In the below guest blog entry, Omkari Benzinger, WfWI Supporter and Ambassador, shares her experience sponsoring sisters in Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Rwanda through our program.
About 6 years ago I came across a book written by a woman, Zainab Salbi, whose father was one of Saddam Hussein’s pilots. We were in the thick of the war in Iraq and I was trying to learn more about a country that was essentially unknown to me. I knew what I heard on the news but I wanted to understand something of what it was like to be an Iraqi. I wanted to understand what it was like to grow up in a country that was often at war. The story Salbi recounted in Between Two Worlds of her life, in Iraq and then here in the U.S., was riveting. Towards the end of the book Salbi described the charity that she created to help women victims of war in countries around the world.
I was looking for an organization that focused on women’s issues and disaster relief. Because I am the daughter of a man well known and highly respected in the world of relief organizations I figured I wouldn’t have any problem finding a group that met my criteria. Just ask dad, right? Yet among all the organizations I discussed with my father none had filled the bill. Then I came across Women for Women International. I did my research, contacted them and soon started sponsoring women overseas.
WfWI works in countries that have been impacted by war, current or past. They are in eight countries including Afghanistan, Iraq and Rwanda. WfWI sets up training programs for women who may be the sole providers for their families as the men have, often, been killed. Donors sign up to be matched with a “sister” in one of the countries where WfWI works. WfWI creates structures where the participants rebuild lives devastated by war. The women in WfWI training programs learn skills that will help them sustain their families and communities. In the program the women learn not only practical skills, but also how to take on more of a leadership role in their community.
I have had “sisters” in Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Rwanda. My “sisters” and I write back and forth and I enter into a world previously closed to me. My “sisters” send letters telling me about their children, about their hopes for the future. They tell of being excited to create a small business with other women in their communities in order to support their families. They tell me, most of all, of the difference it makes to have the support that WfWI offers. When asked how they spend the money they receive from the program most of my “sisters” say that they use it to feed their families. They speak of how much it means to know that they have not been forgotten by the world. Two of my “sisters” sent me gifts of needlework that they had done; skills that they are turning into family sustaining businesses. When I received those gifts I cried. That women who have had nearly everything taken from them are still generous moves me deeply.
I support this organization because the work they do supports me; when I create a budget WfWI is on my “essentials” list. My $30 monthly contribution to Women for Women helps make possible work that I cannot do alone. Whether you become a sponsor or make a one time donation this is a great organization. WfWI builds bridges between me and women that, but for the accidents of birth and geography, could be me. Could be any of us.
We here in America are so fortunate. No one alive has experienced war on our streets. We haven’t had to pack our children and what we could carry and run for our lives. We haven’t had to live in refugee camps. It can be easy to forget that most of us, mercifully, don’t know what truly hard times look like.
You can make a huge difference in the lives of these women and they in yours. It’s the giving season so if you are looking for a fantastic charity check out: http://www.womenforwomen.org. I promise that your life will be enriched and you can rest assured that your money will be well spent.