We had a fabulous ladies retreat at the church this weekend. Our guest speaker, Jodi Faith, is in her own words “a living sign and wonder”. She has an amazing testimony and in addition to being a dynamic speaker, she’s an international recording artist. She’s also an ambassador for Work for Widows, a humanitarian organization that offers hope for a brighter future to widowed and abandoned women in Sri Lanka.
In the aftermath of the massive tsunami that devastated much of Sri Lanka on December 26, 2004, Canadian, Pamela Porodo, who was semi-retired and living in that country with her husband, Jerry, was introduced to a young woman at one of the camps for displaced people. Six months pregnant, this beautiful 21-year-old had lost her mother, father, husband and three year old child. Without hope for a future, she was taking medicine from other survivors and hoarding it so that she would have enough to kill herself. Pam managed to talk her into giving up the bag of medication. In return, she visited a local bead shop and brought her all the requirements to begin making jewelry and Work for Widows was born. Within days, there were 14 women in the program and today there are over 120. Over 350 children being raised by mothers and grandmothers are in school today because of the income it provides. $60 a month, the price of two or three pieces of jewelry, is enough to support one of these women and their children for a month! WFW has recently been asked to move into Haiti and is in the process of doing so.
If there’s one thing that most women love to do, it’s shop so we were delighted to have Jodi bring a suitcase full of jewelry to the retreat to sell! We poured over the colourful array with delight and most of us went away with at least one piece. Each necklace, bracelet or pair of earrings came with a tag carrying the name, photograph, signature and brief description of the woman who made it. After pondering several pieces and trying a few on, I finally made my selection. Unlike most of the other pieces, my beautiful necklace had two tags. When I asked Jodi why, she told me about Pieces for Peace, a special project of WFW.
I literally got goose bumps as Jodi explained that Pieces for Peace brings ladies from rival factions within Sri Lanka together to work on single pieces of jewelry. Both the Canadian High Commissioner and the Swiss Ambassador have recognized the Pieces for Peace program as a truly successful peace-building mission. One half of my necklace was made by Kanthi from Matara in southern Sri Lanka and the other by Meeramohaideen in Ampara in the north. By creating jewelry together and writing to each other on a weekly basis, these women, one Tamil and one Singalese, have learned that though civil war raged between their peoples for more than 25 years, they can work together in harmony. Kanthi uses the proceeds of her jewelry to care for her parents while Meeramohaideen, who was abandoned by her husband when she was three months pregnant, uses hers to support herself and her 13 year old daughter.
At $40, mine was one of the most expensive items on the table but it cost far less than similar items that I’ve seen shown in fashion magazines and it was a small price to pay to contribute toward the well-being of two women! I firmly believe that empowering women in a society that traditionally discriminates against them helps not only the individuals involved but also their families and their communities.
I love the tiny hand that dangles from the clasp of my necklace. It reminds me that this unique piece of jewelry was hand made. Not only will the necklace remind me of a great weekend spent with my daughter, my sister and the women of my church but each time I put it on, I’ll also remember the hands that made it and pray for Kanthi and Meeramohaideen.