01 April 10

April Charity of the Month: Harpswell Foundation

The mission of the Harpswell Foundation is to provide housing, education, and leadership training for children and young women in the developing world.

Since April happens to be Genocide Awareness Month, and since I’ve admired the work that Anne Elizabeth Moore has done regarding genocide in Cambodia and the Harpswell Foundation, I have decided to donate $20 from the sale of each bag I sell during the month of April to Harpswell Foundation.

Thanks to the generous matching grant program offered by my employer, I’ll be able to have them match each $20 donation I make, which increases the total going to Harpswell to $40. But! wait there’s more! The Jay Pritzker Foundation with Dan and Karen Pritzker are matching all donations Harpswell receives this year. So this translates to:
You buy 1 bag.
I donate $20 to Harpswell and fill out a matching grant form.
My employer matches that donation.
The Pritzkers match those two donations which means that $80 makes its way to Harpswell Foundation.

Harpswell has a great list of what they will be able to do with the funds they receive. I’m duplicating it below, but it is available on their donation page.

* A donation of $150 will pay for a teacher’s salary in Tramung Chrum for six months. * A donation of $300 will pay for a year’s food for one woman in the Leadership Center. * A donation of $375 will pay for a year’s college tuition. * A donation of $1000 will pay for a year’s health care for Tramung Chrum. * A gift of $1300 will pay for a year’s internet costs in the Leadership Center. * A gift of $5000 will pay for a year’s 24-hour security service in the Leadership Center. * A gift of $500,000 will pay for half the endowment of the new dormitory and leadership center and will entitle you to name the building

So that’s the “what” and the “how”, but here’s the “why”. Why Harpswell Foundation and why these women.

I owe a great deal of gratitude to Anne for my knowledge and awareness of issues related to women in Cambodia. In 2007, Anne traveled to Cambodia to document what it was like to teach women in Cambodia how to make zines. It seemed like an odd Westernized idea to present to a group of women who were living in a country where I knew freedom of the press didn’t exist. But as I began to read more about how little these women knew about their country’s history, how little it was discussed among the population, not to mention the media or in school, as I realized there was only one dormitory in the entire country for female college students to live in (there are now other options, but Harpswell runs two dorms), as I began to think back about how empowered and encouraged I felt when I was of college-age and reading zines and how I’d seen the following generations grow empowered and encouraged reading blogs, I understood exactly why Anne’s work in a country like Cambodia was important.

She recently did a question and answer session and has graciously posted the dialogue on her website. I encourage you to read it.

But it really is more personal than just hearing about an organization doing great work. It’s about seeing a bit of myself in the words of these women in another country whose life situation and abilities are drastically different from my own. I was also a poor young woman who was lucky enough to attend university classes and become acquainted with ideas and classroom experiences that changed the core of my being. But even more than that, I had a woman who came into my life by chance who explained the basics of feminism to me, gave me zines to read, and my broadening world view blew up. I remember reading the personal story of a woman who didn’t share her real name in a photocopied and stapled set of pages. And I felt connected to this stranger. And, even more importantly, I began to feel that my words might also affect someone else I’d never meet.

I wrote text that I intended to turn into a zine, but I never did. I wanted to, but it just seemed so intimidating. And now as woman in her late 30s who has a HUGE network of people she’s met through the internet, who’s life has changed and expanded because of this socialization tool and through reading the words of women I’ll never meet, I see that in these women in Cambodia. And I want to help that influence increase and spread. I want these women to have more opportunities to change their world and to stand as mentors for other women, the way I had a feminist mentor, and the way that Anne has been a mentor, an educating force. Everyone deserves to have that encouraging and educating force in their lives. And women who had an encourage and educating force deserve the opportunity to pay it forward. I believe that Harpswell Foundation has created an environment where this force can continue.

And, as I look at the images on their website, and I see these smiling young women, I can hear them giggling and talking. Just like the college-aged women I encounter in Chicago. It may be egotistical to think so, but I imagine that they’d be delighted to know that someone else’s desire for or gift of a bag would enable them to continue in their education. But it’s true. And even if you can’t purchase a bag, don’t like the bags I have, I encourage you to make your own donation.


Commenting is closed for this article.