to be a doctor, stay-at-home-mom, counselor, marine, police officer, president, singer, actress, missionary, witch, and everything in-between. These girls will be geeks, cheerleaders, choir kids, sporto’s, teachers’ pets, rebels, and everything in-between.

Stand up with them, stand up for them.

KR.

Worth Fighting For!

BY RUTH LESMANA | WRITER

Why teach women to fight?

Training people in reality based self defence often kicks up a storm of questions and sometimes, laughter. People often respond with confusion about why we do what we do, or with disagreement.

“Because you know, if someone approaches you on the street and asks for your money; you should just give it to them. Then they’ll walk away.”

But what if they don’t?

“If someone’s stronger and bigger than you, you won’t be able to win.”

What if I want to fight to survive?

The reality is that women, especially in the communities in which we operate, are still viewed as the weaker counterpart. Almost every month, we hear of those who have been attacked, raped, sexually assaulted, abused, and sometimes even killed.

We’re not saying we can prevent these things from happening, even though we’re doing our part to train both men and women about respecting each other, and about the rights that they have. But we can do our best to prepare them if these situations arise.

Our students come from all different backgrounds: abusive situations, situations of trafficking, wives and mothers who work jobs that require them to go out into communities which may have hidden threats, and ‘ordinary’ citizens who value these skills.

It’s not about teaching them to be violent or to seek out an opponent. It’s about self-belief, and pushing past the psychological barriers that form, especially in a violent encounter; and training hard in techniques that are effective in helping them to survive.

It goes beyond learning to strike and take someone down. It’s about increasing their situational awareness skills, and helping them to understand the psychological impact that violent encounters have on people. This aspect in itself – pushing past the physical and mental endurance – is hard to explain. The hard work that goes into all of this involves daily choices you have to make to stretch yourself and step out of your comfort zone. Especially for those who have to re-live past traumatic experiences while they are training.

So no, we’re not teaching them to bash people around. We’re not teaching them to show others how big and strong they are just because they can. We’re certainly not teaching them to be bullies. But we are training them to fight against injustices, especially injustices being pushed upon them and those in their care.

We train women so that we constantly choose not to be seen as commodities, and we train men so that they act on valuing women and children. We train them so that they can learn to recognise when their rights are being violated, and to then use their voice and action to DO SOMETHING. Whether that’s in a violent encounter, or anywhere else throughout their lives.

Everyone thinks that they’re safe until it hits closer to home. Until something ‘bigger’ happens in their neighbourhood, or someone they know. Because seeing it through screens and hearing it through the media makes it easy for us to look away and remove ourselves from responsibility. The standard we walk past, is the standard we set. So we fight to set higher standards for women.

“The standard we walk past, is the standard we set. So we fight to set higher standards for women.” – Ruth Lesmana

In the end, here’s what it comes down to …

Freedom is worth fighting for.

Justice is worth fighting for.

One is worth fighting for.

She is worth fighting for.

“If I’m in chains, you’re in chains.”

RL.

Observe carefully, listen patiently and live curiously!

BY KATHERINE THEN | WRITER

“You should study nursing or medicine. You’ll get paid very well in the United States and it is a profession that will always be on demand.”

These were my mother’s recommendations when I was applying to college in New York City eight years ago. I understood where she was coming from; both of my parents had never been to college.  So when they, like most parents who come from a working class, saw that their daughter had the opportunity to choose a career, their thoughtful advice was to seek security; economic security that is. Where I am from, a woman that prospers economically is a woman that is empowered.

Becoming a nurse or a doctor certainly crossed my mind. I admire all of the medical practitioners around the world caring for those in need. You care for us when we are the most vulnerable, and for that I thank you.

In 2013, I graduated with a Bachelor’s in Psychology and two years later with a Master’s in International Development. Although I follow my parent’s advice in almost everything I do, I wasn’t cutout to be a nurse or a medical doctor. Thankfully, I have wonderful parents that always supported my dreams and aspirations. So when I told my parents that I wanted to study psychology and that I would probably end up working in the NGO sector, they supported me 100%.

That being said, during my studies my mom (with three kids) was working as a phlebotomist earning $15 USD an hour and my father as a taxi driver in New York City. This meant that pressures of economic stability were always present. Both of my parents would always say (in Dominican Spanish), “… you need to take care of yourself, earn good money, and then you can help others on a larger scale …”. They had a valid point, but let’s be honest, with all of the student loans I had acquired coupled with my employment options, I was never going to earn vast amount of money and that was ok.

It is natural for those of us that come from a low-middle class income, to think we need to help ourselves before we can help others. Reality is that we are struggling too. Most of us can remember a time when mom was late on rent, our phone or electricity was cut off, leaving dad with only $20 to his name when he would give us money for snacks as a kid and all of that borrowed money to pay for our studies.  So for us women working in the non-profit aid industry with life pressures, economic burdens, and guilty consciences’ for not choosing a career that would have economically benefited you and your family … we are in this together.

At age 22, with both of my really expensive degrees, I decided that I would support others with my hands, heart, and mind …. rather than with my pockets. As you are probably thinking, it would’ve been easier to earn a lot of money and make monthly donations to those wonderful organizations that are doing great work to assist vulnerable communities … and you’re right. I started working in the aid industry two years ago, and trust me when I say that textbooks prepare you theoretically, but when confronted with injustices, oppression, and hurting communities, you will often feel like you know less than what you thought.

HOWEVER! And hear me clearly, NEVER let anyone make you believe that you cannot support others and be an agent of change. You might not be as educated, experienced, or complex in thought, and this is not because you can’t be, but because you’re growing or have had limited opportunities to evolve and develop those important skills that you will need to have in this field. That comes with time, practice, and humility. Never think that your contributions are not valuable, because they are.

“My advice to young women like me that have just begun this journey, is to observe carefully, listen patiently, and live curiously.”

– Katherine Then

Observe carefully:

Personally: When you feel like giving up, observe all of those women around you from all socio-economic backgrounds and races that were told, “…you can’t go to school, you can’t help others, you can’t be a leader, you can’t fight for your (or others’) rights, and you can’t help your community…”, out there making it work, even though they were made to believe that they were incapable.

In the field: Be mindful. As individuals we share everyday experiences with others around us. Living in a shared world means that we have the responsibility to recognize that we affect each other. Thus, we must observe carefully how our actions make others feel. It is important that your behaviors do not hurt, disable, or disrespect those whom you work with, whether they are clients or team members.

Listen patiently: 

Personally: My grandpa has always said, “you learn more when you listen”. It is very easy to think we have all the answers, but listening to others’ opinions, perspectives, and struggles provides us with a wealth of knowledge.

In the field: You can empower someone just by listening to them. Learn from the person you wish to serve.

 Live curiously:

Personally: I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the expression, “Curiosity killed the cat!”, but I think it also made him/her a legend. Till this day, we mention that damn cat. It’s because he/she was brave enough to go out there, take risks, learn, be curious, and not be blind to the world that surrounds him/her.

In the field: One of the greatest things about being a rookie on the ground is that you know very little, because field experience is essential in this type of work. This gives you the opportunity to be curious. Do not think that you need to know all of the answers, because you will not. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarifications, or advice from those that have been in the field longer than you. Being open to learning from others is the key. Remember this isn’t about you and it isn’t easy.

We can only be effective if we approach the work with a humble heart and ask for help when it is necessary.

We learn from each other.

Observe carefully. Listen patiently. Live curiously.”

KT.