Jul 04

Listening and Responding

Listening and Responding

As time passes, more value is being placed upon listening to each other.  Although sometimes misunderstood, or perhaps even miscommunicated, the art of listening has returned to our planet.  Each of us expresses ourselves in our unique style and I ask this … are we also responding?


Personally, yes!  I believe that Mankind is responding to each other, rather via various media, verbal or written communication, and lastly, Nature itself is as well.  Allow me to expound upon this idea by providing examples of such:


  1. While recently in a restaurant, I cam across a yound lady who took the time to visit about her second career and aspirations as a model.  Not only did we exchange the ideas that flowed through our conversation, the act of responding came about so easily that I was amazed at how my situation was resolved.  Basically, I was given the name of a professional photographer to schedule updated photos.  Through listening to her speak of her aspirations, to also include her one year old son – Poof (!) – there was the name of a professional photographer with over 45 years of experience.  An appointment has been made and shoot completed, as well as making a new female friend.  The tip left for her that evening was able to buy more diapers for her son without a blink of an eye.
  2. Again, on the same evening, my waitress introduced me to her co-worker, a waiter who has culinary education and quite talented at describing food preparation and new meal ideas.  While listening to him and understanding his frustration level due to not being heard by the restaurant’s chain employee suggestion box, it would be grand to submit his ideas to the Corporate Office for consideration.  Once again, listening and responding.
  3. We all have the capability of walking closely with Nature, myself included.  Since summer has arrived with such a blast of heat in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, it would come as no surprise that the lack of rain has caused wild life to depend upon humans to provide food and water.  This afternoon, I sat on the front porch and twice, a sparrow flew into the overhand and perched upon the wood columns.  It was so dry and needed water badly, actually panting from its thirst.  So, diligently I went inside gathered a container with fresh cool water and placed it on the porch for its enjoyment.


So when you are expressing yourself it would be a positive to understand that someone is listening and responding.

Written by Angelika Maria Burdette

Jul 03

Inspirational Woman of The Month

Winnie Ojanga is not just fabulous fashion designer. But she is also a mother, a wife, a mentor, a motivator and happy go lucky person. The Swiss-based Kenyan Award-winning fashion designer opened up to us about her passion for fashion. She shared with us her amazing Inspiring journey into the fashion world.

Her fashion label, “Winnie Ojanga’s Creations” is a beautiful label that captures femininity, elegance, class and style. Each collection showcases complete fashion forward styles that are easy to wear, timeless, ageless, classy and undoubtedly unique.

“We use exquisite fabrics and luxe embellishments that make every creation piece a fashion statement that is always on trend, individual, sophisticated, sensual, glamorous and elegant”, she says.

IWM: Winnie we are very delighted to interview a creative woman of many hidden talents, filled with positive energy. Starting with your work as a designer where do you draw your inspiration from?

WINNIE: First and foremost. Thank you very much for those kind words. I get my inspiration from different areas depending on the collection I’m working on, my travels, my life experience. I’m also inspired by fashion from the 20s through to the 60s. 

IWM: What skills are required to be a successful fashion designer?

WINNIE: A number of skills are required to be a successful fashion designer. First of all he/she should be creative and stylish. No fashion designer can get by without proper creativity and style. He/she must also have a sound knowledge of the fashion industry and must also be aware of latest fashion trends and styles. He/she must also have a capability to handle all kinds of work pressures among others.

IWM: What all qualities do you possess as a fashion designer?


WINNIE: I don’t rely on my artistic visions alone to bring success. Instead, I try as much as possible to understand basic principles of marketing and business that can really help me to reach my goals. Quality is very important for us and we pay attention to details. I’m always ready to learn new things and experimenting my ideas.

IWM: What make you motivates you?

WINNIE: I’m extremely self-motivated but I also look up to some amazing people around me who inspire me daily in different areas in my life.

IWM: How can you describe yourself in 4 words?

WINNIE: I love to learn new things, happy, achiever; I try to help people around me

IWM: Tell us about some of your greatest achievements?

WINNIE: Winning the fashion designer of the year 2011 in Berlin Germany which was hosted by African women in Europe. That motivated me to keep on going and also humbled me allot because it was a clear sign that my work was being appreciated not only in Switzerland but other parts too.

IWM: Tell us about being a working mother?

WINNIE: It not easy being a working mother and taking care of house hold. One needs to be well organized and disciplined. I mostly work around my kids programs. That works for me very well.

IWM: What are some of the challenges you have faced?


WINNIE: Well, there are many different challenges in the industry. For new designers the most challenging part of setting up your own fashion brand is the ability to be able to multitask — you are your own personal assistant, public relations guru, accountant and producer all at the same time. My other challenge was juggling my role as a mother and trying to break into the fashion world. I am glad I managed to strike a balance because I am happy with where I am so far.

Another challenge for any designer is marketing and putting up a collection without losing the spark of creativity as a designer.

IWM: How do you stay positive in increasingly unhealthy world?

WINNIE: By surrounding myself with positive minded people and doing things that I love doing. That fills me with allot of positive energy to keep on moving.

IWM: How does it feel to be considered an inspirational woman? Who, or what inspires you?

WINNIE: Well, I have never looked at myself that way. But I must say I’m humbled.  I admire those who are always patient, calm and positive minded. I also admire those who have the courage to get out of their comfort zone and try to achieve something. Even in a small way.

IWM: Any positive advice you would give to our readers?

Only those who keep their eye fixed on the far horizon will find their right road. Keep on walking on your path step by step with focus, hard work, patience and determination and never give up on your dreams.


Jul 03

5 Steps to Living an Inspired Life

5 Steps to Living an Inspired Life by Tiffany Kay

The end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st Century were characterised by the achiever’s philosophy – getting as much done in as short a timescale as possible. With technology leading the way, life asked us to push on, speed up and handle more, all in the name of living the dream.  Women are holding their own in a previously male-dominated world. On the surface, it seemed so positive for us – no longer needing to choose between a family and a successful career. So why are many women feeling disillusioned, unfulfilled or stressed out?


The pressure on women to have the picture perfect lifestyle is immense. Flicking through a glossy magazine sends our inadequacy drivers into overtime. Having been privy to many clients’ personal lives through my coaching practice, I have found most women are really asking the same question – not how they can have it all but how to live a happy, peaceful and balanced existence.  


So in this era of information overwhelm, how do you work out what you want and how to have it?  Working as a coach, I have created a 5-step formula for living an inspired life: 


Step 1: Clarify

Take some time out and reflect on these power questions:

  • If you knew success was the only outcome, what would you do?
  • If you could be, do or have whatever you wanted, what would you choose?

Don’t be concerned if the answers don’t immediately flow, hold the questions in your mind over the next few days or even weeks and allow clarity to find you.


Step 2: Centre

Think of something you would like to have in your life – it could be a dream job, a soulmate or financial abundance. How will you be as a person when you have achieved that goal?


Notice that you can go there in your mind’s eye and experience those feelings right now.  Not only does imagining it feel good, it makes it more likely that you will achieve your outcome. For example, you want a certain job to boost your self-esteem, but isn’t it more likely you will get the job when you are already feeling confident? Ask yourself what will you experience when you are living your inspired life and how can you begin to align yourself with those emotional states right now?

Step 3: Create

Now, feeling inspired, it is time to take action – inspired action! What is one thing that will move you closer to your dreams? You don’t need to have an extensive plan; in fact, you only need to know the smallest next step. What is so simple and straightforward that you can begin it right now? The good news is that a sequence of small steps soon adds up to a whole lot of momentum!


Step 4: Connect

Your support network is crucial to creating and maintaining an inspired life.  Who are the people who will be there for you for the long haul? Ask your tribe not just for their support but also to hold you accountable to your goals and dreams.


Step 5: Contribute

Each of us has a unique talent – something that we do better than anyone else in the world.  Our mission is to find it! Explore ways in which you can contribute, but do it from a place of being so inspired that your cup runneth over. Then it is a choice rather than an obligation.  Where can you most make a difference?


Everyone’s version of an inspired life will be different but following these steps can help to move you from where you are now to wherever you would like to be. An inspired life is one that is rich and fulfilling. It’s a life of possibilities. It’s your life. It’s your time. Make it count!





Tiffany Kay is a transformational coach, inspirational speaker and the creator of Living an Inspired Life. After flat-lining through the early part of her life, Tiffany faced a challenging and transformational time of awakening. Following her son’s open-heart surgery, she realised that life matters and made a deliberate and conscious decision to make her life a life that counted. Since then she has been inspiring others to discover the truth of who they are!  

Tiffany runs a coaching programme called “Your Life Two” that helps women to turn crises and transitions into awakenings – to design and sculpt an inspired life and to find the happiness they truly deserve.


Tiffany is also the author of  “JoyScope” – a book and blog offering daily inspirations to nourish the heart and soul. 

Website www.tiffanykay.com and www.yourlifetwo.com 


Jul 02

Calling Your Craze

It’s July and I’ve already decided what I want Santa to bring me: a pink rotary phone.  I saw one in a picture and it struck a chord with me that keeps playing. Now you can find all kinds of results for “Where to buy a pink rotary phone?” in my computer history.


The confusing thing is, I hardly talk on the phone! If anything, I’m a phone liberationist in that I leave my phone on silent 90% of the time. My mantra as far as that is concerned is technology was made to help us with our lives, not run our lives. Now, off of my techy platform and back to why in the world the whimsical urge for a pink rotary phone dropped into my awareness. The things that emerge from left field are usually trying to tell us something…


Several things actually came to mind:


1. A rotary phone is stationary. You can’t exactly multitask with a rotary like you can a wireless. This means you dedicate specific phone conversation time. No on the way to the store rushed catch-ups or checking your mail while hearing granny out. It is intimate time devoted to someone where you sit and listen…within a six-foot radius. 


2. The retro vibe brings your mind to a state of simplified bliss. As much as we crave the next “next”, it kind of makes us tired. Recently our priorities have begun to shift towards simplifying things. Glitter may make some things sparkle, but pure authenticity makes things shine!


3. The history of it all. When you look at a rotary phone you’re looking upon a model that is the direct descendant of our very first phone! Look at what a dreamer invented and how that has changed our world! Anything in that mind of yours is truly possible!


4. They’re classic. After all this time, people still collect them. They continue to ring in homes they never left. And merchandisers still reproduce them for people like me who drive an on-going demand for them. Strive for quality! It’s timeless! People may give it their own spin, but you will always be the blueprint for something phenomenal!


5. Pink reflects the innocence of childhood.  Playing hand-in-hand with our desire to keep things simple is recalling our carefree days when troubles consisted of what time the pool closed and if the ice cream man came yet. Give yourself a Popsicle break now and then.


When life deposits a random longing for something material, be it a specific piece of jewelry, a gadget, book, or outfit; listen to that desire’s subliminal message. There’s a lot we can learn from our wish lists. We often uncover what we truly wish for.

 Written by Kat Cowley www.upliftingreflections.com

Jun 21

Inspirational Woman of The Month

Share with me this moment as I celebrate my new business partner Sumia “Sue” Levy

Sue hails from beautiful Cape Town in South Africa. She is a 28 year old Mother, wife and Entrepreneur. The Owner of her own Media business as well as an International Motivational writer and Founder of the Inspirational Blog: Just Pursue It.

Sue and I share the same passions, we are passionate about uplifting the woman of this world, she is very serious about spreading the word of positivity to all woman around the world that is why find her contributing to a lot of sites beyond just her own. She loves interviewing and meeting Inspirational woman from all over the world for her blog Just Pursue It.

2012 has indeed been a year of new opportunities as Sue has dedicated herself to doing Philanthropy work as she gives `inspirational talks to girls as she believes that it’s important to uplift the youth with the motivation they need to focus on achieving their dreams later in life.

 Here is all you need to know about her journey 

The Beginning

Born in 1983, to Parents Rulander and Frederick Brandt. Sue is the older sister of two younger siblings. Completed her education in Cape Town and holds a qualification in Multimedia Technology. Her love for being creative leads her to be part of the e-Learning field from the age of 19 (before graduating). Sue was part of a team that developed training programs for Glass making Industries. Post grad, Sue was head of Instructional Design for a media company whose main niche was in developing structural Educational Material for technical Industries.

The Professional Break away

Sue then broke away from that and worked for design agencies as she enjoyed designing interactive material but quickly got bored as she felt  wasn’t mentally stimulating and not inspiring enough to do it for a life time as she wanted to leave an legacy of Inspiration behind one day. That is why she decided to start her own media business, one that helps start ups and new businesses grow their personal brands in the online space. Her passion has always been to uplift and help people.

Turning Tragedy into Triumph

After losing a good friend due to Cancer in late 2011, she started the blog “Just Pursue It” in her friend’s memory. Her blog was stemmed from the actuality that her friend who never disclosed how many months she had left to live, always encouraged her to write as she saw that Sue was a natural at inspiring people in general. Her friend had a business called “Inspirations” Sue was then inspired to start an Inspirational blog as she felt it was only right to give back to people the way her friend encouraged in the time of their friendship. 

Just Pursue It is a rapidly expanding Inspirational Blog for women founded by Sue; it offers a platform for empowerment and guidance for women young and matured. She now Interviews woman from around the world and by doing this her readers get an inside look on how these successful woman found success and overcame obstacles in life.

New Partnerships

Sue has recently co-partnered with Inspirational Woman Magazine as it came as a natural progression to speak to more women on an International scale. Her passion for the online space and flawless eagerness to uplift woman has allowed Sue to win over not only her readers, but PR companies and International Initiatives to be interviewed for her blog as they see the need to give back. 

Her love for humanity and her passion to see young woman and girls pursue their dreams has encouraged her to write for many other publications

Sue believes that Inspirational Woman and Just Pursue It together are dedicated to plant a seed of irresistible positive thinking to all women around the globe. In her talks Sue speaks about her own reinvention after working in a corporate world and how every woman can reinvent them to get to the next level in their life and career with her tagline “Just Pursue It.”

Leaving a Positive legacy

She has been called “The Inspirational Lady” by many, and to this she says is Humbling as she loves to see people smile and feel good about themselves.

Sue says:

“The world needs more people to give Hope to others. We should promote the belief of positive outcomes to our youth and our woman, my goal is to make sure people overcome negative perceptions and life experiences, and to start living a life without fear of achieving ones dreams. We all possess the power to do so. We just need to believe that we can. My aim is to leave a legacy of Positivity in this world and I’m excited to go about this journey with my motto: Love to Inspire, Inspire to Love”

Jun 19

Interview with Marleen Temmerman

Marleen Temmerman – Belguim

Interview by Lisa Chuma

Give us your ‘elevator pitch’ – a snapshot of who you are, what you do for a living, and how we should ‘know’ you.

I am a hard-working obstetrician-gynaecologist, researcher, politician (Socialist Party senator), and mother of a 23-year-old son. As a fierce advocate for women’s (reproductive) rights, I do everything I can in all my professional fields to reduce the burden on women and children worldwide. I am referred to as ‘Mama Daktari’, ‘Madam Doctor’ in Swahili, as the founding head of the ICRH, the International Center For Reproductive Health, an internationally renowned organisation when it comes to sexual and reproductive health and rights research, projects and policy-making, with affiliations in Kenya, Mozambique, and several other African countries, as well as Europe and China, among other places.


What is your personal motto?


‘Think Globally, Act Locally’, or ‘When you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.’


What advice would you give to other women who want to do what you do or want to start a business?


Do not focus on the male-female stereotype. Doing business is not about being a woman or a man, it’s about working hard, engagement, dedication and obtaining results in the most effective way, whether these ways are so-called masculine or feminine. Be faithful to yourself, but be pragmatic, and don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good! Respect for collaborators is key!


What is your take on ‘unity amongst women’?


I am a feminist, of course I am, and every woman should be – and men should as well! I aim for unity among women to battle not against men, but together with men to eradicate the injustice done to women and strive for equality between women and men around the world. Where the (unfair) battle between the sexes is the problem, it surely cannot be the solution.


Can you tell us about women in your life who have played an important role and what roles they played?


In the first place, my mother. Even if she didn’t always approve of the things I wanted to do, she’s never confronted me with unbearable choices and eventually supported me. She’s still a point of reference; I know that whenever I’m in the newspapers, on the radio or on television, she has read, heard and seen me. She is the first one I ask whether it was good or not. I guess she lies sometimes to make me feel better…


At other times accidental encounters leave their marks. As it did with Graça Machel. She has been a real role model. She was Minister for Education in Mozambique and twice a first lady, first as the wife of Samora Machel, president of Mozambique, and later as Mrs Nelson Mandela. She fights for the rights of children and against HIV/AIDS in South Africa. I believe, as Graça Machel does, that you can put things into motion through politics. That’s why I’m engaged in politics as a senator in the Belgian Parliament, putting health, international cooperation and development, ethics and human rights on the agenda.


What is the most rewarding thing you have done for other women?


For this question I go back in time, to when I started working in the Pumwani hospital in Kenya, Nairobi, a busy maternity clinic with 80 to 100 deliveries a day and substandard health care facilities with shortages of key equipment and supplies. Since the eighties, the standards have improved a lot to the point that we now have adequate tools, skilled personnel and acceptable hosting facilities for the mothers (to be). I am well aware that this is a joint effort of many persons, but it is really rewarding for me that I have been part of the solution to make such an important moment in a woman’s life a comfortable and a healthy event for many Kenyan women and their babies.


Which person has had the biggest influence in your life so far?


Besides my family, my husband and my son, that must be Peter Piot, the former director of UNAIDS, for he invited me to lead a HIV/AIDS project in Kenya. The project researched the influence of HIV/AIDS on pregnancy and brought me to the hospital in the slums of Nairobi. Kenya has been a big turning point in my life. All the choices I had made in my life kind of culminated through the the things I experienced there and through the contact with Peter Piot. It was a childhood dream come true and the making of a vision of life for the following years and decades to come. Leaving your roots, as I did for five years, changes a person, in fact everyone should do it. It makes you conscious of your own luck and the burden of geography. The place you are born in determines a great deal the chances you are given in life. So for me it’s natural that the ones who have been offered the greatest chances strive for better lives for the ones who have got none.


What is the best piece of advice you have been given?


When I was a child, my father always cited a rhyme whenever he saw us wasting our time. In English it can best be translated to “The devil finds work for idle hands.” That piece of advice for me has become a way of life and is probably the reason why I’m so industrious and have accomplished some of the goals I have set out so far.


Another, more practical piece of advice which I learned over the years and in my turn teach other people is: never react directly to something that makes you angry. Anger is an emotion and emotion is not always a good advisor. For example, if you get an email, whether professional or not, that really upsets you, wait 24 hours to answer. You will see that solutions are found much more easily when useless, hard words haven’t been said and written.


Besides your daily work, what are you passionate about?


One could say that my passion is my daily work. That is indeed so, but there are other things that contribute to my happiness, because that’s what passions are meant to do, aren’t they? I’m passionate about my family, my son and my husband. I am not saying that because it is expected of a woman to say it, especially the ones with a career, but because it is reality. It is a core of mutual respect, interaction and unconditional love without which my perception of the world would be completely different.


What question should I have asked, that I didn’t? (This is your opportunity to answer the question no one ever asks!)


Interviewers tend never to ask health scientists questions about the economy. Instead it is common for economists to influence, sometimes with massive effects, health through their policies. It shows that economy and health are unmistakably intertwined. The reforms proposed today to overcome the banking, financial and Euro criseis are very negative for the health sector and the welfare state in general. Health care is being privatised and the out-of-pocket contribution to health is increasing rapidly. This hinders easy access to health for the lower incomes. Those are typical negative outcomes of neoliberal strategy. I am convinced that the crisis today shows that neoliberal capitalism has failed and yet the proposed solutions are more of the same. Will the world leaders today have the audacity to construct new kinds of economic systems that leave the welfare state intact and produce a more honest distribution of wealth throughout the world? If they don’t succeed, all efforts, including mine, to make the world a better place are bound to fail.


Lisa Chuma is an inspirational Speaker for Schools in the UK and the founder (Editor-in-Chief) of Inspirational Woman Magazine. Lisa is keen to make a positive impact in the world and see women come together in unity worldwide. Her desire is for women to realise that they are very important in their own way, which makes us all unique. If we accept that, we can become a stronger community because we will have different things to offer. Lisa is very passionate about being a positive in␣uence and making a positive impact in people’s lives. She has made it her responsibility to better women’s relationships by them helping each other, standing together, supporting each other and encouraging them to complete each other rather than compete.

Jun 19

Appreciating Diversity, Creating Unity

Appreciating Diversity, Creating Unity

By Julia Bernards

Several years ago, I sat with my husband in a recruiting event sponsored by Walmart. The presenters and audience were both part of a minority group, and the event had been organized as part of Walmart’s ongoing effort to attract a diverse workforce.  In the midst of the presenter’s spiel, a phrase jumped out at me as utterly paradoxical. “Walmart is a great place to work,” affirmed the presenter. “There is a lot of diversity here; we like to hire people like us.”

Later, at another Walmart event, the corporate officers were being treated to a report on the success of the company’s diversity efforts. “Walmart is **% diverse,” proclaimed the Chief Diversity Officer. Everyone clapped, but I couldn’t help but wonder: “Does that mean the other **% of the associates are identical? Why does the definition of ‘diverse’ focus on ethnic background, gender, or sexual preference? Doesn’t that definition destroy the true power of diversity?”

When Nelson Mandela was elected president of post-apartheid South Africa, it was his task to unite a country which had long been divided by definitions of value and diversity based on skin color and ethnic background. Mandela knew that granting political rights to those to whom they had previously been denied was important but insufficient to unite his people. The whole system of valuation, the whole definition of diversity had to be torn down. He set a public example of valuing people based on their individual abilities rather than the color of their skin. He put generations of racial conflict behind him and created unity in his country by challenging the citizens to see each other as people and fellow citizens rather than stereotyping based on race. Mandela aligned South Africans in the common purpose of peace and thereby re-defined their diversity. His legacy lives on in the powerful transformation of his country and the unity he created.

Defining people by the group they seem to be part of undermines the true power that diversity has to strengthen unity.

The Relief Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the largest women’s organization in the world. It has more than 5.5 million members in 170 countries around the world. Needless to say, the members are diverse in terms of language, culture, ethnic background, socio-economic status, education and personal circumstance. However, they are also a remarkably strong and unified group because they are aligned in a purpose which draws on each of their unique abilities.

The purpose of the Relief Society is to strengthen its members and their families and to serve those outside their membership by providing humanitarian aid. To accomplish this, every member of the Relief Society has two other women from her community assigned to watch over her physical, temporal and spiritual needs and give or organize assistance when necessary. As women give and receive this personal service, they share their individual talents, perspectives and resources. The diversity of the group is essential to the welfare of its members and therefore to its unity and strength.

As members of the Relief Society reach out to give humanitarian service, their individual contributions are again invaluable. Women may organize donation drives or make quilts, teach about food production and storage, or assemble hygiene kits to be sent to disaster areas. In voluntarily giving of themselves and their resources, the women of the Relief Society find value in their unique abilities and those of the other women around them. The aligned diversity of the Relief Society strengthens and unifies it.

As you seek unity in your family, community or organization, align members in a common purpose, so their diversity can become a source of strength. Only by valuing every member can we experience the fullest strength of unity.

Julia Bernard’s background is in Family Life, both in education and experience. Writing about family life to share inspiration and ideas with other women is one of her primary passions.

Jun 19

It starts with a Girl

It starts with a Girl 

Partnering with Girls at Risk in Niger, Africa

By Chantelle McIver

We have all heard the statistics that more than 600 million girls live in poverty in the developing world. The results are often irreversible and devastating to their futures. We can read this, we can be shocked, but the most important thing is – we can do something about it!


For 3½ years I have worked in Niger, Africa amongst the Tuareg people. Niger is consistently ranked one of the poorest countries in the world. Faced with abject poverty, cyclical famines, desertification, tribal conflict and cultural barriers to their success, young girls are constantly at risk. Niger has the world’s highest incidence of early marriage: anywhere from 50%-77% of women are married off before the age of 15 and, on average, women bear seven children each. Early marriage compounds many health risks associated with maternal mortality, high divorce rates and even suicide rates in young girls who feel like they have no way out. 

After spending two years doing a small literacy class and hearing the stories of so many young women and sharing their pain and fear, I felt compelled to action. I met young women who were married off in their early teens and who more often than not returned to their parents’ home after a few months, their illusions of marriage and joy shattered as they were tossed out like trash. These girls are not emotionally ready to leave their families and have no clue how to be a wife and mother. I started to dream that if we could reach these girls before they come to that kind of situation, we could have a considerable impact in their lives. But how do you do that in a country that is consistently one of the poorest and worst off in the world and where both religious and cultural influences put girls at risk? Our aim is not to change their culture, but to challenge them to examine their own situations to see what needs to change and to find new ways to do that. 

It was under this realization that the Niger Vocational Training Centre for Girls at Risk was launched. In the summer of 2010 the school opened with its first three-year pilot program. We felt it was important to give these girls solid, marketable skills to help support their families but that it was also equally important to invest in them on an emotional level. We take a full day each week outside of their sewing and embroidery classes and teach Math and French, and we also put a strong focus on life skills with topics such as malaria prevention, hygiene, sexuality and family planning, and hand washing. We also purposefully include moral lessons on honesty, self-esteem, loyalty and compassion. I strongly believe that a well-rounded woman of integrity has a much better chance of succeeding, even with all the hardships of life in Niger. We round out the program with a strong emphasis on mentoring the girls, visiting them in their homes and showing them as much love and hope as we can.

I also saw early on that it was important to build strong trust relationships with the families of the girls. We had many meetings and there is an agreement in place with each family that they will not marry their daughters off while she is attending our program. We believe that the gift of time will allow the girls to develop physically and emotionally to be better wives and mothers. 

Unity across the ocean

Here in Niger, our team of women (the number fluctuates each year as we have volunteers come and go) act as mentors and teachers to this group of young women. But we are not in this alone. One of the most important cornerstones of our program from the beginning was to promote a connection and unity amongst women across the world. As our program launched and we had 60 girls in Niger, we also had women from all across North America signing on. We wrote up profiles for each girl and paired them up. The roles of the women are not primarily financial in nature. Their main role in the program is linked to prayerfully supporting “their girl” and encouraging her. Many of these women have taken the information about our school and researched the issues, growing their own passion for these girls. They have hosted information nights, bake sales, concerts and many other events to find more supporters and they have also raised significant amounts of money to support the school financially. In 2011, seven of these partners came to Niger to meet “their girls” and help the school with a two-week skills enhancement class. Working side by side, they laughed and learned and bonded. Now, as I look into the faces of these young women I see a growing understanding that they are not alone. Hopelessness begins to be replaced with hope that maybe they will have a chance to succeed and that they will be equipped to choose a better path than their mothers before them. They are grateful that there are people out there who care for them and who support them. 

There is an African Proverb that says, “If you want to go quickly, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”

For more information on the Niger Vocational Training School for Girls at Risk, please visit www.nvoc.ca, or contact the school at admin@nvoc.ca.

Chantelle Mclver was born and raised in Alberta, Canada. She did her undergrad in French and Religious Studies at the University of Calgary and got her Master’s Degree in International Development from Tulane, New Orleans. Chantelle moved to Niger, Africa in 2008, where she opened up the Niger Vocational Training School in 2010.

Drawn to social justice issues and compassionate work, especially the horrible conditions that many young women live in, she has always wanted to work in third world countries. As an advocate, mentor and friend to the young women in the Girls at Risk School, she seeks to pass on all the blessings in her life to bless others. Aware that her work in Niger is a beautiful partnership with many supporters on the other side of the world, she can’t imagine doing anything else!

 Chantelle married her best friend, Paul in 2000 and now have two awesome children, who also love living in Niger. In her spare time she loves hanging out with her family. She is also an avid photographer and loves exploring and traveling.

Jun 19

Money Matters

Money Matters

By Annett Blechstein

“Give a man a gun and he robs a bank,

give a man a bank, and he robs the world.”


That joke made the rounds in August 2011 and is clearly a reference to the financial crisis that started in 2008 and is still lingering today. It is said that banks were mainly responsible for causing this crisis. Banks are, traditionally, run by men. Ambitious men tend to be more focused: they want a stellar career.


Many of my female friends, of all age groups, with impressive careers, list losing weight as their main concern for 2012. Male friends make professional goals their priority for 2012.


Are women bad at setting goals for themselves – or setting the wrong goals?


Heather McGregor, a.k.a. Mrs Moneypenny, an entrepreneur, broadcaster and columnist for the Financial Times in London, says, “No, you can’t have it all. If you want to become the CEO of a publicly listed company then Body Mass Index cannot be a time-consuming priority.”


Her top tips for women who want to make it to the top: accumulate skills, build your network, become financially literate (not least so you know what interest rate you are paying on your credit card), outsource at home and delegate at work, scrap the sentence “I can’t do it” from your vocabulary and learn to say “No”.


That appears easier said than done. Especially in money matters, many women cannot easily say “No”. Often women are swayed by, “But don’t you love me anymore?”


There is some truth to what Mrs Moneypenny says, which is: educate yourself, and be financially literate, so as to achieve a level of self-confidence and trust in yourself. 


The basics of finance are almost akin to gut feeling:

  1. Don’t spend money you do not have 
  1. Know the interest rates you are paying on your credit card
  2. Don’t lend money to family members or friends without a contract signed by both!


I recently watched a documentary on the BBC about “How to become a millionaire”. Portrayed was a 16-year-old school girl, who wanted to make money with the “buy-to-let” property scheme that has gripped many people in the UK. She had attended several expensive seminars on how to become a millionaire, often by self-styled gurus. She had paid for all seminars with her credit card. She owed over £2,000 on that card. She did not know what the interest rate was and she was still many years away from owning a property, and had no means of repaying her debt. 


What could she have done differently? It is important to have dreams, so hold on to them. 

Don’t spend money that you don’t have on seminars. There is so much valuable information available on the web for free. In addition, look at your skills. Can they make you money now? And most importantly, finish school. There will always be investment opportunities when you are ready.


Here is another story: A friend had moved with her boyfriend and their little baby girl into an old village house in Hong Kong. The house was owned by the boyfriend’s parents. Both wanted to renovate the house, but had no money. And since only she had a job with a salary, only she could get a loan from the bank. She took the loan and together they renovated the house. A year later their relationship broke up. He moved away and his parents kicked her out of the house. Now she is paying back a loan of USD 10,000 for a house that she will never set foot in again. How sad is that?


What could she have done differently? The house belongs to his parents, so for example she could have asked them to give her permission to live in that house rent-free for 10 years. Why rent-free? Because she was renovating the house and thus increasing the value of the house, which was good for the parents. A community lawyer or legal aid worker could easily have drafted such an agreement for both parties to sign.


Since the bank loan was in her name, she should have made a separate contract that made her boyfriend a part of the loan and its repayments. Once signed by both of them, he could not have simply walked away from his obligations. If he questioned the contract by saying “But don’t you love me anymore?” then her answer should have been, “Love has nothing to do with money.”

Annett Blechstein is a Financial coach and the founder of ab-coaching. She combines her passion of coaching with her long financial experience, in conducting financial education seminars targeted towards women (however, men are also welcome). The seminars serve to demystify the financial world and empower women to make their own financial decisions. www.abcoachinghk.com

Jun 19

Your Soul’s Calling

Your Soul’s Calling

By Kirsten Meneghello

The word “soul” is a tricky one because it can mean many things and have different connotations. It can have religious overtones, and therefore, scare some people off from a conversation once you mention the word. For others, it can be an exciting topic and grab their attention.


“Soul” can be defined as the “immaterial essence of a person” or “spiritual principle embodied in all human beings.” For me, I use the word “soul” interchangeably with “spirit.” It is the heart center or essence that exists within us and cannot be readily identified by others. Our bodies are so evident to others; our shape, size, skin, hair. But our souls remain a mystery to others, and sometimes, even to ourselves.


Our soul speaks to us through our deepest longings. When it speaks, we can decide whether or not to listen. Our soul can “call” to us, too. People have often referred to being “called” to a vocation in the priesthood, teaching or volunteer work in a foreign country. When you feel the tug at your heart strings to be doing something different with your life, that is a calling. I believe it is always spiritual in nature. It is a divine calling. But there are many names we can attach to it:  being called by God, nature, the Creator, the Universe, a Higher Power, etc. No matter the name, it is a force that helps you to see the sacred in every day.


How to listen to your soul’s calling:


1. Listen to your intuition. Your intuition is a way of knowing that goes beyond logic and the facts presented to you. It is the little voice inside you that speaks when you make choices. It’s a feeling you have in your gut, when you just “know” something and you don’t know why. But that feeling is just as real as the chair you are sitting in right now. The more you tune into your intuition and listen to it, the more you can trust and rely on it.


2. Remain open and receptive. In order to allow the world to speak to you, you must stay open to what you are hearing and seeing in terms of signs, symbols, dreams, etc. If you are not willing to listen to what the Divine is sending to you, you will miss the message.


So have you ever experienced a time when you did not listen to your intuition? What was the result?


I experienced a “call” years ago when I was in my former career as a charitable estate planner.  I helped people make charitable gifts to nonprofit organizations through their estate plan. The job required a combination of my technical, analytical side and my love of people. But over time, I continued to receive signs that this wasn’t what I was meant to do for the long-term. One night while on a spiritual retreat, Bono of U2 came to me in a dream and asked me, “What are you doing with your life to make the world a better place?” That was the whack on the head that I needed. I knew I was here to make a  difference, but I still wasn’t sure how. But instead of continuing to ignore the signs like I had before, I started to do something about it by exploring other career paths. Eventually, I became a Career Transition Coach and now I am so blessed to help others find a meaningful work-life.


Maybe you are still continuing to climb the ladder of success in your professional life.  At some point, you will run out of rungs on the ladder and other achievements to attain. You might look around and wonder “What’s next? I’ve done all the “right” things and yet I’m still not happy.”


When the “what” you do for a living doesn’t fit “who” you are anymore, it’s a crisis of the soul. We cannot solve spiritual problems by using our heads. It doesn’t work to analyze about our feelings of dissatisfaction or the deep yearning in our souls; we have to feel and experience these emotions. We cannot deny our soul’s longing because over time, it will find a way to make itself known.


What is your soul calling you to do or be?

 Kirsten Meneghello, J.D., is a Career & Life Transition Coach based in Portland, Oregon, U.S.A. She works with professionals who are dissatisfied with their career to identify who they really want to be when they grow up. Kirsten coaches, speaks, writes and hosts retreats. You can reach her at kirsten@illuminationlifecoaching.com or follow her on Twitter @IlluminationPDX.



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