DFW and CARE Changing the World
By Roxanne Walker Cordonier
On May 11th and 12th I served as a delegate at CARE’s national conference in Washington D.C. CARE (www.care.org ) is a 60 year old humanitarian organization dedicated to fighting poverty and social injustice. Because of CARE’s special emphasis on investing in and empowering women and children, Dining for Women (a giving circle founded in Greenville, South Carolina by Marsha Wallace www.diningforwomen.org ) has become an affiliate organization. The philosophy behind CARE’s projects in 72 countries is simple; advance education, improve health, increase economic opportunity and meet emergency needs after disasters.
I joined Dining for Women because of my interest in ending global poverty by investing in women and their children. I began to believe that there were practical solutions to the problems of poverty and social injustice after reading Greg Mortenson’s book, Three Cups of Tea. Mortenson’s work to promote peace by building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan was a powerful testimony to the ripple effect educating women has on communities. My belief in the success of female focused international aid programs was further strengthened by reading Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Half the Sky served as a launch pad for my entry into activism to further the cause of women’s rights. One of the courageous and inspiring women featured in Half the Sky was a guest at the CARE conference. I was absolutely thrilled to meet Goretti Nyabenda, a resident of Burundi, after she was given the “I Am Powerful” award by CARE. Goretti describes her life before joining an empowerment program run by CARE as “wretched”. Goretti took out a $2 microloan to buy fertilizer, repaid the loan and began a small business as a farmer, goat breeder and banana-beer brewer. Today Goretti’s husband no longer beats her and she is allowed to come and go freely instead of being confined to her home. Goretti’s children are able to go to school and life is good for the family. All of this good fortune came about because of Goretti’s original $2 loan.
More than 800 people attended the 2010 CARE Conference 264 delegates from all 50 states including Alaska and Hawaii. 7 years ago at CARE’s first national conference just 20 people attended. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the opening speaker. Secretary Clinton was an early proponent of women’s rights; her key question for national leaders is “How do you treat your women?” Secretary Clinton believes that when women are treated as property and second class citizens it’s not only a violation of human rights; it impedes the economic prosperity of the country because 50% of the populace isn’t being utilized in the work force.
Meeting all of these people from across the country united in their belief that it is possible to change the world and end poverty was a spiritual experience. At times it felt like being in church, a communion of souls if you will. I felt proud to be part of it and happy to be doing something positive to affect change.