Living for Giving – Charlotte Women Make Lasting Impressions
Nov 08, 2008 04:37PM
Author Diane Mariechild once said, “A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform.” Five local women have proven they have the passion and tenacity to make dreams come true. Their altruistic efforts have changed lives and brought hope to countless people. We salute their indomitable spirit and pioneering visions.
Building Communities Through Small Loans Jacqueline Marshall
Jacqueline Marshall developed a passionate interest in micro finance and clean water in 1996 during an eye-opening trip to Kenya. ”I saw the great impact a very small loan could do for disadvantaged women in developing countries,” said the British citizen who now calls Charlotte home.
Along with six other Charlotteans, Marshall recently launched Humans Helping Humans (H3O) – a global micro credit project that connects lenders with working poor, small business entrepreneurs and rural village projects in the developing world. Clients are empowered to create sustainable businesses that build local agriculture and clean water and transportation systems through their own grass roots initiatives.
Marshall says the micro credit challenge is to mobilize the western world’s personal, financial and technological resources by providing bridges of connectivity. H3O connects social lenders with rural village projects and small group businesses with micro credit loans (seed money) using the internet.
Alongside seed money, H3O works with their field partner, PenKenya, in providing capacity-building life skills and small business training, as many of the women did not receive a formal education. This is a critical reason why micro credit has a 95% success rate. H3O also connects providers of cutting edge, low tech, infrastructure solutions with rural communities in developing countries.
Re~Cycle, an organization in Britain that fights poverty with affordable transportation, collects secondhand bicycles and has shipped over 26,000 to Africa. These bikes help AIDS workers reach remote villages and even provide an ambulance service in remote Namibia.
The ClaySure Water Project helps rural villages create their own access to clean, potable water via simple, affordable and effective clay pot filter technology. A donation of $20 provides a family of six with safe drinking water for up to 3 years, while $100 trains one potter to make life-saving water filters for life.
“H30 gives loans, not hand outs, so women keep their dignity while learning about business, accountability and responsibility,” said Marshall, a former teacher who has founded several non profits.
As a result of their business successes women gain considerable self-confidence. “Their husbands start to see them as equals, which results in less domestic violence,” added Marshall. “Many of the women even become leaders in their communities. These women find their voice.”
Bringing Yoga to the Homeless Martha Harbison
After reaping the benefits of a regular yoga practice for nearly 10 years, Martha Harbison feels complete. “All of my energies are aligned and I live from a place of unconditional love and acceptance of what is,” she said. With that in mind Harbison was inspired to start Community Yoga, a Charlotte volunteer based service program that brings yoga to the homeless and underprivileged.
“It is our way of connecting with our neighbors that otherwise would never be exposed to the gifts that yoga has to offer,” stated Harbison who started the program in 2006, patterned after a successful program on the west coast called Street Yoga.
Classes are currently offered at the Urban Ministry Center, an interfaith organization that serves the poor, needy and homeless; the Alexander Youth Network, which provides professional treatment to children with, or at risk of serious emotional and behavioral problems; and The Relatives, a shelter for runaway and homeless youths.
Participants are asked to sign a commitment form to attend classes for six weeks as a way to explore a new way of caring for themselves physically and emotionally. Beyond the physical benefits, Harbison believes participants can attain peaceful emotional states, a sense of forgiveness, self-trust and a connection to Spirit centeredness.
“Our homeless neighbors at Urban Ministry Center come to relax and many have learned how to calm themselves within their stressful lives. Some have become regulars and have developed an on-going yoga practice outside of the class setting. The children at Alexander Youth Network and The Relatives are very enthusiastic participants and look forward to their classes each week,” Harbison noted.
She would like to expand the program to include men’s and women’s shelters, youth homes and other organizations that serve the homeless. Since Community Yoga is totally volunteer based, the biggest challenge is to provide consistency of quality teachers on a long term basis. Harbison would like to access funding so that some teachers could be paid for their time.
“My desire is for Community Yoga to bring our homeless neighbors back home to who they truly are – Divine Spirit,” acknowledged Harbison.
For info on how to donate or volunteer contact: [email protected].
Empowering Women and Building Better Futures Jane McIntyre
When Jane McIntyre became executive director of the YWCA over seven years ago, the center was run-down and $1 million in debt. Since then this woman with boundless energy and a positive attitude has worked to erase that debt and to renovate housing programs for those at risk of homelessness.
“After two weeks into my job I was driving home to my nice house and realized that I could so easily be one of our women in transition,” said McIntyre, a grandmother of two. “We all take so much for granted and it is wonderful to work in a place that reminds you every day to be thankful.” Â McIntyre helped develop the Women In Transition Program that provides safe, decent, affordable housing with intensive support services to over 100 single women at risk of homelessness each year.
“Meeting the women who live with us in our transitional housing program and watching them change their lives and share their stories has been my greatest joy at this job,” stated McIntyre.
Families Together, which provides transitional housing and support services for at-risk families with minor children recently opened. McIntyre oversaw the renovation of existing buildings and incorporated green building elements including low-flow showerheads, cement board siding, energy efficient HVAC systems and green certified carpet. There is also an entire acre that volunteers developed into a nature preserve.
Initially McIntyre had no knowledge of eco-friendly building. During the process she admits she was bit by the green bug and it’s now her favorite subject. “It is so logical and economical and the right thing to do. Honesty, I loved learning about it and it makes such sense to do it right.”
McIntyre feels her job is a spiritual calling. “I actually feel so privileged to be allowed to do this work. I do feel that God led me here at the right time, for me and the YWCA.” she stated.
To learn how you can help support YWCA’s programs visit www.ywcacentralcarolinas.org.
Creating Programs for Charlotte’s At- Risk Youth Martine Wurst and Lisa Spies
Last year Marine Wurst surveyed a group of youth at Seigle Avenue Presbyterian Church and the surrounding neighborhood and asked them what they feared, dreamed and needed in life.
“Most of the youth said they feared gangs, felt hopeless about their futures and were bored on the weekends,” said Wurst, a Physician’s Assistant. Inspired to give these kids some direction, she launched the North Charlotte Youth Network (NCYN) in the fall of 2007.Â
Wurst based her program on the Steele Creek Youth Network (SCYN) started by her friend Officer Lisa Spies with CMPD. Spies created SCYN as the result of youth and gang violence in Charlotte. “It didn’t take long for me to find out from local teenagers that they were missing some basic needs in their lives – a sense of belonging, love and care, role models and high self-esteem,” says Spies. The program draws hundreds of youth to weekend programs.
Grants and assistance from neighborhood churches, youth organizations and corporate sponsors such as Best Buy help fund the programs. Collaborations with the arts community provide classes in art, dance, cooking, photography and filmmaking as inspiration for better futures.
This summer Wurst says Wells Fargo will offer job skills training and General Electric will help create a green community space for youth in the Seigle Avenue area.
“It requires the commitment from an entire community to support youth and create fun, safe, gang-free weekend activity,” stated Wurst. “The NCYN goal is being met by keeping hundreds of youth off the street during vulnerable weekend hours.” She hopes programs like hers and Spies’ expand to every police district in the city.
“My mission is to inspire, move and touch young people so they know there is a bright future ahead of them and to empower them to believe that anything is possible,” Wurst concluded.
If you would like to help with this effort, learn more about NCYN /SCYN or are interested in starting a neighborhood youth network, contact [email protected]. Lisa Moore is a freelance writer in Charlotte, NC.