Saturday, April 19, 2008

Breakthrough: The Women, Faith and Development Summit to End Global Poverty

On April 13th I went to a conference at the Washington National Cathedral and I thought I would tell you all a little about it, because it was really inspiring in so many ways. First, I really admired the National Cathedral for its open approach to religion and change. They hosted many conversations that morning talking about the churches traditional approach to birth control and how counter effective it is to the spread of HIV/AIDS and poverty. They continually used the term "my brothers and sisters of all faiths" which reemphasized their attempt to unite rather than divide. Normally I don't feel the most comfortable in churches, but it was a very open and loving environment, a perfect place to host this conference.

Many inspiring people attended the conference, Madelyn Albright, Kim Campbell (former PM of Canada), Rev. Dr. Ishmael Noko, Her Excellency Mary Robinson (Former President of Ireland) and Ashley Judd (haha- she is the ambassador of Global Youth AIDS). There were also many executive directors of the multi-million dollar nonprofits that operate all over the world.
Some of the most inspiring words that were expressed include:

(paraphrasing) Poverty is not something inherent in our society, it is a collective choice we make to allow people to live in those conditions. If we can choose it, we can change it -Madelyn Albright

Youth are the heartbeat of the breakthrough [in ending global poverty] - Youth Ambassador from Jamaica

This is gender apartheid, and it is happening, and it is real. It is sexual terror and I am absolutely determined to be a part of the solution- Ashley Judd, speaking about rape as a tool in war

The youth were tools of destruction, the youth were tools of pain, and I was ashamed to be called a youth because we were part of the problem. We were part of the people going to the fields - Youth Ambassador from Kenya talking about the violence in her country .. So they started a campaign "Give tomorrow a chance...because we needed that tomorrow"

[Young Women] want to be part of the solution, we don't want to be pitied, we don't want to be victims.. we want to make a difference and the difference we acknowledge starts with us - Kenyan Youth Ambassador
We must challenge partriarchy. -Religious leader

One of the reasons this conference was so inspiring was beyond the words that were spoken, but the commitments made by the nonprofits. Millions of dollars were committed to empower women in girls in the struggle against poverty. Other nonprofits committed not to monetary amounts but to the number of women impacted. For example Islamic Relief Services committed themselves to over 1 million women and girls in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East to break out of the cycle of poverty by providing aid that makes life-changing through increased programs for girls education, provision of jobs, income generating projects, clean water, support of female orphans, basic nutritional medical support.

At the end was an interpretative dance that was so beautiful I almost wanted to cry, tears of joy :) It is hard to explain in words, but the cover of the program for the conference was a young girl "breaking through" a finish line ribbon way out ahead of a lot of boys.. Well, at the end of the ceremony there were these ribbon dancers who were jumping over each other weaving together three ribbons into one braid and then dancing with the braid. At the end, they turned they held the ribbon straight out and a beautiful woman in a flowing red dress leaped through the ribbon with the biggest smile on her face. It was beautiful, and here is a picture that almost captures it.

These were the ribbons that were weaved together to make the "finish line"

Here are some more of the beautiful moments in the conference:

The Young drummer boys in the background were crazy-awesome!

This is the same woman who ran through the ribbon- beautiful

We are Virginia Tech.

We are Virginia Tech.

We are sad today, and we will be sad for quite a while. We are not moving on, we are embracing our mourning.

We are Virginia Tech.

We are strong enough to stand tall tearlessly, we are brave enough to bend to cry, and we are sad enough to know that we must laugh again.

We are Virginia Tech.

We do not understand this tragedy. We know we did nothing to deserve it, but neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS, neither do the invisible children walking the night away to avoid being captured by the rogue army, neither does the baby elephant watching his community being devestated for ivory, neither does the Mexican child looking for fresh water, neither does the Appalachian infant killed in the middle of the night in his crib in the home his father built with his own hands being run over by a boulder because the land was destabilized. No one deserves a tragedy.

We are Virginia Tech.

The Hokie Nation embraces our own and reaches out with open heart and hands to those who offer their hearts and minds. We are strong, and brave, and innocent, and unafraid. We are better than we think we are and not quite what we want to be. We are alive to the imaginations and the possibilities. We will continue to invent the future through our blood and tears and through all our sadness.

We are the Hokies.

We will prevail.
We will prevail.
We will prevail.

We are Virginia Tech.

-Nikki Giovanni

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


This is so cute! You have to watch this video!

The concept behind this campaign has been on my mind a whole lot lately because I have come to realize something about the American culture's individualism...It can lead to the isolation of its members. It seems to me that it is very easy for a person in the United States to become completely disconnected from the world because our culture is one where we constantly ignore people we pass on the streets while trying not to make direct eye contact. This just seems to perpetuate the loneliness in some members of our society, and can even lead to events, similar to what happened at my school on April 16th. In my opinion, which is not a professional one, it seems like in societies where people are forced to communicate with one another would at least give those who feel lonely the ability to have social interaction, instead of assuming that everyone has friends and family of their own and don't need to talk to anyone outside of those circles. For example, In Spain people were much more friendly on the streets and actually used the time on the bus to talk to one another rather than to stare off into space. There were even old people whose job it was (or that's how it seemed ha) to sit on a bench and converse with those who passed by. I think it's a healthier outlook on life and can lead to a happier society with less people who feel isolated and end up doing the unimaginable. Just a thought. P.S. If you ever need a hug, mine are always free :D