Thanksgiving has always been a special holiday to me as my life has always been directly linked to it. I was born on Thanksgiving, and so my birth story has always been inextricably linked to the holiday. I thought it was super cool when my birthday fell on Thanksgiving, until I was about 12 or 13 and a friend’s Mom (whose birthday is the same day as mine) told me that she really disliked when our birthdays fell on Thanksgiving day. I was surprised by her point of view until the next time it happened to me, and it was about 10pm before anyone in my family remembered it was my birthday, because everyone was so focused on the holiday. It was then I learned the downside to having your birthday fall on a holiday. But fortunately for me, it only happens once every so often, either 5, 6 or 11 years apart, so it is a strange, inconsistent occurrence. And this year is not one of those years! Yay!
This year, I was looking for a new adventure for my birthday/Thanksgiving week. And in September I attended a conference called Women Igniting Change. It was a really great event and I love the women that I met at that conference. All very heart-centered, all working to bring their own purpose and gifts to the world, all wanting to make a difference and live their best life on their terms! In many ways my new tribe that I felt so at home with.
At that conference, I was introduced to an amazing woman, Janine Maxwell, who was being honored at the conference. She and her husband moved from Atlanta to Swaziland in 2012 and created an organization called Heart for Africa, which started with an orphanage to do something to help address the staggering infant abandonment issues there. They currently have 102 children under the age of 5, and due to the laws in Swaziland, Janine and her husband are the legal guardians of all of those children. Out of country adoptions are not yet legal (which they are working to change), so they will raise them and educate them and each child will have the option of university, vocational training, or employment upon reaching 18 years of age.
As if that weren’t enough, they went on to create a farm to feed not only the people at Project Canaan, but also many in the surrounding communities, and they sell the excess into the European marketplace to generate income. They also have a woodworking facility where they teach locals how to make beautiful wooden furniture and cabinets, which are sold to pay salaries and generate income. And they have an artisan’s workshop where local women make the most beautiful and amazing jewelry, and beaded ornaments and figurines. If you are interested, you can check out the beautiful things they make here!
As a management consultant who helps (primarily) women start and grow heart-centered businesses that make a difference in the lives of others in a sustainable and profitable way, I am really blown away by what they have created in just 3 short years. I love the impact they are having on so many levels (raising and educating the kids until adulthood, growing their own food in large quantities, feeding much of the local community, teaching local adults valuable skills and giving them an income, creating well-made products that are marketable around the globe, and working so creatively to become economically sustainable in a short time). It goes to show that one person or couple can have a tremendous impact and really make a difference!
This birthday and Thanksgiving week I have the immense pleasure and privilege of traveling over to Swaziland to Heart for Africa’s Project Canaan facility to experience it all first hand. To help the kids get ready for Christmas. To experience first hand this culture and land that is so far removed from my own. To learn more about the impact they are making and how their business model works. To be inspired and helpful and a part of it all. I feel so incredibly blessed and humbled and grateful.
May you and your family be happy and healthy and safe this Thanksgiving! And may you take a few moments today to stop and reflect on how much you truly have in your life that is good – love, family, health, financial resources, a safe, warm house, and lots of yummy food, just to name a few. I am sure you can come up with many more items to add to that list!
I’d love to hear from you – leave a comment below this blog post to share what you are most grateful for in your life on this Thanksgiving Day, and the impact you’d love to make through sharing your gifts and passions next year.
Have a great week!