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3 Easy Ways to Celebrate International Women's Day

March 8th is International Women’s Day!

This is the day when the world pauses to recognize the great strides made towards women's equality around the world. It is also the day to remember how much farther still there is to go. We are blessed in Canada with many freedoms that our global sisters can only imagine. With that blessing comes great responsibility.

The UN and individual nations choose yearly themes. 

This year, Canada’s theme is:

Women’s Empowerment Leads to Equality. 

The UN theme is:

Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step it up for Gender Equality.

Canada believes that “women who are empowered are better equipped to fulfill their potential and contribute their best so society.” They believe that empowerment means having tools that allow women to make better choices. This includes education, community involvement, financial independence, living free from violence, and knowing governmental rights. Having all these things, Canada believes, enriches society.

Did you notice that the four key areas of ZOE's involvement (education, health, economic empowerment, human and sex trafficking) is in line with Canada's goals? We love that! 

You see... God values women. 

In a world where misogynistic attitudes run rampant, women need to hear the truth! The gospel at its very core speaks to the value, worth and dignity of the daughters. Women are image bearers of God and this message is one that vulnerable women need to hear and see demonstrated.

Do you have a passion for women to understand their worth and identity? Do you long to help women thrive? Do you want to see "wrongs" made right? We do, and because we do, we offer opportunities all around the world so that one day women everywhere will only have reasons to celebrate on International Women’s Day!

Here are three easy ways to Celebrate International Women's Day this year!

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The 2015 ZOE Christmas Challenge is ON!

Yesterday, I sat in Starbucks working on "all things ZOE" to the sound of Christmas music! I am so not ready...

True confessions:  I am the girl who doesn't play Christmas music until December 1st and the tree doesn't go up until at least the 10th.

So the sound of Christmas music on November 12th was shocking and served as a "wake up call" to get organized!  I sent out a Facebook message to my kids (on behalf of Mrs. Claus...my alter-ego during December) so that she can started.

So how are your Christmas plans shaping up?

We would love for you to include ZOE in your Christmas Preparations. This year we, together, will "Give the Gift of Empowerment!"

What is Empowerment?

Empowerment means giving someone what they need to succeed...it can include knowledge, tools, resources, networks, encouragement and even permission!  

Empowerment is at the heart of Sharon Thomas’ work with female leaders in the Dominican Republic. This Christmas we are partnering with Sharon to strategically empower and support women in that nation.  We are delighted that $120 will support one woman in her leadership journey in the DR in 2016.  What an incredible investment! 

Are you up for the challenge?

  • Which women are you going to gather with between now and Christmas?  Is there a potluck?  A Christmas tea?  A cookie exchange?  How could you together sponsor a woman in her leadership development?
  • Instead of buying more “stuff”(really don’t we all have enough?), maybe your family could sponsor a woman.
  • How about an Advent Challenge? 
    • Could you set aside $30 per week for the four weeks of Advent?  This is the cost of a meal…or an outfit.  This could be a practice to remind yourself about true priorities through the season.

What will you do?

Tweet us…using the hashtag #ZOEChallenge and let's together "get this done!"

DONATE HERE

Happy Planning! - Leanne

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Tackle a campaign to make the world suck less!

by Marvelyn Schell

I just finished a book about addiction. I read it to educate myself and help understand those caught in the grip of addiction. In reading it a comment that my colleague, Leanne McAlister, once said came to my mind. “Really, the world is broken.  We’re all broken.” , she said.

Yes, we are.

Many just don’t realize it – I didn’t.

We desperately try to fill our cups, all the while life is slowly seeping out leaving us feeling empty and unfulfilled. We keep ourselves busy and full of activity because it’s too frightening to stop and recognize the void. In the words of Bill Radmall from Insight into Addiction: “…ask people on the street, and it is unlikely that many would acknowledge that they have a gaping chasm inside them….they may only be aware of an undefined dissatisfaction....(they have) defended themselves from any awareness of their emptiness – perhaps by not allowing any time to think or reflect on their lives.” (pp 29)

So, let’s take the time …and do some thinking and reflecting…..

ZOE is Greek and means: absolute fullness of life, life which belongs to God, life real and genuine, a life active and vigorous, to last forever, …..abundant life (John 10:10).  We at ZOE Projects, believe this “life” is for those we seek to help and empower around the world…but it is also for us. You see, I look around and see many women who struggle with an ‘undefined dissatisfaction’. A restlessness…a hunger…to be a part of something larger then themselves…desperate to get involved and make a difference in this world.

One catchphrase I came across in doing some research on women’s issues was, “Tackle a campaign to make the world suck less”.

Please tell me you’ve noticed. Women are speaking up and women’s issues are the hot topic, at the forefront of global discussions! It’s splashed all over the media, literature, politics and entertainment. The messaging is strong, women matter …and want to matter.

So what is it that we’re missing? Is life just about tackling another campaign so that the world sucks less? How on earth do we live ZOE life?...full, real, genuine, active, vigorous, ABUNDANT.

Well, here’s Webster’s definition of ABUNDANCE: large amount, plentiful, present in great quantity, more than enough. Abundance seems to imply a place of unlimited resource. One of the great lesson’s I learned from the women I served while being a Global Worker with PAOC was how to live the abundant life. They showed me that it is not the absence of struggle or pain (something we North Americans resist vigorously) but thepresence of Christ in the struggle or pain that was evidence of living the abundant life. You see, we attempt to change our circumstances in our effort to fill the cracks and live life abundantly.

Get a new job, new house, new church, new degree, new dress, new friends, new husband,…the list is endless …but these are limited resources, quick fixes….and dare I say, sometimes addictive?

But there really is only one “fix” and that’s Jesus Christ. When we yield ourselves to Christ and when we seek to be filled with His Spirit we find freedom and the ability to thrive in life …to live an abundant life…despite our circumstances.

I’ve personally learned that only Christ can supply me with the unlimited resource of PURPOSE, VALUE and HOPE.

But wait!

It’s doesn’t end there. When we live the abundant life…remember our definition of abundance?….we should have more than enough…but more than enough for WHAT?!?!

TO BECOME LIFE GIVERS!!!!!

Isn’t that awesome?!  We become a conduit of Christ to the world! So long undefined dissatisfaction! I’ve got PURPOSE, VALUE and HOPE because of Christ in me and I choose to give it away.

I’ve become a life-giver so that the world sucks less.

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4 Reasons You Can't Make a Difference on Your Own

We are often told "go big or go home",  While I like the concept (particularly on my "I am Woman, hear me Roar" days), if I am honest, the thought of trying something BIG freaks me out and often sends me to the couch...

I wonder if we are going about this all wrong, trying as individuals to "make a difference".  Maybe the question isn't "what should I do" but is actually "what should we do"

What would happen if women across Canada began to work strategically together for BIG things? 

Today's post is by Carmen Kampman.  Carmen works in Community Relations at Horizon College in Saskatoon and is passionate about empowering women in Leadership. In April she is leading an Event called Free to Lead Saskatoon.

(Check it out here.)

She is also a great friend of ZOE. 

by Carmen Kampman

Life has many phases, and if you are one of those people that has a great memory and can remember your childhood years, you’ll likely remember well the I’ll-do-it-myself phase. My mom tells me that I was a frequent “me do it!” kinda girl. Not only that, I enjoyed letting everyone else around me know just how much I liked to achieve things on my own. 

But when we grow up we recognize (or at least we should!) that there are a great many things we can’t do on our own. (I confess I’m still a work in progress in this area!) And when it comes to Kingdom work, I’m convinced that it is imperative we understand why we can’t make a significant difference solely on our own. 

Here are a 4 reasons worth thinking about:

  • Women are uniquely shaped by their life experience, carrying with them with them a unique perspective. Collaborating together empowers us to view a situation through multiple lenses helping to ensure a “big picture” view. In other words, we might see or learn something we didn’t see or know before – how exciting!
  • Outcomes matter. So if outcomes matter, collaboration matters. If our primary mission as Christians is the advancement of God’s Kingdom here on earth, then healthy Christian living recognizes that the wisdom of community is deeper and wider than wisdom of self.
  • It’s both empowering and strengthening to converse together. The Didache (a compilation of early Christian teachings) says, “...every day you should seek out the company of the saints so that you can be helped by their conversation." (Didache 4.2)
  • Individually we are limited resources. No one person posses all of God’s gifts or wisdom. A rich tapestry is created when diverse gifts collaborate together.

Learning to collaborate and work well with others has been a big part of my journey these past four years. At times it has been messy – icky messy! And on more than one occasion I have hurt someone and have had to ask for their forgiveness. As a high-functioning, high-energy, results-oriented person I have learned the importance and value of intentionally seeking out others in order to collaborate. As a result, the outcomes on projects or decisions have far exceeded anything that I could have done alone.

So let me conclude with a few questions for us to consider: 

Do I understand that I’m a limited resource? 

What value do I see in collaborative conversation? 

What holds me back from asking others for their input? (Be honest!) 

What “company of saints” should I seek out so that I can be helped by their conversation?

Blessings in your journey,

Carmen Kampman

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Give the Gift of Dignity - A ZOE Christmas Challenge!

If you had an opportunity to give the gift of dignity to a young woman in Africa this Christmas... would you do it?

One of my most cherished childhood memories was opening up my stocking on Christmas morning.   My mum LOVED to fill stockings and she would work on them all year (seriously) finding all sort neat treats for us.

I do the same with my kids.  Besides chocolate and an orange at the toe, (the orange somehow in my mind counterbalances eating chocolate at 7AM), my kids always know that there will be underwear in their stockings.  They are all young adults now, but they still know that "mama has them covered" when it comes to underwear.  I just can't help myself... I guess old habits die hard.

This year I am going to expand my "mama's reach" a bit... I am going to buy underwear and reusable menstrual pads for young women in Africa.  Last week we read how menstrual kits can radically change life for vulnerable girls.  We learned that:

  • UN statistics show that with adequate menstrual protection, attendance at school for girls increases by 75%.
  • Girls marry later and subsequently delay having children. 
  • With an education, girls have more career options and they will make on average an income that is 25% higher.
  • With sustainable work girls experience independence and healthier relationships. 

All this because of menstrual pads! 

This inspired us to launch the ZOE Projects "Give the Gift of Dignity Christmas Challenge."

We are pleased to be partnering with Transformation Textiles on this challenge.  Transformation Textiles manufactures and distributes underwear and reusable menstrual pads for young women in Africa... and we would like to help.

But how can you help?

We thought you’d never ask.

  • Purchase a Dignity Kit (or two or ten or a hundred...we can dream big right?)!  
    • A Dignity Kit through Transformation Textiles includes 2 pairs of underwear, 2 waterproof shields, 6 reusable pads, a bucket, soap, drawstring bag and a booklet for the girls about the use and care of the kit... all for $10!
    • DONATE HERE
    • Help us share this challenge!  Tell your friends about this neat opportunity...Post this on a friend’s Facebook wall or direct people to the blog.  You could even tweet about it – #forherdignity #zoechristmaschallenge. 

You know as we have been putting this project together we have come to realize that we aren't really buying pads... we are buying dignity and opportunity and potential.

And we can't think of a better gift to give this Christmas!

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5 Ways to Inspire Your Community to Action

Do you ever read the ZOE blog and think:  "I care so much about all of these issues...but what do I do?"

Here are some ideas:

1. Don’t be afraid to let your heart be moved

Action always begins with the heart...that moment where you say to yourself "Someone needs to do something".  We believe that God does that for us as a starting place.  So feel it.  And then share it with others.  When someone carries a deep burden for the vulnerable, it tends to be contagious. 

2. Build awareness and share your findings with others

Become the best educated person you know in this area.  Read the ZOE blog and follow our links to great resources.  There are "printables", project sheets and videos that you can use.  Share what you are learning with others: your daughters and sons, your girlfriends, your husband, your mum.  Leading by example is a great way to inspire your community. 

 3. Do something...even if it is small

Gather your community together!   Be creative...the sky's the limit!  Here are some examples:

  • Hold a “Dinner In” – Host a potluck dinner, with each woman donating the cost of dinner out. At the dinner, share the story of ZOE Projects using the ZOE Video and Specific project sheet. Encourage women to donate even more than the cost of a dinner out.         
  • Host a “Theme Night” that reflects the culture of the current project
  • Is it your birthday?  Instead of receiving more "stuff" (that seriously, you probably don't need), ask your friends to give to vulnerable women through ZOE Projects
  • Host an Auction, BBQ, car wash garage sale etc.
  • If you are a student, ask to share ZOE in a class or coffee house setting.
  • Use ZOE as an outreach component of your women’s church group or conference.

If you want your community to take action with you on this, bring them together and share from your heart.  People innately yearn to be a part of something bigger.

4. Use Social Media

Social media is a great way to engage and educate people...particularly the "under 25" crowd. Follow ZOE on Twitter (@ZOEProjects).  Like ZOE on Facebook and invite your network to as well.  Subscribe to the ZOE blog and re-post things that you find interesting and challenging.

5.  Challenge your community

Passion is often short-lived.  It is easy to "like" something on Facebook and quite another to actually "do something"...so give people tangible opportunities to be involved.  If you do this, they will be much more likely join forces with you.  Set goals, financial and otherwise and then celebrate well when the goals are reached! 

So.  What do you think?  If you have other ways that you know are helpful in inspiring your community to action, please share in our comments section below!

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Generosity Doesn't Break for the Summer!

Late in the spring ZOE Projects decided to partner with Krista Couts. 

Krista is a PAOC global worker living in Bangkok, Thailand with her husband Darrick and they just welcomed their sweet baby girl. (Check out the video below to see her drool!)

A Little Update from Krista and Darrick!

Krista's work with NightLight International is exactly the type of work we love to support.  Through NightLight Krista reaches out to women trapped in the sex industry through regular outreaches in the bars and on the street. Through relationship women are offered alternative employment. They also assist women trafficked from other countries into Bangkok to work in the sex industry by providing a safe house for these international victims and working to return them home for a fresh start and new beginning. 

After spending a month in Asia this summer, my husband and I were reminded of the overwhelming need of women in South East Asia...unfortunately it is a "hot bed' of the growing international sex industry. I am so glad that women like Krista choose to stand in "the thick of it"...bringing the message of hope.

Now usually fundraising takes a bit of a "hiatus" in the summer as people kick back and do other things...but we were so pumped to receive donations towards Krista and her ministry, primarily from members of Church in the Oaks in London, Ontario.  This is making it possible to send Krista a cheque for $3200 this week...and we couldn't be more pleased!  Thanks for continuing to care and support.

There are many exciting things coming up at ZOE Projects...if you and your friends would like to get involved, email us at lmcalister@paoc.org or gschell@paoc.org.

Leanne

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She asked for 3000...but we are going to give her WAY more!

If you are a ZOE blog reader you will know that recently we dispersed $3000 to our ZOE Partner, Kathy Bowler in Malawi.  Kathy works with mums of special needs children and the funds we raised will assist Kathy in starting income generating projects for these mums.  It was SO great and I did a full-out happy dance around my kitchen when we transferred the money.  (I am not sure you ever want to see that dance.)  Anyway, we thought we were done...at least for the moment when the most awesome thing happened. 

I got a text from my friend Ali Malott who pastors in Peterborough...Ali and her girlfriend Wendy Couper, (who pastors in another church in Peterborough) were holding a joint women's retreat that next weekend with about 90 women.  They featured Kathy's work at the retreat and the women responded with an offering of $1100.  Ali and Wendy were blown away!

Women on retreat in Peterborough

That same weekend, another of our advocates, Colleen Lantondress of London, Ontario, turned 50 years old.  Rather than have people give her gifts and money, (and really, don't we have enough stuff?!?) Colleen requested that they make a donation to ZOE Projects.  Colleen creatively provided opportunities for women to give from selling artfully decorated mugs and journals to providing take home coffee cups to put extra change in for ZOE.  The money is still coming in, but let's just say that the Birthday party was hugely successful.  All I know is that Kathy asked for 3000...but we are going to give her WAY more!

Marvelyn presenting at Colleen's Birthday Party

Project sheets from our Malawi Project (find it on the website)

So it has been a great week!  I am inspired.  Thank you Ali, Wendy and Colleen for your creativity and calling your friends on to generosity. There is more than enough!

If you are reading this...consider yourself challenged.  How are you going to respond to the needs of women around the world?  What can you do from your little patch of grass?  You can do it!

Leanne

PS - You can now subscribe to ZOE Blog by email...would love for you to do that, so you don't miss anything!

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