I aspire to start every day with gratitude, and in spite of a year of natural disturbances and disasters, deepening political divides and disappointments, and worsening humanitarian crises in so many parts of the world, I strive to find at least three specific reasons to give gratitude each day.
Every day on that list is gratitude for a loving life partner, a healthy and loving family, and lasting friendships. Today, for an end of 2018 posting, I am adding three organizations that fill my heart with gratitude every day: The Good Work Foundation, the V-Day Movement and the Acumen Fund.
As all my friends and family know well, I find my time on the African continent to be restorative in so many ways. I am especially inspired by the good work that is visibly and measurably creating new opportunities for many communities left behind or left out of the digital economy created by new technologies.
The Good Work Foundation (GWF) is addressing this challenge in rural South Africa by establishing digital learning centers and partnering with corporations to create new jobs in the region. Earlier this month, I had the honor to speak to the graduates of the 2018 computer competency course at the Judicia Digital Learning Center, one of seven in the Kruger Park area where the nearby game preserves and safari camp owners are providing the funding for a complete ecosystem of learning and working that is shaping a new kind of future for individuals, families and communities.
Founded and led by Kate Groch (pictured above, right), an energetic, dedicated teacher who realized the limitations of the government schools in reaching this population with needed skill training, the centers now offer self-guided curriculums, specifically targeting job opportunities in the region, serving more than 6,000 learners of all ages every week, transforming the future for rural South Africans.
At this graduation, nearly 100 young people (80% of them women) accepted diplomas as their parents, overwhelmed with gratitude that their children would now have opportunities for economically viable work and careers, looked on with great pride. Parents and grandparents danced, sang, and celebrated, and took pictures with me and my grandchildren (pictured above) who loved being a part of this special day. Gratitude to the Varty family of Londolozi, founding partners of GWF; Luke Bailes, Singita chairman; and Kate, Ryan and the entire team for this experience.
Each day I’m in South Africa or Kenya or Congo, I reflect on the privilege I’ve had to participate in the work of the V-Day movement to end violence against women and girls. 2018 marked the 20th anniversary of the founding of V-Day by Eve Ensler and, rather than diminishing in strength and impact, V-Day’s 20th year activities reflect the ever evolving power of art and activism, led locally and connected globally to a singular commitment to rising up against gender-based violence.
As a V-Day board member since the beginning, I have witnessed the changes made by V-Day supported activists working to end female genital mutilation (FGM) in Kenya, to provide healing and training for the victims of the conflict in Eastern Congo, and the risings in 200 countries organized by V-Day’s One Billion Rising that have challenged cultural practices and led important reforms.
This year began with the release of My Revolution Lives In This Body, which has been shown at V-Day gatherings around the world and a special V20 edition of The Vagina Monologues available for activists anywhere to perform on V-Day (Valentine’s Day). More performances than ever took place this year, adding to the $150 million already raised by this one play to support anti-violence activists.
The CITY OF JOY documentary had a worldwide release as a Netflix original. Our beloved friend, V-Man and co-founder of City of Joy, Dr. Denis Mukwege, received the Nobel Peace Prize (along with our Yazidi sister-activist Nadia Murad). It was a defining moment for the anti-gender-based-violence movement. And these are only just some of this year’s highlights that make me ever more grateful to Eve and the global sisterhood I give gratitude for every day.
Thirdly, I’m also grateful for the work of Jacqueline Novogratz and Acumen, a nonprofit working to change the way the world tackles poverty. Investing in social enterprises that offer products and services to serve the poor, the Acumen Fund leads the impact investing movement with its patient capital approach, a unique fellows program and an online moral leadership course. Acumen is disrupting the status quo by nurturing and strengthening values-based leaders and innovative and courageous entrepreneurs.
Just this past month, Acumen launched #OneGreatIdea, a new video series that tells the stories of three such entrepreneurs and their enterprises that are creating real, lasting impact. The challenges we face today, from extreme inequality to climate change, demand new solutions. #OneGreatIdea can redefine what’s possible.
At a gathering last March of the global Acumen community of fellows and entrepreneurs, one of them stopped me on the first day and asked, “Why are you here?” I was startled by his inquiry but answered that I was an Acumen board member and was eager for the opportunity to meet the people doing the work on the ground in Kenya, India, Pakistan, and Ghana. He smiled and asked his question again: “Why are you here?” I realized he wasn’t asking why I was at that convening; he wanted to know why someone whom he probably viewed as a privileged older white woman was involved in this work. I answered, “I’m here for the same reason you are — to be engaged in the work that is making the world a better place for everyone.”
He smiled at my answer, hopefully believing that it came from my heart, as I have held his question there, in my heart, throughout the weeks and months that followed. Why am I here or anywhere, doing anything, if the reason isn’t that — engaging in good work, showing up with support when possible, and using every platform, like this blog posting, to raise awareness of the good work being led by extraordinary individuals and supported by deeply committed people and to express gratitude for all of that.
One of my favorite quotes is from the British writer Gilbert Chesterton: “Thanks are the highest form of thought and gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”
My happiness is indeed doubled by the wonder-filled work that is creating change for individuals, communities and the small, fragile world we share.
Thank you for being a part of my online community — for all that you do and the good work you lead and support. May the New Year be filled with more wonder and many more reasons for gratitude.