Shortly after my husband died I was in a local grocery at the check out counter and barely holding it together. I avoided all eye contact with the clerk. Then I heard her ask if I wanted to donate a $1 to a local food bank. For whatever reason it grabbed my attention.
I said “YES”.
At that moment something inside me lit up.
Months ago, Lord Loomba, CBE called inviting me to his event at the UN. Little did I know at the time, that I would be attending the 2016 Conference on the Status of Women. Weeks later, I found myself introducing Lord Loomba, CBE. During the Loomba Foundation event, he introduced the World Widows Report, which I will be writing more about in the coming weeks. Continue Reading →
Loving kindness is a mantra that describes the care and intent Asha Patel uses when she makes each piece of her jewelry. With each earring, ring, necklace and bracelet Asha creates, in her home, she choses from a variety of materials – gemstones, gold, sterling, vermeil, brass, leather and silk, which allows for an accessibility in pricing options for clients. Each piece carries with it a special message. For example, these earrings represent the “less is more” mantra.
January was a month filled with joy! It started out with the gorgeous opportunity to speak at my first ticketed event in Grand Rapids, Michigan at Schuler Books & Music store.
I was honored to be included in Refinery 29 ‘s piece, “What to Say in Life’s Most Difficult Situations.” They featured five troubling situations and offer words of wisdom on how to handle these sensitive situations. We all know that it is often a struggle to come up with the right words to say and just as tough to show support. My thoughts were included in the fifth situation, What to Do and Say When Someone You Know is in Grief. You can read the piece here .
Last month I went to Nairobi, Kenya with a small group of widows. We were connected with a charity organization that services widows and their children. We were given the opportunity to meet with the widows and visit their homes. I had the absolute joy of meeting Peninnah, a mother of three young children. Peninnah is one of those women who you would expect to be depressed and pessimistic, and frankly who could blame her? She lives in a slum, called Kibera, the largest slum many believe to be in Africa. At times it is estimated that nearly 1 million people live here. Peninnah doesn’t have running water, electricity, a bank account, or even access to even a bicycle. She spent part of her afternoon with me telling me about her daily life: how she waters down the food to get two meals out of it, cares for her infant, and how she makes necklaces (photographed below) to earn cash.
Peninnah explains the process necessary to make these necklaces. She uses discarded paper, measures and cuts it, then dyes it. Once the paper is dry, she rolls each strip of paper with a toothpick and then puts it together, like you would stringing beads on a necklace. I ask her how long it takes to make one necklace. She responds by telling me that she can make five a day, and has even taught other women in the group how to make the necklaces so that they too can earn a living.
This all seems rather hopeless to me. I think she’s living in a disaster zone, and I can’t believe that she is smiling and loving on her baby while telling me this. When I ask about how she accesses health care, she calmly explains that she has to save up money to obtain transportation to get to the NGO hospital whenever one of her children needs medical attention. She is a warm and even asks about my late husband. Our conversation comes to an end when she realizes the women are getting together to participate in a group activity. I tell Peninnah that I can hold her baby so that she can participate with the other women.
The next morning our group met the women, and I immediately saw Peninnah holding her baby. Upon sitting next to Peninnah, she opened her purse and gave me a bracelet. I am speechless. She was so grateful for my time in taking care of her baby that she’s giving me this bracelet as a token of gratitude. Full of love she said, “This is for you because you held my baby (so) I could be with the group.”
This mother who supports her family on less than a dollar a day, has found her way to gratitude. And once she has found it, she then decided to give with an open hand. Most humbling is knowing that the bracelet she gave me could have sold to earn a few shillings.
An open heart fosters gratitude, which in turn as Peninnah knows, produces joy. Gratitude despite any circumstances isn’t easy. And so every time I look at the bracelet Peninnah gave me I think of what this gift revealed: gratitude that knows no bounds leads to openheartedness and openhandedness.
Published in Huffingtion Post Healthy Living on 11/17/2014
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” — Gandhi
Last month, I had the honor of attending the United Nations Association of New York Humanitarian Awards Dinner. The theme of the evening was Empowering Women: Promoting Peace and Progress. Lord Raj Loomba, CBE was honored for dedicating his life to doing just this — empowering women. More specifically Lord Loomba, CBE, has promoted the empowerment of widows and their children across the globe. As Founder and Chairman of the Loomba Foundation, he has personally taken on the plight of widows and their children by shining a light on their challenges and developing initiatives to support their needs.
I first met Lord Loomba, CBE, at his office in London, England. Lord Loomba is humble despite his vast accomplishments. In 2011, Forbes India presented him with an NRI Philanthropy award, and earlier this year Northampton University bestowed upon him an Honorary Fellowship. Lord Loomba is kind and generous. It was during this meeting that he asked if I would like to be his guest at the United Nations Humanitarian Awards Dinner where he was due to receive his lifetime achievement award.
We met a few weeks later at this dinner which also honored Mr. Stefan Persson and Dr. Phumzile Mlambo- Ngcuka. The room was quiet when Lord Loomba shared his own story. He was eloquent in speech and explained how he used his personal loss to transform an entire group of widows and their chidren across the globe. He witnessed his own mother’s grief and suffer with the status of “widow” after his father died from tuberculosis. He was just 10, but still remembers that his mother was blamed for his father’s death, and within hours of his death she was asked to remove her bindi. Equally as troubling was when his mother was asked to wear all white and was no longer able to dress in her colorful clothing. Essentially she was stripped of her dignity.
One of Lord Loomba’s goals is to restore a level of respect and dignity to all widows. His tireless determination knows only the boundaries that governments have established, and even there he worked to bring about change. Lord Loomba spent five years campaigning with the United Nations to have June 23 recognized as International Widows Day. This date was chosen because on this date in 1954 Lord Loomba’s father died from tuberculosis leaving his wife a widow and single mother of seven children.
The United Nations uses the Loomba Foundation’s report, titled “Invisible Forgotten Sufferers” published in 2010, as their handbook to understanding the plight of widows and their children. The publication says, “One of the main reasons why widows continue to be subjected to gross human rights violations is that although they number 245 million, there has been no comprehensive research or attempt to gather information on a global scale about their existence.” Often overlooked are widows for example who are living in Kenya, Rwanda or Uganda. The publication addresses the needs and challenges of these widows.
With the Foundation, Lord Loomba, CBE has created a number of initiatives, such the Punjab sewing machine project whereby helping 10k widows. This project has a tremendous reach; it helps 100,000 individuals. In London Lord Loomba, CBE told me that when you help a widow the “impact is tenfold. You empower economically and the widows are empowered socially.” When widows obtain a job or skill, not only do they support their children but often teach others the craft.
The foundation also recognizes the value of education. Lord Loomba said, “Rual India is hardest hit. There the widows are poor and undereducated.” In India alone, the Loomba Foundation has provided educational scholarships, for a minimum of five years or longer, to over 9,000 children of widows, and supported over 50,000 family members.
Equally as impressive are the number of notable individuals who have lent their support to the foundation. Lord Loomba has garnered the respect from political figures and celebrities, such as Cherie Blair, CBE, QC, His Excellency Ranjan Mathai, Sir Richard Branson, Yoko Ono, and Sir James Bevan KCMG.
There are vey few who have Lord Loomba’s spirit of generosity and passion for those who are first to be overlooked. He has embodied the change he wishes for the world to be.
To Learn More About The Loomba Foundation’s Punjab Sewing Machine Project, follow this link, theloombafoundation.org/helping-5000-widows-punjab-project-goes-live/
You can read Lord Loomba’s blog here theloombafoundation.org/blog/
Published in Huffintington Post Impact on 11/21/2014
Oprah Winfrey is on tour with her own version of a rockstar band that includes influential people she calls trailblazers. These trailblazers are: Dr. Deepak Chopra (select cities), Mark Nepo (select cities), Elizabeth Gilbert, Rob Bell, and Iyanla Vanzant. Her tour includes a two-day weekend called The Life You Want Weekend, complete with an interactive “O Town.” The “theme songs” of this tour are ones of courage, wisdom, clarity, gratitude, and unbounded positivity.
This tour has six remaining cities on their schedule, and I had the privilege of attending the one in Auburn Hill, Michigan. For hundreds of women in attendance, seeing Oprah was on their bucket list. Throughout the weekend, I heard dozens of woman say that hearing Oprah speak was a lifetime dream coming true.
Oprah was mesmerizing and brilliant. On Friday evening, when she took the stage there was silence. For two hours, she spoke with brutal honesty and humor, reflecting on her painful childhood, enormous career, and the people who molded her along the way. Oprah explained the conscious decision that she made to direct her television program away from rubbish and hate. She decided to use her valuable television platform for a greater good, and to help empower those seeking wisdom.
Each of the trailblazers took the on stage day two, and Oprah spoke throughout it. They shared their personal stories, and how they followed their passion. This wasn’t a superficial workshop. All the speakers acknowledged that life is messy and cluttered. Unplanned and unwanted things occur because this is a part of life, but learning how to transform these things is crucial. If you are stuck and frustrated, it may be because you’re looking for an easy out. Transformation takes hard work, and you are the only one that can do this work.
Five Things I Learned From The Life You Want Weekend :
1. Everyone wants to know that they matter. One’s status in society doesn’t make them immune to this. Oprah said that after an interview was taped, a criminal and very famous people would often wonder the same thing. They wanted to know if their interview was okay. What they really wanted to know Oprah said is, “Did you hear what I said?” Everyone wants their voice to be heard and acknowledged.
2. The question is just as important as the answer. Oprah strongly encouraged you to ask yourself the right questions. These aren’t questions of self-pity or despair. Instead she encouraged the audience to ask themselves these types of questions: How do I give to myself and others? How do I nourish myself? How do I discover my passion? What do I know for sure? It is in the quest, that you develop a sense of what matters. She taught her audience to listen to everything, even the things that are difficult. These things, she contends, bring you information, and what you do with that information can determine your future. If you chose to deny and rationalize what you hear, the situation can fester and grow, until it forces you to pay attention.
3. Oprah is not detached. Quite the opposite was true. She was deeply aware of the pulse of the audience. At one point, while one of the trailblazer speakers was talking, Oprah noticed that a female audience member sitting next to Gayle King was tearful. Oprah was several feet away from this woman. Oprah signaled a male staff, and asked him to bring this woman some tissue. The woman was touched mouthed the words, “thank you” to Oprah. She nodded back. Perhaps no one else noticed this moment, but I did.
4. Each person in attendance could learn something valuable. Each participant was given a beautiful workbook, and Oprah guided us through each exercise. She spoke of her own career goals, and the things that she continues to work on. All of us are yanked down at one time or another by the issues of life. This workbook gives you the opportunity to create a “reset” plan for your life.
5. Oprah encourages everyone to develop a sense of clarity, so that on your own you can complete this sentence — what I know for sure is. Personally, what I know for sure is that with gratitude you will glow with unbounded positivity. Gratitude is the answer to nearly every question, and with unbounded positivity all things are possible.
This was orignially published in the Huffington Post on 9/16/14
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