Bella Lucce salutes our seven graduating sisters!
March 17, 2009
Bella Luccè sponsors a variety of philanthropic efforts, having made monetary and product donations and volunteer time worth more than $80,000 over the past few years. We’ve been working with a variety of charities, focused on improving the quality of life for people and animals both internationally and domestically since our very first day of operation. We’ve been blessed to work in many different arenas, but one in particular is very close to my heart.
Women For Women is guided by a breathtakingly simple mission: to help women in war-torn regions rebuild their lives. Sponsors “adopt” a specific woman for just $27 per month (which includes funding for direct aid, rights education, job skills training and small business development) so that the beneficiaries can move toward self-sufficiency. American and European women are so blessed to have the basic rights that we do and it breaks my heart that there are women on this planet who labor daily under oppressive, poverty-stricken regimes without the promise that I enjoyed as a birthright. Zainab Salbi, the founder of Women For Women, helps tens of thousands of women per year in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Kosovo (in the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia), Nigeria, Rwanda and Sudan.
One of my “missions” with Bella Luccè is to help empower women worldwide and to encourage both corporate and personal philanthropy. With that in mind, Bella Luccè adopted eight ladies through Women For Women in early 2008. We have continued to provide monthly support to those women and now seven of those ladies are approaching graduation. It’s been my hope that the women will benefit immediately through our funding, and that my company can help foster relationships between Bella Luccè staff and the individual beneficiaries in a way that impacts both women and encourages our staff to perpetuate the philanthropy on a personal level. It’s been a blessing to watch “our women” overcome the atrocities of war and blaze new paths for themselves. As this company grows, each new employee will be paired with a new partner through Women For Women, so we’ll be working for ourselves and a “sister” somewhere in the world.
We receive frequent letters from these special ladies and I’ve saved every one from the past year. Most letters are hand-written in their native tongue and attached to a typed translation provided by their home office. We also receive photos of the ladies and sometimes drawings, etc. All of this information is posted on a bulletin board in our Staff Lounge so that everyone in the building can follow the progress of “The Bella Luccè Eight.” I wanted to take this opportunity to share a glimpse into the lives of the seven ladies whose graduation is imminent. Out of respect for the sponsored women, I have chosen not to share their photos or the name of the exact city where they currently live.
Nurie Bajrami: Nurie is a 40 year old married mother of three living in Kosovo. She completed her primary education, but hasn’t had the opportunity to pursue a secondary education or “higher learning.” Her home has eight hours a day of electricity, but the main source of lighting at home is “candles, torches or flashlights.” She isn’t currently employed because of a lack of available jobs in Kosovo and indicates that she does not receive medical care of any type, because she cannot afford it. On each application, Women For Women asks: “Have you lost and family members from war, violence, poverty or political oppression?” Nurie answered “yes.” In one of her letters, Nurie indicated that she had to quit school at the age of 15 because almost no one (at that time) allowed women to pursue education beyond that age. She was extremely sad about the lack of opportunity to continue her education and married at the age of 21 to begin a family.
Solange Mukarunyange: Solange is a 37 year-old, married mother in Rwanda. Though she has given birth to a total of six children, only 4 are living. She enjoyed some primary education, but it was quite limited. She lives in a home without electricity and uses kerosene to light her home. She gathers her water at a public standpipe. She indicates that the overall health of her family is poor, though she can sometimes obtain medical care when needed. Solange also said that she had lost a family member to war, violence, poverty or political oppression. Solange made us an awesome little card when she first learned she’d been sponsored- on the front she affixed the Women For Women logo, fashioned out of some type of native reed.
Rebecca Mading: Rebecca is 27 year-old, married mother of 3 school-aged children living in Sudan. She has received no formal education and cannot write more than her own name. She lives in a hut without running water or electricity, using a cooking fire to light her home. She gathers water daily at a public well near her home. She is self-employed in a “agricultural activity.” Surprisingly, she indicated her overall health is good and she can sometimes access medical care. She writes “thank you so much for your support to me, as through your support my children are getting soap, medicine, clothes and other interesting things.” Rebecca cultivates maize, beans, vegetables and ground nuts. Her oldest daughter is currently enrolled in the local school.
Janeth Onyeabor: Janeth is a 59 year old women living in Nigeria. Due to local tradition and a lack of birth records, she was unable to provide her exact age and the Women For Women staff estimated her birth date. She has two children- a boy and a girl- and her daughter is now married, while her son is listed as employed by “bike riding- transport.” She has no formal education and cannot read more than her name. Despite this, she is our most prolific letter writer…dictating her thoughts to someone in the local office in Nigeria. She lives in a hut without electricity and lights the home via kerosene lamps. Her water source is rainwater she collects. She does work in an agricultural setting and I have the most amazing picture of her carrying a huge basket of corn on her head. She farms yams, cassava, maize, okra and cocoyams. I love her letters and wanted to share an excerpt or two with you:
“My dear sister, we have two seasons here: wet season and dry season. During the dry season everywhere will be dried and it is the time for harvestations. And every place will look very neat and all the roads will be motorable, etc. But during the wet season, everywhere in our community will be very, very bad especially if you enter some villages. You can’t be able to walk along the roads because of mud and slippery, but that is time for our plantations.”
In another letter, she described the August Meeting:
“During the August meeting, it is only women that return for the August meeting. It takes place every month of August each year and they return to discuss the goodness of our towns and villages. Some women use the opportunity to discuss the affairs of their husband and family. Others women use the opportunity to attend a condollence (sic) visit to their relations. Some use the opportunity to execute some projects.”
Andredi Saidi: Andredi is a 49 year old mother of 5 children living in Congo. She is widowed and all of her children are school-aged and living at home. She has no formal education and cannot read or write more than her name. She lives in a hut without electricity and lights her home via a cooking fire. She gathers her water at a public standpipe. She works in an agricultural setting and rates her family’s overall health as “poor”, despite being able to access medical treatment. Andredi indiactes that she has lost a family member to war, violence, poverty or political oppression. She is a prolific letter writer as well and says she raises maize and beans and spends two hours per day on the road for her job. Four of her five children attend school regularly, but the last child cannot because of a lack of funding.
Sehija Begic: Sehija is a 45 year-old mother of two boys living in Bosnia. She is widowed and has completed her primary education. She is literate and lives in a house that does have electricity and running water. Though she is in good health, a lack of available jobs means she finds little work. She has two granddaughters and a grandson from one of her sons. Her other son is not married and she lost her husband in the last war. Her house was rocketed during the war because it was on the frontline of the clashes and is still not fully repaired. She survives on her husband’s small pension. Sehija has a warm smile and gentle eyes.
Bibi Halima Juma Khan: Our final graduate is Bibi, a 36 year old mother of seven living in Afghanistan. Due to local tradition and a lack of birth records, Bibi was unable to provide her exact age and the Women For Women staff estimated her birthdate. She is widowed and has never had any formal education. She lives in a shack without electricity, lighting her home via kerosene lamps. She collects water daily at a local standpipe and cannot find work. Bibi is illiterate and rarely has access to medical care. She, too, has lost loved ones to war, violence, poverty or political oppression.
I am so proud of these brave souls and wish them well as they graduate and take their newly acquired skills and (hopefully) establish a better life. We’ll soon receive seven new sisters that we’ll continue to support throughout 2009. If you’ve been inspired to get involved, please visit Women For Women. If you’d like to learn more about Bella Luccè’s philanthropic efforts, please visit the Giving Back section of our website.