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Saving Innocence

“i raise up my voice-not so i can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard….we cannot succeed when half of us are held back.”

Malala Yousafzai

There are so many things that make us uncomfortable. ….driving past the homeless and seeing the ravages of war on the nightly news but this topic is beyond being uncomfortable, it is down right unimaginable. The topic is human trafficking or modern day slavery. It is something that we want to believe only happens in other countries but the harsh reality is that it happens here in the United States of America to over 300, 000 children a year. Children who are sold and enslaved into prostitution, like a product or good sold….but these are our children.

Last week, I was invited to a friend’s home for a Friends With Causes dinner. Her guest was the nonprofit Saving Innocence and the speakers were the Executive Director and a young girl who was sold here in LA at the age of 11. We will call her O and her story was truly unbelievable and haunting.

This inspirational twenty-two year old girl told us her unimaginable story. Raised by  a loving single mom who worked two jobs to support them in house full of love and extended family. O accidentally discovered at the age of 11 that she was adopted and the news sent her reeling. She was confused, angry, sad and upset. At the same time, her mother had just broken up with her boyfriend. The boyfriend came to O’s school to ask how she was doing and offered her a ride home. That moment changed everything because he kidnapped her and sold into sex trafficking at age 11, right here in LA.

Founded in 2012 by actress, Kim Biddle, Saving Innocence are the first responders when trafficked children are identified by the police or other authorities.

The nonprofit arrives within 90 minutes with a Child Welfare and Probation officer. They take the child to the hospital, provide, food, clothing, emotional support and a safety plan and housing for the child. The child is given up to nine months of time, support, love, counseling. Saving Innocence works with the child to see the perpetrator through the justice system and then continues empowerment programs with these young children.

This incredible nonprofit has contracts with the probation offices, judges and prosecutors to help these children through the system and have shown the courts that children who have been commercially sexually exploited need intensive aftercare.

Today, O is working for Saving Innocence and helping the girls get through their ordeal of being held as part of a human trafficking ring. She mentors young girls, works with the police, social workers and empowers these children to become survivors, just as she has done, because of this remarkable organization. As I hugged 22 year old O and told her what an incredible inspiration and leader she is, she cried and said, “No one has ever called me a leader.”  When I told her that a leader is someone who uses their gifts and experience in the service of others, she smiled, hugged me again and said,”Then I guess I am a leader.”

charity matters.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

The gift of mentoring

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” 
Benjamin Franklin

A few weeks ago my friend, Alexandra invited me and a few of her inspiring friends, to a very special lunch. The purpose was not to catch up, but rather in a mentoring role. Alexandra has been involved with a local school here in LA,  a place where barriers crumble and community grows. Students from all walks of life come together in this unique school to learn, thrive and grow.

Alexandra spoke to the school’s principal and asked for ways she could support the school and out of that conversation came this age-old and brilliant idea of real conversations with mentors. Something so simple, so perfect and truly missing in our busy lives.

The guest list of mentors included; our wonderful hostess and Friends With Causes Founder, a very inspiring Academy Award nominated documentary filmmaker, a super hip successful interior designer,  and myself. We were asked to come armed with questions for these young ladies and to be ready to answer some as well.

None of us knew one another, and yet we were all there to learn and that in itself created a beautiful beginning for conversation. Our discussions ranged from prom dresses, to college, to boys, failures, careers, following your passion and my favorite question, “Who do you think you mentor or inspire?” From that question alone we learned about one girl’s experience with foster care, another who mentored after school at the Boys and Girls Club, another’s younger siblings….but more than that, you saw these girls (young and old) shift in the thought that someone looks up to them.

We all mentor someone, whether we realize it or not. Ask yourself whose life you inspire? I think you will find your self surprised and smiling too. That is the gift of mentoring, you always get so much more than you give.

 

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2017 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Friends with Causes

alzheimers-fwc

Last week I was invited to my friend, Alexandra Dwek’s home for another amazing and inspirational evening in support of Friends with Causes. Not book club or bunko but girl’s night with a wonderful speaker, cause and philanthropic goal. We are always surprised by the non-profit, the speaker and are completely engaged and last week’s dinner was no exception.

The first speaker was Kate Edelman Johnson, who shared the journey of her loving husband’s slow deterioration with Alzheimer’s. Kate reached out to her friend’s daughter for guidance, Patti Davis, who been through the journey with her father, Ronald Reagan. Kate spoke about what caregivers and loved ones of Alzheimer’s patients endure with this disease.

Kate began attending Patti’s Beyond Alzheimer’s support group and soon realized that she was in the position to not only support Patti’s amazing work but also the bigger problem of funding Alzheimer’s research. So Kate founded the Deane F. Johnson Alzheimer’s Research Foundation. She told us that without the discovery of new treatments, the number of Alzheimer’s victims will grow from 35.6 million to 65.7 million in 2030.

As we listened to Kate share her journey and then Patti Davis sharing hers, both as a daughter and as someone who has spent the last six years with these families in her work. Patti told us, “You need to be with other people who know what you’re going through, who won’t judge you or dismiss you. Several group members have told me that, before coming to this support group, no one had ever asked them how they were doing.”

These family members become patients too with this disease and it is people like Kate and Patti who take their suffering and turn into hope for others, that continue to inspire.

 

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2016 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Friends with Causes

friends with causes Alexandra Dwek

I love meeting people who want to make a difference. Every time I come into orbit of an extraordinary person who simply wants to make the world better, I am lifted up and inspired. Last week a friend of mine connected me to another quiet angel is quietly doing just that. Her name is Alexandra Dwek and she is not your average philanthropist.

Alexandra had the brilliant idea of combining the things she loved most, her friends, the causes she cares about and bringing them all together in her home. She named her concept Friends With Causes. Like most of us with busy lives, we don’t get enough time with our friends and going out for dinner or drinks with a friend or two at a time is both expensive and time-consuming. Alexandra came up with the perfect solution.

Four times a year she invites a fun group of friends, usually about 30, to a pot luck at her home. She lets guest know that there is a contribution, usually what you would spend if you went out for drinks or dinner, or whatever you are comfortable with. After a fun casual dinner, a speaker from the non-profit shares the story of their cause and a specific program that they need help with.

Alexandra finds causes that cover a variety of areas from children’s issues to veterans to health and beyond. More than that, she visits the non-profit and specifically identifies one project that her friends can complete, so friends leave knowing that their fun night out made a specific impact.   Her dinners typically raise $3,000 and up per evening. More than that, they expose a non-profit to a new audience, enlighten one another, bring people together to make a difference.

As Alexandra so beautifully said quoting Mother Teresa, ” If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.”  She added, “Every little bit makes a difference.”

 

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2015 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.