Thursday, May 15, 2008

New York Womens Foundation breakfast Strikes Again

Today I had the privilege to attend the New York Womens Foundation breakfast as a grantee partner representative for the second year. Given how I felt about last year's event, I wondered what they could possibly to do to top it. And I wondered-- how much will they raise? As a result of Abigail Disney's pitch, they raised over 2.65 million dollars through the event and her challenge grant.

But they did top it. Sitting proudly between my fellow grantee representatives from Fierce and Girls for Gender Equity, when I wasn't downing the coffee (7AM start!!!) I was I wiping the tears from eyes. A sucker for all things that demonstrate the connectedness among women, I was amazed at the way this event makes a room full of 2500 women, most of them who outearn me by multiples, made me feel like I was in the companion of people who care about the things I care about.

From the all girl marching band to grantee speeches to awards to Marie Wilson and Christine Amanpour, the program was incredibly moving. But the most touching was the award to the Acholi women from Meeting Point International in Uganda. In Uganda, they make their living by breaking stone into gravel. When they heard about Hurricane Katrina, they raised $1,000 and sent to displaced victims in Houston. When a few of the women received the award this moring, they said that we are all of one heart, that we belong to them because they belong to somebody. As someone loved them, they love us.

I travelled to Tanzania the July before Hurricane Katrina to work with women from Ukewere on the Girls Talk! Tanzania conference. Making a living wage through manual labor is a hard life anywhere but in rural Africa, the women I met come home to build a fire, cook a meal, feed their children with no electricity and a baby on the hip. I met an elementary school principal during my visit who told me about the hard time they have attracting and retaining teachers. When I told him, "Oh us too!" He waited a moment and chose his words, saying "I never thought that you and I would share the same problems."

Living in Manhattan, it's easy to forget that we are all connected, not by the internet or text messages, or the ability to teleconference, but by our ability to give. This morning's breakfast reminded me not why I go to work every day (that's easy for me) but why I give money and time to the organizations I love and why it's so vitally important that I do, especially when its hard and I feel stretched thin.

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