“I feel like I just did something really good,” Sarah said. “I hope I can get some of my friends to help out next time.” We were driving back after the final presentation of a heArtful Theatre Company eight-week drama program held in collaboration with Seven Hills Foundation (“An integrated health and human services network”).
Sarah didn’t take part in every week of the program, but because of busy and conflicting schedules, she came to the very first session. She was nervous that day, because the class was made up of a group of older teens each with different needs and abilities. She stayed by my side for most of that first day, although she did participate and became more relaxed by the end of the 75 minute session.
Last week she attended again, and dove into performing and participating, enough so that my partner–Jannatha–and I decided it would be great to include her in the final performance which took place last night. After all, one of the hopes for the Seven Hills Foundation is to develop programming that integrates groups more fully. At the end of the evening last night, Sarah hugged the 6 ft. something participant who can be a little loud and intimidating–but is really very sweet and creative. She is now planning on helping me run a puppet program for younger students next year–and she wants to recruit her friends to help out as well.
“It feels good to do things with people who have special needs,” she said. “I hope we can get more people to come and join them.”
As a mother, I am thrilled that my daughter moved from fear to a recognition that giving of your time and passion is rewarding for everyone on many different levels. I have come to love working with people of varying abilities because they always inspire me with their creativity, attitude, passion, commitment, talent and enthusiasm. While this isn’t a volunteer gig for me–because we want heArtful Theatre Company to be a viable professional company that provides create workshops for all kinds of people–we also aren’t breaking the bank for the people we work with even though we could charge much more. For us, it’s more important to create programs and promote social change through the arts than to make huge amounts of money (although I don’t deny that I would love to be able to cut back on some of my academic teaching if I could afford it).
The idea that the world can become a better place if we all work together, support each other, and value the abilities that EVERY individual offers society is one of the messages at the heart of P.O.W.ER. One of the roots of inspiration for the story comes from the idea that permeates many societies that women’s value only comes from their ability to give birth–rather than the other incredible abilities found in every one of us (male and female) if we are only given access to education, health programming and opportunities. For that reason I decided that, for every book I sell, I will make donations to causes that support women and children around the world. ($1.00 for every paperback, .25 for every electronic version).
While I don’t know yet how exactly I will divvy up my donations, or how often I will donate, these are the programs to which I plan on contributing (please link on their names to learn more about them):
- HeForShe: A solidarity movement for gender equality
If you never listened to Emma Watson’s speech to the United Nations that launched this initiative, it’s worth the time.
I love this speech for many reasons, the least of which is that I find Emma Watson’s nervousness charming and human. But, more importantly, I love the message that men must play a role in gender equality and that inequality is an issue for people of both genders. That men must be allowed to be who they are, just as much as women. For that reason, even though I don’t know as yet what percentage of donated funds will go to actual programming, I plan to include this program in my donations.
- Global Fund For Women
While only 76% of donations go to programming under this fund, I admire the broad spectrum of programs they support–including zero violence, economic & political power, and health & sexual rights. I also respect their “theory of change”:
“Global Fund for Women believes that women are powerful catalysts for change and that strong women’s organizations and movements make transformative shifts in power that are crucial to women realizing their rights and creating lasting solutions to the world’s problems. We advocate for, and subscribe to, a philanthropy that invests in the human rights of women and girls, mobilizes resources, and that empowers women’s organizations and movements. We actively seek global partnerships that contribute to enabling all people to live in a just and equitable society.”
- V-Day: A global movement to end violence against women and girls
This is one of the programs that connects all of my passions. V-Day started because of Eve Ensler’s play The Vagina Monologues which became “a mechanism for moving people to act to end violence.” I like the fact that 90.8% of donations go to programs. Finally, their mission statement speaks to me:
V-Day is an organized response against violence toward women.
V-Day is a vision: We see a world where women live safely and freely.
V-Day is a demand: Rape, incest, battery, genital mutilation and sexual slavery must end now.
V-Day is a spirit: We believe women should spend their lives creating and thriving rather than surviving or recovering from terrible atrocities.
V-Day is a catalyst: By raising money and consciousness, it will unify and strengthen existing anti-violence efforts. Triggering far-reaching awareness, it will lay the groundwork for new educational, protective, and legislative endeavors throughout the world.
V-Day is a process: We will work as long as it takes. We will not stop until the violence stops.
V-Day is a day. We proclaim Valentine’s Day as V-Day, to celebrate women and end the violence.
V-Day is a fierce, wild, unstoppable movement and community. Join us!
- Dramatic Adventure Theatre
This group is the most personal to me, because (as my readers might recognize) I’ve worked with them in the past, including a life-changing trip to Slovakia to work with the Roma population. In many ways, this company influenced my creation of heArtful Theatre Company, because like them I believe in the power of creativity and the arts to inspire people to make change and give people a sense of possibility and hope. I trust these people and know that they will put even the smallest donation to good use–which includes donating to causes that transform the world. As stated on their website:
Your donation will give underserved children the transformative power of theatre and the support of caring artist mentors, growing the sense of possibility in their lives.
Did I miss anyone? Are there any programs that you believe I should give to? I’d love advice from my readers, because you are, after all, the ones who will make the difference.