Fast lane, here we come.
Recently my husband and I became card-carrying members of the Nexus club, the Canadian/US border’s version of a Disney Fast Pass.
Last week, we hopped in our car and headed south to catch a flight from Seattle to Minnesota to visit Bill’s mom. We calculated our travel time factoring in long weekend line ups, but with a knowing smile that we could now use the zip-on-through lane.
We left the house shortly after 7:00 a.m. and rounded the curve approaching the border, confidently taking the Nexus lane, passing by car after truck in the regular line up.
“Bill, it’s closed. There’s pylons up ahead.”
We shared an “are you kidding me?” look as our glee turned to humiliation. We were those people. But not on purpose. It was an honest mistake.
I rolled down my window and made eye contact with a 60-something woman in the white sedan beside us. “Would you mind letting us in the line, please?”
“No. Nexus doesn’t open until 8:00,” she replied.
“We didn’t realize that. This is our first time using the Nexus line,” I responded contritely.
“It’s every traveller’s responsibility to do research ahead of time and know the rules of Nexus,” she reprimanded sternly. “Back up.” With that she closed her window.
She was right, of course. It was our job to know the hours of operation of this new program, along with all of the other expectations.
And I don’t know what’s been happening in her life. Perhaps she is a border regular who sees people abusing the system and we were the last straw. Maybe she lost her job last month. For all I know, her dog could have bitten her right before she got in her car.
It’s also true that she has no idea the hamster wheel I’ve felt on these last couple of weeks. Researching Nexus specifics—when I already knew the general border hours—didn’t make my top ten things to do. It never crossed my mind.
But none of that matters because we tend to judge others on their actions and ourselves on our intentions. I know that. I teach that.
Yet, she got under my skin.
I confessed to Bill that I wouldn’t be sad if she got pulled in for questioning. He raised an eyebrow and I knew I needed an attitude adjustment. So what was going on that kept me from brushing off her unwillingness to make space for us?
Grace. There was no grace.
We weren’t trying to buck the system or budge into line to save time. We made an error and when I dared to reach out, I wasn’t only refused help, I felt shamed by a lecture dripping with condescension and superiority.
It’s been a good reminder to me that all of my interactions with people matter, and that I want to be one extending grace, not condemnation. I only hope that the line-lady encounters people who are willing to model kindness to her when she needs a break.
With love and gratitude,
For women and girls in Cambodia, a menstrual period can put a full stop to life for a whole week every month. This young entrepreneur is changing that in her community.
Sreilak missed a week of school. Again.
She’s not alone. Each month, young women around the world are absent from educational opportunities because they can’t afford feminine hygiene products.
They can’t leave home during their menstrual period.
But a group of young women in Cambodia are changing this reality.
On my recent trip to Tasiem Village in Cambodia, I met Kim Houy Hor, the original seamstress for the recently established re-usable sanitary napkin business.
This is a first on so many levels.
This business grew out of the first Savings and Loans group established for youth and it’s an entrepreneurial endeavour run by young women, serving women. But the firsts don’t end there.
Twenty-seven young women each contributed $12.50 to become stakeholders in the business, which has already seen a net profit of over $300, an unimaginable amount of money in a materially impoverished area. The young women have purchased sewing machines and stocked their shelves with products needed to manufacture the re-usable pads.
Their enthusiasm and passion has been contagious.
The elders got on board when they saw benefits for the entire community— reliable employment and income; increased population stability; and young women attending school regularly.
Leaders pooled resources and constructed a building to house the sewing machines and materials, creating unity and a sense of village pride over the young women’s accomplishments.
Production of the sanitary pads began in April of 2017.
Each hand-made, fabric carrying bag contains two pad holders and six cloth liners. The liners are made of thick, soft fabric and have a moisture barrier sewn into them to prevent leaks. These products are sold with two Ziplocs as well, which girls can carry used pads in. They’ve thought of everything!
And imagine a year’s worth of feminine hygiene products costing $2.50 per year or less. These packages are sold for $5.oo and last at least two years.
But income generation and affordability are just two measure of success for this project. Kim Houy Hor and Food for the Hungry staff beamed as they spoke of how these napkins reduce waste and are therefore good for the environment.
They shared how the kits are proving to be an open door to discussing women’s health issues in their community and beyond.
And they proudly noted that this product is chemical free, offering a healthy and safe alternative that doesn’t have to be purchased monthly.
But perhaps the most glowing report is that young women are free to attend school, participate in activities, and learn practical skills for future employment.
It’s already clear that Kim Houy Hor is an excellent seamstress. I would say her marketing ability is growing as well. As I held the cloth bag and examined the pads she asked with a wide smile, “How many would you like to buy?”
The Word Guild Is Pleased To Announce
The 30th Annual 2018 Word Awards Short List
Honouring the Best of Canadian Christian Writing from 2017
TORONTO, ON — (CANADIAN CHRISTIAN NEWS SERVICE) — Canada’s best writers who speak into Canadian culture with a Christian worldview will be honoured and celebrated on the evening of Friday, June 15, 2018...
CHRISTIAN – NON-FICTION
· Shelaine Strom; But Pain Crept In (In the Midst Publishing)
· Paul Boge; Hannah’s Hope. A Mully Children’s Rescue Story (Castle Quay)
· Earnest Nullmeyer; How I Triumphed Over Multiple Traumas With a Smile on My Face, Sparkle in My Eyes (Castle Quay)
In Cambodia, those living with disabilities can struggle to earn a living. This group in Boeng Mealea has banded together to create an amazing new opportunity.
In July of 2016, my husband and I had the privilege of attending the first-ever meeting of the Savings and Loans group for people living with disabilities in Boeng Mealea, Cambodia.
And this past October (2017) I got to go back. What a difference 18 months can make!
At the heart of this transformation is relationship, trust, and education.
In the months between my visits, Cambodian Food for the Hungry (FH) staff came alongside group members, getting to know them and their desires. Staff encouraged dreaming and assisted in envisioning a hopeful future, something foreign to those living with disabilities.
This is no small feat in a country where having a disability often results in isolation, loneliness, and extreme material poverty.
Most people in Cambodia are Buddhist and believe in Karma—adopting an attitude that bad behaviour in a past life accounts for a disability in the present life. There is little room for empathy, understanding, or getting past the impairment. People are seen as their issue, not as valued human beings. People with disabilities are often seen as cursed and worthless, leaving them extremely vulnerable.
This worldview can also encourage discrimination and lack of regard for individuals living with disabilities and contributes to the ongoing cycle of despair and disparity.
Savings and Loans group meetings can happen in homes, under trees, or anywhere that is most convenient for the participants.
In Cambodia, education is extremely difficult to access for people living with disabilities. Cost is certainly a prohibitive factor, but practical realities of accessibility create insurmountable barriers. While the law states that buildings need to be readily reachable by all, little is done to ensure or enforce this, rendering those with physical limitations unable to get into educational facilities.
Access denied. Opportunities withheld. Vulnerability increased.
And it’s this exposure to risk that makes these people ideal candidates to work with Food for the Hungry, the organization who intentionally seeks to walk with the world’s most vulnerable through initiatives like Savings and Loans groups.
FH Savings and Loans groups are so much bigger than financial transactions. To lay the groundwork for their formation, FH staff worked with the community members living with disabilities to build trust and shared a vision for how working together, and keeping their money local, could benefit them.
Loan sharks are rampant in Cambodia, preying on vulnerable people in crisis, charging exorbitant interest rates, recalling loans on a whim, and adding stress and fear to those already experiencing extreme material poverty. And yet, many turn to these ill-motivated individuals because they see no alternative.
And that’s the power of a local Savings and Loans structure where neighbours pool resources, collectively make decisions on loans, hold each other accountable and, perhaps most meaningfully, support and cheer one another on.
Group meetings provide participants with a safe place to save money, take out loans, pitch ideas, troubleshoot difficulties, and receive support and encouragement from their peers.
Practically speaking, FH staff provided training in financial literacy, savings strategies, and small business management. The group received a secure lockbox, ledger, and accounting books with instruction on how to use them.
And the change began.
Each member contributed as much as they were able to the savings box—perhaps only a few cents at a time. Deposits were entered into the ledger by the designated bookkeeper, checked by another member, and witnessed by everyone sitting around on the mat at meetings.
While funds grew, brainstorming for how their collective savings would be leveraged continued.
Ideas shared, research conducted, a plan birthed. The Savings and Loans group for people living with disabilities was ready to put their learning, strategizing, and vision into practice.
Joy and pride washed over me as I met with the group again.
We shared time together discussing their road to becoming entrepreneurs. And then they gave me a tour of their store—the first of its kind.
So what happened between my visits? The Savings and Loan group met weekly with Food for the Hungry staff for learning, envisaging, and soon strategizing.
In the end, they decided on a grocery store and secured rental space for $25 a month. They sourced suppliers, stocked the shelves, and opened the doors. The business slowly grew but some of the stakeholders recognized an opportunity to reduce costs and therefore increase profit.
A piece of land on a busy highway located near a popular temple, right across from a school, became available for $35 per year. The lack of a building didn’t squelch their enthusiasm. The team banded together, contributing materials and labour as able, and constructed their own grocery store. Offering school supplies in addition to household necessities has been a stroke of marketing genius.
One hurdle the initiative needed to clear came with staffing.
Initially, the group hired someone from outside their cluster to run the store. It didn’t work out because “she didn’t smile.” So, they came together and assessed skills and abilities within their own.
Tok was voted in as the salesperson and since he’s taken over, sales have skyrocketed. He is warm, inviting, helpful, and perhaps most significant, invested. He takes pride and ownership of the store and his passion is contagious.
And what does Tok have to say about this opportunity? He told me he loves his job—the people he meets and being able to do purposeful work. He also said his wife has a new respect for him and “no longer fights him.” She is proud that he has a job and that people now look up to him.
The new store isn’t just a livelihood to these people living with disabilities.
This is a life-changing opportunity to hold their heads high and know that they are contributing to society, providing for their families, building friendships in community, and having fun in the process.
For more stories like this one, visit: http://blog.fhcanada.org
In The Midst