Her name means blessing, and a blessing she is. Baraka never liked her name, but once her pastor father told her the meaning, she wouldn’t dare change it. Her name gave her identity, it brought freedom and empowered her, as she says, to bless people and be a blessing.
Baraka is the client care team leader for the IJM field office in Kigali, Rwanda and she is my hero. As we sat around the table, leaned in, and sipped our coffee this week we learned about the ridiculously hard but worthy work that IJM is doing around the world to transform lives and entire justice systems. My friend Jen wrote a fantastic post yesterday explaining the importance of the work that IJM does in developing countries, and I urge you to go read her post (here). Can we go back to my friend Baraka? Good, because I like talking about her. Baraka is the woman who makes IJM’s clients feel safe. She accompanies them to their interviews, facilitates counseling for them and more than that she gets to know them. It’s all about relationship with Baraka, and once she establishes that trust, her clients feel safe with her. Her goal, as a client care worker is to help her clients reach a level where they can freely share.
Rwanda has a young justice system, and counselors + client care for abused girls is still a developing program, yall. Baraka is paving the way and going before so many. I’m confident she’ll watch this country continue to raise from the ashes. In her words, “When God creates you with a purpose, he gives you the energy and passion you will need. Knowing God and knowing it’s not my work but Gods work through me.” If that doesn’t make you want to pull up a chair and have a cup of coffee with her, then well.
Baraka is the new face of advocacy in this country. She is rising up, building relationships and giving her life away for others.
fighter. campaigner. promoter. spokeswoman. ADVOCATE.
photo cred: Kelle Hampton
the same words could be used to describe every single one of our 600+ Noonday ambassadors around the country, and most definitely our leader + founder, and my good friend Jessica Honegger.
We too are advocates! We too are all about building relationships. This is a new way – and while it’s an idea that might be hard to grasp at first, please hear me out on this.
The reason why we advocate for and are able to create economic opportunity for the vulnerable in 10 countries around the world?
It’s our artisans.
The passion in our hearts is to empower them to create their own sustainable business. We aren’t giving them a hand out, but a hand up. We don’t believe giving these artisans a “hand out “is a sustainable long-term solution to poverty. Instead, we come alongside of them. We cheer for them, we are spokeswomen for them, we promote their work by creating a marketplace for them. We are creating dignified work for them.
Our desire is not only to advocate and empower them, but to watch them grow. We are delighted in the beauty of their work, and when they grow, we grow. We work together, the artisans and us. We are women, and they are women. Neither is better. We are growing and learning from each other along the way.
I learned so much this week from our seamstresses about hard work. I watched as Grace + Esperanze designed their first item all by themselves. I watched as they kept their cool working with material they hadn’t worked with much before. I watched their strength to press forward, to not give up, and to be proud of their work.
With all the #StyleForJustice team, 25 Noonday ambassadors and 13 seamstresses gathered today, Charlotte declared that our ambassadors give them more zeal to work knowing that their are women in America representing them.
With tears in her yes, Jessica told our group today that together we are “singing a song of empowerment, a song of justice” and I love the picture that we are each singing our notes and together creating a more beautiful world.
For me personally, becoming a part of our ambassador family has allowed me to be an advocate and voice for our artisans in vulnerable places all over world. The relationships I’ve built within the ambassador family and several of our artisan groups in east Africa are irreplaceable. These are my people, and I’m honored to use my voice and advocate for our artisans alongside of the ambassador family.
photo cred: Kelle Hampton
I’d love it if you would think about how you could use your voice and advocate as a Noonday ambassador. Why not?