In August of last year, The New York Times ran an article on the front page of its Sunday magazine called, "The Women's Crusade," written by Nicholas Kristof and his wife Sheryl WuDunn. I was actually drawn to it at first because of Nicholas, who is one of my favorite reporters/columnists. He's someone whose opinions I always seem to agree with, and is one of those brilliant, intrepid people who stalk the globe pulling the veil off of its dark corners. As I expected the article was enlightening and sad, but it was also very galvanizing. He and his wife wrote tale after tale of women who were not allowed to educate or support themselves because of their poverty and female suppression, but came through to tremendous circumstances when they were helped by people who sponsored them.
I remember closing the magazine and walking right to my computer to register as a sponsor at Women for Women International, an aid organization where they specifically assist women war survivors. If a woman is matched with a sponsor, they said, she will be enrolled in a group of 20 other women and will learn a trade skill which will hopefully bring her family more prosperity.
Not long after that I received a package with information about my new "sister." Her name was Felicite, she was 43, and lived in Rwanda. She had two sons and a daughter, none of whom were in school. She lived with no electricity, she cooked by fire and walked 7 miles each day for water. She lost almost all of her family in the genocide. By joining the program she hoped to,"improve her economic situation" and "become more active in her community." I could only hope that my little monthly contribution would help her reach that goal.
I wrote to her, telling her about us, and I included a photograph. I thought it would be an easy letter to write, it was basic information after all. But even at my most basic, there is more abundance in my life than she'd ever understand. My western guilt, I suppose, began to creep in. But I finished it and sent it off, not knowing if I'd ever hear back, and then yesterday I did. It was a card she had made herself, and I could still smell the raw earth that had imbued into the paper and the glue. It was like a sweet kiss that had traveled thousands of miles to land itself on my cheek.