Giving Back Globally

Giving Back Globally

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This Tuesday is the sixth year anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, a day that forever not only changed America, but also forcibly awakened the dormant giant of national and global insecurity and uneasiness.

There are pros and cons to every situation, and because of 9/11, Americans are now, more than ever, aware of the world outside their own backyards. Locally, organizations have turned their focus global and local women are taking the initiative to make a difference in the lives of others across the ocean.

Women like this recent Cincy ChicĀ  spotlight, Michelle Harbin. After a 2006 trip to a Romanian orphanage, Harbin's life was completely changed by the children she met. Harbin wanted to do something for the children and people of Romania who so dramatically impacted her life, "…I met the most amazing kids…I now believe in love at first sight. I fell in love with each of these children and was so grateful for having been able to catch a mere glimpse of their personalities." And so in honor and remembrance of her best friend Amy, who was limited in the number of children she could have due to cancer, Harbin founded Amy's Hope International, which creates channels for private orphanages in Eastern Europe to receive grant funding which in turn, provides a solid upbringing for the children with a focus on education, self-sufficiency and Christian faith allowing them to become contributing members of society. "…I wanted to give her all of the orphans in Eastern Europe!"

For Harbin, having a global focus ended up being more rewarding than she ever expected. "I gained so much more than I gave… [the Romanians]live in such meager conditions, below poverty level of any standard in the United States. Yet, I found myself wanting to be like these people and wanting to have what they have. I felt like they were so blessed…I was taught that material items are not the key to happiness."

"When people ask me how can you do something like this? My reply is simply this, 'How can I not?'"

Another woman who has taken the global initiative is
Cincy Chic's very first Chic Spotlight, Marissa Woodly, who we got to learn more about back in January 2007. When we first met Woodly, she was involved with Cincinnati-based Village Life Outreach Project , (VLOP), a non-profit, non-government organization that sends American volunteers to areas in east Africa to promote ideas of health, humanitarianism, service, and social responsibility to local villages.

Woodly believes that 9/11 was a stark wake up call that shattered the U.S.'s sense of invincibility and brought to light the global suffering that is so prevalent.

Since we last met with Woodly, she has left SmartMoney back in April 2007, and is now the development director of the Cincinnati chapter of Habitat for Humanity, which is focused on promoting economic stability in area neighborhoods by providing home-ownership opportunities for Cincinnati's low-income families. "We are building all over the city, but our parent organization, Habitat for Humanity International, is building all over the world!" Woodly says. "Our mission to build simple, decent affordable housing for those in need…is something I have truly have embraced."

Woodly is also still with VLOP, which has made tremendous strides in the life of one little Tanzanian boy. In June 2007, VLOP brought 4-year old Asubuhi back to Cincinnati for some serious medical help. Asubuhi suffered a severe scalp burn, for which VLOP had previously supported two skin graft surgeries but neither were successful due to his family's poor living conditions.

Because of VLOP and Shriner's Hospital for Children, Asubuhi received the life-saving surgery he so badly needed for his burn. Woodly reports that Asubuhi is in high spirits since the surgery and is almost fully recovered and even was well enough to celebrate his fifth birthday!

Thanks to VLOP's initiative and the attentive care he received at Shriner's, Asubuhi will return back to Tanzania and his family later in September, in complete health.

So what's in the future for Woodly?

"I have also been busy planning Village Life's first ever annual fundraiser at the Freedom Center on September 20th. (Find out more about the event here). "…the organization [VLOP] is growing and this is our first opportunity to share with the community at large our accomplishments, our goals and to thank the many folks who have helped and continue to make Village Life's work possible. I have been busy and loving every minute of it…but it's rewarding to feel as if I'm able to make a difference locally AND globally!"

VLOP will be returning to Africa in October for the second time this year.

Want to get involved with organizations that are making a difference in the lives of others abroad? Visit the following Web sites, to see how you too can open up your horizons…and your heart.