The Collection

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.


My Person


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


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?


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.



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


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.


*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.


Worth Fighting For!


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.”


Observe carefully, listen patiently and live curiously!


“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.”


Tell me why?


I have a very strong passion on writing. However, I feel like I am undergoing a period of slump because I can’t think of anything to write these days. So, when Mechelle, an inspiring friend, offered me a chance to contribute in a blog, I instantly asked her to give me a topic to write about. It was because I thought it would help me and it really did. Her question really got me to think deeply and write down what I feel.

“Why as a Karen female do you think you can help your people?”

 This question is asked in a way that makes me feel empowered because it implies that I am capable to help my people and I just need to find the answer why I can be of assistance. Therefore, I came to a conclusion that I need to present myself as a young woman who possess characteristics of someone who can help others.

Through closely analyzing the question, my answer is that in order to help others, one needs to know the needs of others and their willingness to be helped. In addition, one must sacrifice something whether it be tangible or intangible things to assist others. To name a few, there are time, money, skills, knowledge, and materials.

Among all type of questions, I found out that I am not good at answering questions start with ‘why’. It is because it drives me to evaluate situations, people, events and the hardest part of it is assessing myself. A common question that candidates face during any interview is, “Why do you think you deserve this job/position/scholarship/award?”. Then, people usually tend to talk about qualities or experiences that will impress the interviewers or make them stand out among other applicants. Basically, it’s all about promoting yourself.

However, I was brought up among people who taught me to be humble, to not boast and to not think highly of myself. So, I am stunned whenever people expect me to talk about my strengths and areas I want to improve. It is because people I met when I was a child did not encourage me to speak about what I’m good at because they regarded it as a kind bragging. Compared to the last few years, I think I am now better at expressing myself and openly say what my strengths and weaknesses are.

“I am a Karen ethnic who is compassionate and persistent. I love to observe others and situations around me as well as events across the globe. In addition, I am interested in social structures and cultures that shape people to be who they are. This kind of curiosity enhances my critical thinking and in understanding others. My favorite thing to do is to reflect. Reflecting gives me a sense of feeling that I can do this or I can improve myself to be able to realize what I want to achieve.”

– Naw Tha Dah Ni Win

I think these traits that dwell in me makes me valuable to reach out to other people efficiently. Like learning organizations, I’m willing to learn from my mistakes and find alternative ways to make myself, others, and this world better. This is why I can confidently say that I am capable to support others in collaboration with other great people and as an individual as well.


It’s the little things!


A thing like being asked whether or not I’m worried about my chances of getting married, if I were to pack up my life and pursue a fight for a cause bigger than myself.

A thing like having a classmate flick my skirt up during our woodwork class in the hopes of catching a glimpse of which he has no permission to view.

A thing like listening to a supposedly ‘fellow’ male leader repeating something I’ve already said in a meeting but laughing it off as his own thought while others approved of it.

It’s the little things that I never realized would make much of a difference. Yet they do. I love this quote by Jim Watkins.

“A river cuts through rock, not because of its power, but because of its persistence.”

– Jim Watkins

See, I’ve also always loved the ocean. In one hand, the ocean can instill such peace and serenity. There’s nothing quite like sitting on the beach whilst listening to the waves crash in… throw in a cool breeze in the air, and the soft sand flickering across your toes… where else would you rather be? And yet, the ocean can be one of the most damaging, deadly places to be in. When we think about bodies of water, and the way in which they can erode through rock, stone, pretty much everything if given enough time; they are indeed powerful forces.

In a lot of ways, the little things that are said, done, and expected of girls and women in our current society cut through their inherent value and view of themselves. I remember asking myself whether I should feel any less of a woman for not worrying about my chances of getting married; and whether or not I should just get over the fact that ‘boys will be boys’; and whether or not my position in leadership still meant that sometimes, I’d be silenced by the voices given a more amplified standing than mine.

It’s not that they are stronger, or more powerful than we are. It’s that the persistence of these little things eventually add up to something bigger. One of two things could happen:

  • Accept that that’s just the way things are, and there’s not much we can do about it; or
  • Confront what is said and done in these situations in order to break the flow.

Build that dam. Fight their persistence with our own by living a life that exemplifies equality, justice, and humility.

“A strong woman understands that the gifts such as logic, decisiveness, and strength are just as feminine as intuition and emotional connection. She values and uses all of her gifts.”

– Nancy Rathburn

So we choose to do the little things to build, in order to counter those that break. We choose to give, and dig deeper, and channel our persistence towards something that reminds future generations of their courage. We choose resilience, and to remain grateful for the opportunities we have to execute change. Whether that’s through teaching the young girls we come across that they have the right to decide their own boundaries and stand by them; or having conversations with the men in our lives about showing common respect.

It’s the ‘little’ things.


Why so many women?


I grew up surrounded by men, and hard working men at that. I developed a strong work ethic from a very young age, demonstrated to me daily by my parents. I have two brothers, one is my twin, so growing up into our late teen years we were inseparable.

Naturally I was (maybe still am) a bit of a tom boy. I don’t pretend to be a guy, but I tend to enjoy sports, MMA, beers and hanging out with the boys. I have always felt more comfortable associating with men and appreciate the lack of competition. Maybe it’s due to their less dramatic reactions or easy going natures, although some guys are worse gossips than girls. I did grow up on a farm and orchard, so was always outside finding adventure, which may also have something to do with it too.

I’m not sure why, but over the last 3-4 years this has changed dramatically. I still love hanging out with my mates, but now in all aspects of my life, I am surrounded by women. I have no idea how this happened, but for this, I am finding myself extremely grateful.

For the last 2.5 years I have been the CEO Asia at Global Alms Incorporated, relocating to Thailand full time in 2014. This position has challenged every sense of myself and skill set. In some ways, I have taken to the position naturally and in other aspects of my role, I have tread water so I didn’t drown. Deep learning aside, I love my job and I love every facet of our organistion.

In more ways than one, we have come into some incredible opportunities to help people. We have an extraordinary team who are super willing and dedicated to our work. Strangely enough, our team in Thailand is all made up of women. Sitting on our Board of Directors in Australia, we do have two very dedicated men supporting us, but the rest of the Board and also the organisation is made up of women. Now this may be for a lot of reasons, but whatever the reason, I am thankful.

The women on our team ‘take my breath away’. These women constantly seek self improvement, developing their leadership abilities and skill sets as they go. They train, guide, mentor and support women in communities here, including back in Australia. These women all have a love for people, a genuine heart to empower others and a passion for the elimination of exploitation. I am honoured to have the opportunity to work alongside them.

Through our work here in Thailand, our team keeps crossing paths with women from all walks of life. Some are wealthy, some are uneducated, some are idealistic, some are seeking, some are serving, some are impoverished, some are highly motivated; no matter where they are in life all of these women are truly remarkable. The love, strength and resilience within women, is second to none. Within these communities, it is the women who hold things together; be it families, employment, goals for the future or surviving one day to the next.

It has really made me look back on my life before moving here and I realised that through the years I have always had strong female role models in my life. I may have spent time hanging out with my mates, but it has been the women in my life that have held a solid foundation for me. There have been Family, Teachers, Family Friends, Coaches, Women in Ministry and many more. I think growing up, I definitely took this for granted.

My mother, Deborah Moore, is without fail, the strongest woman I know. My mum has the best work ethic and she always strives to do her best in every aspect of her life. She is an amazing mum, Little Gramps (grandparent), Mother-In-Law, friend and sister to so many people. I love the little things she does to make people feel special. For example, every time I come home to visit there is a special welcome note for me on a heart shaped chalkboard hanging in the house. A birthday is never forgotten and people are constantly celebrated in unique thoughtful ways, just for them.

I learnt how to love through watching my mum. The way she cradles a struggling baby that has just been born. I remember the countless hours she would spend feeding potty lambs and kids that had been abandoned or lost in the paddock by their mothers. I love seeing the way she is with my nieces and nephews (her grandchildren). They all have a special place in her heart and Little Gramps can conquer the world in their eyes. All of my friends, were brought into our family and my mum loved each of them without question. My mum is devout in her faith, always invests in others and can withstand anything life throws at her; coming out the other side with incredible grace and growth. Almost everything I know about women, I learnt from my mum and the example she sets in life.

Another great example and unofficial mentor for me is Gabrielle Costigan, CEO Asia at Linfox. We were both working at Headquarter Joint Operations Command at the time and Gabby was Military Assistant to Chief and Deputy Chief of Joint Operations Command (MA to CJOPS and DCJOPS). Within weeks of starting my new role, my marriage broke down and we separated. My self-esteem was shot and I had been head-hunted for a management position working within the Headquarters that was experimental. This was the time I needed a demonstration of strength in character to follow and I saw that every day in Gabby. I was painfully aware of my inexperience for the position I held, but instead of telling me how useless I was, Gabby invested in me. These were only small things at the time, but they made a remarkable difference in my life.

Gabby’s position was one of the most difficult within the Headquarters and she handled it with grace and ease. Well it certainly looked that way from the outside, but I’m sure at times there were difficult moments. I remember Gabby always encouraging the women around her, including me. On a daily basis, Gabby took the time to invest in those around her, building strength in her team. I will always be grateful for the role model she set for me during that time and that she continues to set for women in leadership.

I have found myself drawing closer to the women in my life and strengthening those relationships. The women in my life love me, challenge me and help me grow. This makes me want to be a better person. I still don’t like drama and I avoid watching ‘chick flicks’ when I can, but I am grateful for the women who have deeply enriched my life. I am constantly learning and I hope that never changes, but my greatest lesson in life to date, is that women are worth your time and investment.