I'm so very pleased to introduce you to a dear friend of mine, Ann Richmond. She is a mother of five daughters, certified yoga instructor, producer of many yoga DVDs, and in her (not so) spare time, she is raising awareness and giving hope to many women of the Congo. Here is my interview with Ann.
STG: What is happening to women in the Congo?
Ann Richmond: The Democratic Republic of the Congo is home to the deadliest conflict on earth. It is the deadliest war since World War II, but almost no one has heard about it. The horrors are unreal, but among the most gruesome are that women are being used as weapons of war. Mass gang rape and torture are a daily reality. Unfortunately, "rape" is actually a very soft word when describing what thousands of women are experiencing every month in the Congo. These problems are not cultural, as is commonly thought. They are the work of militias who are using women as weapons of war. Women are often terrribly injured as a result, and are demoralized. Many are forced to watch as husbands and children are killed, and others are abandoned.
STG: What are you doing to help?
Ann Richmond: These women are like my own sisters to me. I feel deeply for them. I want everyone to care about them and I feel that if people saw their faces and truly listened, they would care. However, it is very common to react to such horrific stories with an instant knee-jerk reaction of "get that away from me!" No one wants to hear things like this, and it is understandable. It is horrifying and it makes people feel powerless and guilty. One of my greatest desires is to help others move from shock, horror, and guilt, and into a feeling of hopefulness and dempowerment, just as I did.
This is a picture of my own Congolese sister. She's only 18, and she's already seen more than anyone should ever have to see in a lifetime. I can't look into her eyes and NOT do something.
I believe in doing good, and in putting effort behind others who are doing good. Women for Women International is a remarkable organization. They go into war-torn countries, like the Congo, and establish centers to help women survivors rebuild their lives and find hope again. Women learn about their rights and their worth. They learn to read and write, and they learn a trade. They also receive emotional assistance to deal with the trauma that they have been through. Upon completion of the Women for Women program, they are given seed money to start their own small business, so that they can go on to sustain themselves and their families.
These are real people, good women who love their families. Many of them take in orphans when they don't know how they will feed their own children the next day. I want to help them. Inspired by others who have formed events to raise money for women to be sponsored through the WFW program, my husband and I are hosting the first annual Yoga for Congo Women this fall in Golden, Colorado. All proceeds will go towards sponsoring women in the Congo through Women for Women International.
STG: How can we help?
Ann Richmond: That's the wonderful part. There are so many things that can be done to help! One exciting way that anyone can help with this particular event is to register. If people live in Colorado, they can come and attend the live event. However, there are many who do not. That is why, after the event, we are going to be broadcasting the full event online. Anyone who does not live close by can register to participate in the online broadcast. All who register will receive an email with a password once the broadcast is available, and they will be able to participate at their convenience. One great thing people could do to get involved would be to tell their friends, get them to sign up, and to gather together a group of people to do the yoga broadcast together! People can also spread the word that they are getting involved in this event by putting our YouTube video and/or our blog button on their websites, blogs, and facebook pages. They can create a fundraising page through active.com once they are registered, if they want to! It's amazing what can happen if you just start talking about it. (To learn about other ideas, visit our ways to help page!)
There really is hope for the Congo, we just all have to work together to make a difference. Every little effort helps! "One woman can change anything, but many women can change everything." (-Christine Karumba) I believe that if we all band together, we and our sisters in the Congo truly CAN change everything!
Thank you so much Ann, for your incredible efforts. I feel so inspired by you.
I hope you as readers will find a way to get involved, whether by registering for the event, for the online broadcast, donating, or simply raising awareness on your own blog. For those of you that help raise awareness or donate in any capacity, I am hosting many giveaways (from some exciting sponsors) through the month of August until the event. More details to come.
the sleepy time gal