Thursday, May 22, 2014

Remember This Day

The Magdalene Graduation is joy-filled event where we celebrate women who have achieved incredible milestones and completed the two-year program. This year as hosts for the event, the women of St. Bartholomew's once again showed us what hospitality looks like. They let us use their lovely sanctuary, gave gifts to honor the graduates and fed us until we were physically, and spiritually, full.

Our honored speaker this year was Carole Hagan. Carole has served the women of Thistle Farms & Magdalene for many years as a full-time volunteer events coordinator, a chair for the fundraiser, a gifted photographer and editor, former recipient of the Thistle Farmer Award, and a mentor and role model to many women. We asked her to share a message of encouragement and inspiration at the ceremony this year.

May is a month full of joy - a time of celebrations. Catalpas and peonies harmoniously trumpet commencement tidings. Graduations abound. Candidates are being awarded degrees: doctors of medicine, law, phd’s in theology. Dissertations following years of research are complete and ready for publication. Processions of academia robed in black gowns trimmed with velvet and shiny colored satin are parading on campus lawns with tasseled mortar boards in step to the strains of Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance.

None, not one, can compare with this graduation. None of those accomplishments can compare with what you have achieved. Those of you graduating today, our past graduates and our residents. Remember this day. Remember how you feel and who is sitting beside you. Who you are holding up and who is holding you to do what none of us can do alone, but we can do together.

Having taught school for about 25 years, I have heard many graduation speeches. I do know that everyone who has ever given a graduation speech, wanted it to be inspiring. I am no exception. So I thought I might share with you some of what has inspired me.

On my desks at school and at Thistle Farms, I taped quotes to guide my day, to keep my priorities in check. At school one of the quotes was one from Anne Frank, who with her family went into hiding when the Nazis occupied the Netherlands. They were betrayed and sent to the death camps where Anne died in 1945 at the age of 16. As oft-quoted part of her diary reads:

“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.  I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death.”  

Anne Frank had risen above, had  transcended the atrocities of the Holocaust. You, my friends, are forging ahead, remembering the past, but not letting the past define who you are today. You are building up your hopes on a foundation of healing love.

Another quote on my school desk was from an educator, Charles Fowler, who said:

“If we fail to touch the humanity of students, we have not really touched them at all.” 

Inspired by his quote, my goal for each of my students was to find her voice and cherish it - then use it to go out into the world and touch humanity.

My granddaughter, Maddie, at the tender age of either four or five taught me about finding your voice. I was driving her on a ghastly hot summer day to meet the bus for Camp Whippoorwill. She asked for my help on a personal problem. “Gitty," - the name she gave to me -  "I have been trying to decide whether to try to fit into the group or just be myself.” Weeks later I asked her if the problem had been resolved.  With bewilderment that it had ever been a problem, she cheerfully replied,

“Yes, Gitty, I found that when I am myself, I fit in just fine.” 

You, my friends, have found your voice and speak your truth. You and your courage have touched so many lives, brought so many people to their knees.  We cannot begin to comprehend the enormity of your sacred work.

One more quote that was on my school desk is from Albert Camus, a French philosopher and Nobel Prize winner.

“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”

You, my friends, have discovered your invincible summer, realizing that you can push back against the world with the stronger force of love.

On my desk at Thistle Farms I taped a quote from Micah, one of the lesser prophets of the Hebrew Bible.

“What does the LORD require of you? To do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Every time we light the candle in our mediation circle for the women who are still out on the streets and every time you tell your stories, we are fighting injustice.  In Nashville, in Africa, in South America. Even in Asia, that group of sweet ladies from Korea who loved our Holli. We are part of a global movement committed to women’s freedom.

God knows our world is in dire need with hundreds of terrified young girls captured in Nigeria, sexual assault rampant and our waiting list of one hundred women on our very streets praying for the sanctuary of Magdalene.

The last quote I ever taped to my Thistle Farms’ desk was:

“Dear God, Please help me live my every day through the lens of abundance rather than that of scarcity and that I end the day with more things done than left undone. Amen”  

That was written by Lisa Froeb in March 2013 three months before her death. We all loved Lisa and miss her deeply.  Lisa was a lover of mercy, a fighter of injustice, and she walked humbly with her God. She was a dedicated warrior for Magdalene and Thistle Farms.

We are charged with what Becca wrote about Lisa -
She walked with grace upon this earth.
We grieve her beautiful bounded body’s passing.
Seen in signs and memories she helps us walk through our mourning.
She calls like a saint for us to keep walking, keep loving, keep close, till we reach the other side of time on love’s eternal shore.

By Carole Hagan
Magdalene Board Member and Longtime Thistle Farms Volunteer

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Putting Down Roots

Life at Thistle Farms is made up of small victories, from recovery anniversaries to new jobs and promotions. For Chelle, a 2005 graduate of Magdalene and Thistle Farms Administrative Assistant, her newest victory is becoming a homeowner.

When Chelle went to the bank to get approved for a loan, she wasn’t thinking she would really buy a house. She knew her credit had improved greatly over the last few years and she just wanted to see if she could get approved. There were a few bumps in the road, like an old student loan that had been paid off but was still on her record, but Chelle knew her credit was good. A few month before she had applied for a credit card and been approved. “I knew I was growing up and my credit was climbing,” she said. When she was finally approved her first though was to tell them no, she didn’t want it. The thought of being a homeowner scared her. It was such at big step. But she knew she was growing up, and growing up met taking big steps.  

Chelle spent eight weeks searching for houses. “I didn’t want to rush the process, I didn’t want to end up with something I hated.” The house Chelle fell in love with was not as new as she was hoping (built in 1953) but it had been recently remolded and had a huge back yard, which was what really sold her. Chelle has three children between 6 and 14; the thought of having a big backyard with a back deck was more than enough for her.

The process between when Chelle started the paper work for the house to become hers and when she actually closed on it was the most stressful few weeks of her life.  “I really thought I was going to wake up one morning and someone was going to yell ‘psych!’” But no one came running around the corner to tell her no and before she knew it Chelle was the owner of a house. “I have moved so much. With my addiction I just kept moving. Putting down roots is another step in the healing process.”

“I still don’t feel like the house is mine,” Chelle said a few days before moving in. “I think I am still in shock.” In shock or not everyone at Thistle Farms is excited for Chelle and her family. They are putting down roots and growing together in ways they never thought possible.

Story by Julia Nusbam
Thistle Farms Intern

Photo by Peggy Napier

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Products with Purpose: iSanctuary and Thistle Farms Partnership

This year for Mother's Day, Thistle Farms has partnered with International Sanctuary to help mothers, daughters, sisters, godmothers and grandmothers on two continents celebrate the gift of freedom: freedom from the bondage and oppression of human trafficking. The Gift of Freedom pairs a handmade 23" brass and champagne bead necklace from iSanctuary with an award-winning Lip Smoothie from Thistle Farms.

The beautiful necklaces from iSanctuary symbolize a movement offering women freedom from lives of human trafficking. Founded in 2007, the organization has helped more than 200 women in Mumbai, India and Orange County, CA move from the sex trade into lives of safety and economic independence. Like Thistle Farms, iSanctuary offers so much more than a job. They provide their employees with vocational training, medical services, and a safe haven to heal.

The idea for iSanctuary was born after Stephanie Pollaro and Wendy Dailey visited India in 2007. They had to do something. Stephanie calls it her “moment” when her whole life changed. For the past 7 years, Stephanie has lived in Mumbai, coordinating production of a whole line of jewelry and training for the women making it. Now, she and Wendy work from Orange County, CA, overseeing operations and sharing the iSanctuary story. iSanctuary also employs women in Southern California, escaping lives of prostitution and addiction, to inventory, pack and ship the jewelry made in Mumbai.

The Thistle Farms team is excited to start an ongoing partnership with iSanctuary through the Shared Trade movement. Spearheaded by Thistle Farms, Shared Trade: a fair share for women, was launched at the Thistle Farms National Conference last year. Focused on expanding freedom and economic opportunity for women around the world, Shared Trade works to bring women permanently out of poverty through sustainable employment, recovery from violence, stewardship of the environment, and closing the gap between producers and consumers as a product comes to market.

For Mother's Day this year support the gift of freedom for women everywhere. To view more goodies from iSanctuary, visit HERE.

By Laura Herrod
Thistle Farms intern