Karen Sugar – The Girlfriend Takeaway

“I learned a long time ago that we’re all connected by many of the same experiences walking the planet, because we’re women.”

Karen Sugar always felt compelled to make a difference. She’d worked with women and poverty issues for years, but after learning about micro-finance in grad school, she felt sure she could expand her reach. She describes micro-finance as “providing very small loans to people that don’t have access to traditional banking and loan intervention.”

But where could this approach have the most impact? When she heard about a post conflict region in Uganda, the decision finalized and the Women’s Global Empowerment Fund (WGEF) was born.

Africa just wasn’t getting the attention that other locations were, and they’d been through hell. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) had just ended its long reign of terror in the region, which included the abduction of children to be used as soldiers and sex slaves. That conflict ended in 2007, and the region is now in full recovery.

The changes since have been exponential, and the word “empowerment” is in the organization’s title for a reason. Empowerment is being delivered and sustained! WGEF to date has given out over 17,000 loans to women borrowing groups without a single default, and 572 women are now serving in leadership positions. They’re owners of restaurants, hotels, beauty shops, farms, you name it, and their daughters are following suit.

I did ask if there’d been cultural resistance to the changes, or if men, in particular, had been angered.

“In the beginning, there’s often push back when a woman enters any empowerment program, depending how culturally conservative her community is, but the longer and more successful she is, the more acceptance and change that happens. That’s definitely the case for us.”

And helping to micro-finance the endeavors of these women is only the start. They’ve also had 4,600 literacy participants and their Healthy Periods Initiative (HPI) continues to amaze. Prior to its inception, pads were either non-existent or unaffordable. As a result, girls were using rags, newspapers, and even leaves, making it impossible to go to school. The only option was to quit.

“It’s a human rights issues, and it’s about dignity.”

Thanks to HPI, a machine has been purchased that produces sanitary napkins. They’re locally made and sourced, and, through the initiative, WGEF has dispersed 3.5 million pads to 16 schools and three refugee camps over the last 2.5 years.

“This is changing girls lives, and it’s not rocket science. We want to keep girls in school longer, reducing child marriage and giving them the opportunities they desire and that they deserve.”

The contribution that Karen and her organization are making is phenomenal. Yes, one person can make a difference, but changing the world requires help. WGEF needs funding in order to fund, and Karen needs a community.

“I need some good sisters around me. I cannot do this on my own.”

If anyone knows what it means to be surrounded by a faith filled sisterhood, Karen Sugar does, but the more the absolute merrier and the greater the impact.

Oh, and she’s planning a trip to Uganda in April. Contact her below if you’re interested in seeing WGEF’s work firsthand.

Thanks, Karen, for all you do!

Karen’s inspiring interview can be heard HERE.
It’s also available on iHeart Radio, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher and Spotify.

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Writer’s Block

Words, where are you hiding
Ideas now betrayed,
Leaving me in silence
Partially dismayed

What used to be so easy
And came with little thought,
Is challenging my patience
And leaving me distraught

Can we make ourselves creative
And force a thing to be,
Should we stress the outcome
Or set the process free

A school of thought supports us
In the doing of a thing,
A simple pen to paper
And the practice that it brings

But with no proof of reason
And even less on rhyme,
I’m simply going to walk away
Until another time

~ Leana Delle
Sunday, November 17, 2019
2019 Sunday Poetry Challenge – Number forty-five of fifty-two
Photo Credit: Neven Krcmarek

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Maris Degener – The Girlfriend Takeaway

“Mental illness finds your cracks and fills them in with cement, hardening you until you can’t find your own foundation.” ~ Maris Degener

Her journey drew the attention of media and became the subject of the Netflix documentary, I Am Maris. Her influence has been growing ever since.

Diagnosed with anorexia nervosa in her early teens, Maris Degener learned how to hide things. Feelings, fears, evidence. None came to the surface until all did at once.

“It was almost easier to put on this persona every day of Everything’s fine. I’ve got everything figured out. It’s all under control, then it was to be really vulnerable.”

Her eventual hospitalization began a transformation that a discovery of yoga continues to fuel. She’s identified her practice (and teaching) as “a way to self-study, a way to self-soothe, and a way to finally have that language to understand who I was and what I was going through.”

She also incorporated a love of writing into her healing, bravely sharing her thoughts with others. This continues, as well.

Vulnerability in expression, as much as we fear it and want to run, is the key to connection. I’ve found this to be consistently true. There may be judgement by a select few, but most need to see someone else’s struggle before they can scratch the surface of their own. Maris’s blog posts began to offer that for many. She got “really, real” about what it’s like to experience mental health challenges. She allowed herself to show the mess.

I think most of us can relate to mess. All lives have it, but our cultural obsession with perfection seems to want to dictate otherwise. And, let’s be honest here – facades are exhausting. Not just in the presenting of them, but in trying to get past those of others.

“I don’t really resonate with perfect people or people who present to be perfect, because I don’t think I’m perfect. I don’t think I have it all figured out.”

Nor do most of us. Discovery is ongoing, but taking positive approaches to our challenges and resisting the urge to fall prey to unhealthy distractions is essential.

I recently started practicing yoga myself, and I can speak to the calming centeredness that I feel after each session. It also carries with me. It’s not just a 60 minute relationship.

I’m grateful to Maris for sharing her story, and given the number of followers she’s acquired through her honesty, it’s evident that others are, too.

You can hear Maris’s interview on iHeart Radio, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or by clicking HERE.

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I Am Maris Netflix Trailer

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Beyond the blankness in your eyes
Within the fading breath,
There lingers recognition
And love for those you’ve left

For souls recall and souls hold true
The memories of yore,
When words you spoke held meaning
And arms held those adored

But without rhyme or reason
Disease with cunning stealth,
Stole your mind’s abundance
And robbed you of your health

And now they’re standing vigil
Those faces lacking names,
Spouse and children, siblings
O’er what of you remains

The ones you raised and ones you praised
And made a difference for,
Will weep at losing you again
This time forevermore

But souls recall and souls hold true
And souls will carry on,
For with your last breath taken
You’ll know each single one

And rising from your prison dwelled
Your burdens dropped with ease,
You’ll whisper, “I remember,
And my love will never leave.”

~ Leana Delle
Sunday, November 10, 2019
2019 Sunday Poetry Challenge – Number forty-four of fifty-two
Photo Credit: Anne Nygård

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Cindy Miller – The Girlfriend Takeaway

Talk about motivating! Cindy Miller, former LPGA player turned speaker/coach, inspires people to take another shot. She has, in fact, been coined the master of mulligans, and Lord knows we could all use the occasional redo.

Cindy’s inspiration for taking another shot didn’t stem from an innate determined spirit, although she definitely possesses one of those. It came from others telling her she wasn’t good enough. She calls these folks, “The Committee of They,” and she believes the only thing they’re good for is pushing us to improve.

“I think a lot of people have doubt, apprehension, and fear, but what if things could get better? It’s never too late. You just have to make the decision.”

She’s also tired of people pointing out the bad stuff. Her advice on finding a great coach, be that for the game of golf or life in general, is this:

“I think people need to be very cautious. You’ve gotta interview the person. Are they really going to give you solutions, or are they just going to tell you everything you’re doing wrong? Show me how to do it right!”

Once you know how to do it right, and you’ve adjusted your mindset, you can be unstoppable.

“I don’t care how good you are. If you choose to get better, you can do that.”

She’s been there. She knows. Told many times that she wasn’t good enough, she proved her committee wrong, both on the golf course and off. A veteran of five U.S. Women’s Opens, she’s been named to the Top 50 Women Teachers in America list by Golf Digest Magazine, making it obvious that she’s learned to do things right.

Sharing her own stories of accomplishment really brought weight to our discussion during her interview, leaving me with a genuine sense of possibility. Like everyone else, there are times when I become frustrated and feel like giving up, but I’m now going to carry this 5 star quote of Cindy’s with me into all future adversities (whether real or perceived):

“Embracing the privilege of pressure brings courage and more consistent results.”

Wow. It doesn’t get much better than that. Words to live by, for sure.

Privilege comes in many forms. Spending 30 minutes in conversation with this outstanding woman definitely classifies for me.

Check out Cindy’s interview on iHeart Radio, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or by clicking HERE.

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