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News from Our Clubs

At the end of 2016, AWC Denmark was offered a unique fundraising opportunity: cooperation with the staff associations of the United Nations agencies located in Copenhagen to raise money for charity through the agencies’ celebration of UN Day on 28 October. An AWC member who worked for the World Health Organization (WHO), Mary Stewart Burgher, was asked to run the book-sale portion of the celebration, and to suggest a worthy charity to receive the money raised by the celebration itself. She was delighted to seize the chance to clear out the hundreds of books AWC Denmark had in storage and to suggest Association NEEED, which supports girls’ and women’s education in Burkina Faso, as the receiving charity. AWC had supported NEEED since 2007, and FAWCO donated annual amounts for six years, ending in 2016 (as FAWCO will soon select a new education project to be the focus of its Target Program).
 
Shortly before Christmas, AWC found out the total amount raised by the event. Hold on to your hats: the UN Day celebration raised a total of DKK 30,025 (over $4,200), which the joint staff associations have already sent to Association NEEED. 
 
For an overview of NEEED’s work (in French), see its website (http://www.neeed.org/); information in English is available on the website of the friends of Burkina Faso (http://www.friendsofburkinafaso.org/projects/neeed). AWC’s share of the total came from sales of the books in its storage room (while vastly reducing the amount it has to pay to store) and from sales of jewelry by another member, Cyntheia Singleton. Mary Stewart sends grateful thanks to the AWC members (and their children) who gave vital help as eager UN staff scooped up piles of books!
 
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Photo: AWC Denmark member (and now retired WHO staff member) Mary Stewart Burgher at left with UN Day coordinators at UN City, December 2016.

FAWCO Fever is a family affair for FAWCO Treasurer Cora Lee Findley (AW of the Eastern Provice) and her daughter Kristen Findley. Inspired by her experience at this year's FAWCO conference in Brussels, Kristen posted the following article on her blog. 

 

New post on Rogue AC

My 110 Hour Trip to Brussels, Belgium and Back

by carlstones
by Kristen Findley

I told myself a million times it was going to be ok if I didn't get all my miles in, if I consumed above average amounts of chocolate, waffles, and beer, and if my sleep fell short of the normal 7.5-8 hours. I wasn't going to Belgium to train; I was going to spend a few days with my mom at an international conference for a club that she is heavily involved in. Despite my excitement for 1) hanging out with Mama Fin and 2) visiting my 32nd country, I felt anxious as I boarded the plane about temporarily deviating from the typical runner life-style.

I had little idea of what to expect, but what I did know had me intrigued. I knew that the club was called FAWCO (Federation of American Women's Clubs Overseas), that my mom was treasurer on the board, that the conferences took place annually in a different country each year, and that my mom always returned from the conferences raving about how inspired and empowered she felt. What could possibly come of a weekend spent with 100 middle aged women and me in Brussels, Belgium!?

 Kristen 1

Mama Fin and me throwing back some Belgian suds

The conference was comprised of a series of meetings regarding the happenings of 2013, the agenda for 2014, motivational speakers, fundraising events, and workshops. Although my mom had explained to me what FAWCO was all about on several occasions, it took being there and experiencing it to really get a feel for it. FAWCO is a 2 fold organization comprised of representatives from 33 different countries. First, they work to resolve issues pertaining to citizenship and voting rights issues for Americans living abroad. Second, they are a not-for-profit NGO with consultive status to the United Nations that works to alleviate global issues such as human rights violations.

Every year, each of the clubs that belongs to FAWCO partakes in their own philanthropic projects unique to their area's specific needs, in addition to an overarching target project addressed by FAWCO as a whole. Last year, the target project was to dig wells in Cambodia so that the local population had access to clean water. This year, the target project is to help transition women who have been subjected to sex trafficking into a self-sufficient livelihood.

I was extremely moved to see so many passionate women willing to give their time and money, and be so proactive and creative in working towards what they believed in. I understood entirely the feelings my mom had tried to convey in years past and it was amazing for us to experience it together. The trip made me realize how easy it is to get all wrapped up in your own world and forget about the less fortunate out there. Putting it all into perspective, missing a few days of running WASN'T the worst thing in the world.

Lastly, I wanted to note another parallel experience I had while there: parent-child role reversal. No, I wasn't telling my mom that maybe her skirt was just a little too short, telling her that filet mignon isn't pronounced how it looks (fil-LET MIG-none), or explaining which wine goes with which type of meat. I was there supporting her in her passion and seeing her with her friends in her element. Parents come to our graduations and our track meets, but it is all the more rare that we attend their functions. I proudly watched my mom gracefully deliver a speech to a roomful of people, dress up in full-costume for the themed live auction, and be a general embodiment of class and fun over the course of the weekend.

I am so glad to have shared that experience with my mama (in addition to mussels, waffles, chocolate, a couple pints of beer, and many a good laugh).

Oh--- and I DID manage to run every day I was there :)

 Kristen 2

Me (left) and my ‘buddy’ (right). I was assigned as a first-time conference attendee at the around the world themed live auction.

P.S. Please, please check out the link below to learn about this year’s target project!!!! You can donate used bras to the Free the Girls Organization so that former victims of sex-trafficking can re-sell them.

freethegirls.org



AWG LR presidents May2016

AWG-LR Past Presidents, May 2016

The American Women’s Group of Languedoc Roussillon celebrated its 30th Anniversary on May 20th with a cocktail party attended by 60+ guests.  The first warm Spring evening of the year made the socializing and mingling even more enjoyable in the courtyard of a local wine estate.  Complete with good food and wine, lovely music played by a pianist, a slideshow of members and events across the years, and a special dedication to its founder, Dora Taylor, who flew over from the USA.  Another thing that AWG is thrilled to celebrate is the recent allocation of an office space.  After seeking a place to call home for 30 years, the City of Montpellier has given AWG-LR a beautiful, central headquarters.  This dream come true is a double reason to celebrate in 2016! 

Mary-Catherine Lombard
President, AWG-LR

Demolition QueenBetsy will donate a percentage of her royalty to the FAWCO Human Rights for Women Target Project from each Demolition Queen ebook or paperback purchased by FAWCO members, friends and family through Amazon. All you have to do is send Betsy a copy of your Amazon receipt.

Demolition Queen is Betsy's debut novel. She is in her second year as President of American Women of Surrey. She's lived in the UK for 17 1/2 years with husband and three sons (24, 21 and 17). She grew up in Charlotte, NC, went to Denison University and has a B.S. in Chemistry. Betsy loves knocking down walls, doing plumbing and creating art! 

 

Book Description
Knocking down walls, fencing like a pro, and guzzling champagne is all in a day’s work on Sam Albany’s demolition-action TV show.

So, life for this American in England is pretty darn great. That is until the ‘love-of-her-life’ fatally crashes into a Swiss mountainside and she marries Conrad who loves three things: a glittering aristocratic lifestyle, his successful anti-fraud company, and jealously controlling his new wife, Sam. 

That’s not the worst of it. Someone has hijacked the life-saving bio-technology her brilliant Mom developed. When people start dying, Sam sets off on the most bizarre and perilous scavenger hunt of her life. She kidnaps, demolishes, and shoots her way through Europe, determined to save the day. That’s if she manages to stay alive… 

Women from five FAWCO member clubs - AWC Berlin, AIWA Marrakech, AWG Languedoc-Roussillon (Montpellier), AAWE Paris and AWC Oslo - were part of the BBC's global "100 Women" debate on December 1st. Thanks to all for making FAWCO a part of this worldwide discussion on important issues facing women today!

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The American Women’s Organization of Greece held its Annual Christmas Bazaar on November 24, 2013  for the charities that we support each year through our community services program.  More than 175 volunteers from our membership, family members, friends and students from local schools turned out to work at the oldest and loveliest craft bazaar in Greece.  Despite torrential rain, our spirits were not dampened  and the Bazaar with the theme “Disney Comes to the Ledra” was a huge success, with plenty of good food, beautiful handicrafts, homemade American pies and cakes and many, many sponsors present to help celebrate our “65 Years of Giving”.  

The Ribbon Cutting Ceremony was held with Mrs. Virginia Bennett, DCM of the American Embassy, Mr. Detlef Winter, Manager of the Athens Ledra Marriott who is our major sponsor, Mary Latsey-Amvrazi, AWOG President 2013  and Jane Bizos and Nora Stamouli, Bazaar Chairpersons.  Our Grand Lottery had 75 wonderful prizes, all donated by companies here in Greece and our tombola had more than 500 prizes all donated.  The AWOG elves work all year long to produce this event and it is the great unifier of the organization, bringing all the membership together for this common goal. 

Community Services Chairperson Angelique Hatziantoniou and her Committee will begin the difficult process of selecting the charities we will support with the 15,000€ which was made on the day.  One of the charities we support each year is FOIVI, the oldest shelter in Greece for battered women, a cause that AWOG supports, and we held a lecture on Anti-Violence last spring at which the Director of FOIVI spoke.  

Some of the things we have done this past year through our community services committee were to hold a party for the children of SOS Village at Apokries and also to buy a laptop for the disabled athletes of St. Christophers who have won medals in the para-Olympics and needed the laptop to bring to matches.  These donations were in addition to the 18,000€ distributed from the proceeds of the Christmas Bazaar of 2012.  Our areas also do their own charitable work, through lotteries and donations at their area meetings, thereby bringing the total donations from AWOG to over 22,000€ last year.  As the crisis deepens here, the needs are greater and we find ourselves challenged to raise more money to help keep many of these institutions open – and oftentimes are asked to buy fuel in emergency situations. 

The new AWOG board will begin its work on January 1, 2014 and will be planning another fundraiser which will help ease the crisis here for the needy.  As I assume the Presidency of this wonderful organization, I realize the challenges that face me and look forward to ideas and suggestions from FAWCO  as to innovative ways to raise money for the many in need here.

Happy Holidays to everyone.

Jane Bizos, President-Elect
AWOG 2014-2015

AWOG Bazaar 3AWOG Bazaar 2

AWOG Bazaar 2013

AWC Brussels members Colleen Gilbert (FAWCO Rep), Stacy Seefeldt Shedivy (President) and Karin Wagner Smith, past board member (in order of interviews), were interviewed by the BBC concerning the lockdown in Brussels last week. View the video through this link

Rotterdam Alderwoman Korrie Louwes (and her family) was a special guest at our ANCOR Thanksgiving dinner. Korrie is responsible for Employment, Education, Innovation and Integration in Rotterdam. We gave her a briefing on the club and also the FAWCO Foundation. After listening to Johanna Dishongh's motivating and informative speech on Target and FAWCO – she posted this on her website about our dinner.

We raised 309 Euros from our raffle ticket for the Target Program. This dinner was such a great example of collaboration and meeting the goals of Region 4:

• We had over 50 people attend, including longstanding members who usually do not come to events – as well as 3 potential new members. One of the potential members, after hearing Johanna talk about the Brussels conference caught me during the evening and asked where she could sign up!

• AWC Amsterdam President Susan Alliers and her family were there as sister club representatives

• Target Chair Johanna Dishongh and her husband were there as representatives of AWC The Hague as well as Target speaker 

• We were able to set up a "chocolate bar" to help ANCOR member Courtney Jermyn-Van Der Zee advertise and sell her bon bons

• We now have the support of the Alderwoman, who has asked to set up an appointment for more collaboration.

Mary Adams, ANCOR FAWCO Rep

October General Meeting: “Tenacious Pursuers of Peace and Justice”

On October 21, 2015, AWA Vienna's monthly general meeting was a celebration of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. The meeting featured a talk on pacifist and Nobel prize winner Bertha von Suttner. AWA co-sponsored the event  with the US Mission to the United Nations in Vienna and the US Embassy Vienna. Over 100 people were present at Amerika Haus, including members of Vienna's international community, the NGO Committee on the Status of Women, the UN Women's Guild, and many students. US Ambassador to the UN in Vienna Henry Ensher made welcoming remarks. AWA Vienna was represented by FAWCO's UN Liaison Laurie Richardson, who introduced guest speaker Dr. Laurie R. Cohen.  You can read about the event on the website of the US Mission to the UN in Vienna.

Dr. Cohen earned a B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley, an M.A. from Yale University and a Doctorate from the University of Vienna. She is currently adjunct professor at the Universities in Innsbruck and Klagenfurt. A specialist in European history, gender studies and political social movements, she has written about Nobel Peace Prize laureate Bertha von Suttner and Mohandas Gandhi, among others.

When we hear the name Bertha von Suttner, we think of women pacifists and the Nobel Prize. But who was she really? American historian Laurie R. Cohen provided a thorough picture of Bertha von Suttner, the first woman and the first Austrian to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1905. In her presentation, Dr. Cohen described Bertha von Suttner’s entry public struggle against war and anti-Semitism, her dramatic confrontations in the Nobel Prize Committee and the effects of her work on the Austrian peace and women's movements.

October General Meeting: “Tenacious Pursuers of Peace and Justice”

On October 21, 2015, AWA Vienna's monthly general meeting was a celebration of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. The meeting featured a talk on pacifist and Nobel prize winner Bertha von Suttner. AWA co-sponsored the event  with the US Mission to the United Nations in Vienna and the US Embassy Vienna. Over 100 people were present at Amerika Haus, including members of Vienna's international community, the NGO Committee on the Status of Women, the UN Women's Guild, and many students. US Ambassador to the UN in Vienna Henry Ensher made welcoming remarks. AWA Vienna was represented by FAWCO's UN Liaison Laurie Richardson, who introduced guest speaker Dr. Laurie R. Cohen.  You can read about the event on the website of the US Mission to the UN in Vienna.

Dr. Cohen earned a B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley, an M.A. from Yale University and a Doctorate from the University of Vienna. She is currently adjunct professor at the Universities in Innsbruck and Klagenfurt. A specialist in European history, gender studies and political social movements, she has written about Nobel Peace Prize laureate Bertha von Suttner and Mohandas Gandhi, among others.

When we hear the name Bertha von Suttner, we think of women pacifists and the Nobel Prize. But who was she really? American historian Laurie R. Cohen provided a thorough picture of Bertha von Suttner, the first woman and the first Austrian to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1905. In her presentation, Dr. Cohen described Bertha von Suttner’s entry public struggle against war and anti-Semitism, her dramatic confrontations in the Nobel Prize Committee and the effects of her work on the Austrian peace and women's movements.

bertha


                                    Bertha von Suttner, 1873 (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

 

What was that delicious aroma wafting from the American Lutheran Church’s kitchen, you ask?  It was the AWC Oslo’s annual Thanksgiving Luncheon, and it was a delicious feast, indeed! There were festive, pumpkin- clad tables for the 60 members and guests to enjoy the wonderful meal.  Although this meeting was about conversation and good food, it was also about supporting a good cause. For many decades, the Thanksgiving luncheon has also been a fundraiser and though the cause the club supports may have changed during the years, the support of our members has not. This year, as in the past few years, the AWC Oslo Thanksgiving fundraising efforts go to the Oslo Crisis Center.

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Before the meeting started, members were able to get in some holiday shopping at the vendor booths that were set up for this meeting. There was jewelry and crafts galore to be bought with 10% of sales going to support the Oslo Crisis Center. 

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For the past few years, MatPrat, the Norwegian Meat Marketing Board, has generously donated the turkeys for the luncheon, giving the club the chance to earmark part of the luncheon fee to our fundraiser.  Betsy Bruns, our club’s caterer, prepared all of the Thanksgiving staples, including succulent turkey, mashed potatoes, carrots, stuffing, homemade rolls, gravy, and the crowd favorite, pumpkin pie! Everyone satisfied themselves to true Thanksgiving proportions, and chatted about their own Thanksgiving traditions and memories.

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Also included in the revenue raised, was an especially spirited raffle. With donated prizes from the vendors present, and a deluxe prize of a NOK 600 gift certificate donated by a local American café, Café Fedora, the Club was able to raise NOK 3015!  Bringing the total proceeds benefitting the Crisis Center to NOK 8510 (approximately $1420.) This also included the generous donation of the excess ticket money from those members who attended the Young at Heart concert. A truly fantastic result!  

 With all of the members full, and the holiday season officially opened, the ladies of the AWC Oslo left the luncheon with substantially lighter wallets, but praising our caterer’s food. It must be said that all the guests left in a pretty good mood for helping to continue the Thanksgiving tradition of raising money for a good cause! 

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 -- FAWCO Rep Kristin D. Haanæs, AWC Oslo

Before posting 140 bras to Free the Girls, Melissa Mash from AW Surrey had a bit of fun as seen in the photo:

AWS bras

AWA ROME HOLDS ITS ANNUAL GARDEN PARTY AT THE VILLA TAVERNA

Vera P. Weill-Halle

AWAR President, 2013-2014

AWAR_Villa_Taverna

From the left: Honorary President Linda Douglass, President Vera P. Weill Hallé, Honorary Vice President Kathleen Doherty and 1st Vice President Erica Zmitrovitch

As President of AWAR, I had the privilege on 26 September to open our club’s season with a Garden Party held at Villa Taverna; a beautiful residence of the U.S. Ambassador in Rome.  This event was made possible by the generous hospitality of our Honorary President, Linda Douglass, the wife of the U.S. Ambassador to Italy, John Phillips.

The American Women’s Association of Rome (AWAR) was founded in 1955 as a not-for-profit organization whose purpose is to “promote friendship among its members and understanding between Italy and the United States through community service, cultural and social activities…”

At the time of AWAR’s founding, then U.S. Ambassador to Italy, Clare Boothe Luce, became the first Honorary President of AWAR. Since that time, women Ambassadors, or the wives of the U.S. Ambassador, have continued in that role. 

The AWAR’s Garden Party at Villa Tavern has become a long-standing tradition, began sometime in mid-1960s, and thispremier event has permitted our members to enjoy over many years a superb garden setting, celebrate the start of the new season and mingle and interact with friends and guests.  The Association extends the invitation to the AWAR members and invites guests from the Italian and international communities.  

26 September 2013

A beautiful photo and illustration book has recently been published on Villa Taverna and available from a publishing company, Palombi Editori, http://www.palombieditori.it/.

The Region 4 clubs are closely bound by geography and have developed a unique collaborative regional approach to sharing events, news, and philanthropic projects. In May, Bosnia and Hercegovina were struck by disastrous flooding. Bosnian ANCOR club member Lejla Sipkar-Ceric sent out a plea to the Rotterdam membership: “The past few days my home country Bosnia and Hercegovina has been struck by tragic floods. People are still being evacuated, homes have been destroyed, these people have lost everything. Help is needed in material and financial way.”  

She included information from the Bosnian Foundation Platform (BiH) organization with Dutch coordination contacts, supply lists, and collection locations for members to make financial or goods donations.

Using social media and communications contacts, ANCOR alerted our sister clubs AWC The Hague and ACW Amsterdam about the desperate situation in Bosnia. Lejla stepped forward as a coordinator. Within days, all the Dutch clubs had made contact with BiH to support the rescue and recovery efforts with donations.

Mary Adams and Lejla Sipkar-Ceric
ANC Rotterdam

Maggie_with_bras_for_website

Now here is a new idea: philanthropic bras!  This is a fun and easy project in which we can all participate.  Free the Girls (http://freethegirls.org) is a small, non-profit organization in the US which supports women and girls in Mozambique rescued from sex trafficking.  (Four other countries are being added to the network in 2013.)  The organization was featured in a CNN Freedom Project documentary.  By partnering with safe houses and after-care facilities, Free the Girls provides an opportunity for these women to earn a living selling second-hand clothing while going to school, improving their health, and helping to provide for their families.   FAWCO’s EVAWAC Committee of the Human Rights Task Force has launched an initiative to collect new or gently-used bras for these women to sell.  The women are given a starting inventory, and then, with their profits, may purchase additional inventory below wholesale cost.  Revenue from sales to the women helps to subsidize program costs. AWG Languedoc-Roussillon is supporting Free the Girls and helped to fill a “Hope Chest'” with a donation of 26 “new or slightly used” bras which will be sent to Mozambique thanks to the Free the Girls project.  By donating bras, we are helping to provide jobs for former sex slaves.

On a recent trip to the US, I dropped off the club’s contribution at the Hope Chest, Philadelphia's "premiere lingerie shop." The shop first opened in Philadelphia more than twenty-five years ago, but then closed in 2006 in favor of a non-center-city location in Haverford, Pa.  It re-opened at 1937 Chestnut Street in central Philadelphia in 2012 with a "French-inspired, shabby chic, bedroom-esque theme" (www.hopechestshop.com). I found out about the shop by checking the Free the Girls website for drop-off points in the US during my vacation there and compared with stops on my itinerary.  The owner of the Philadelphia shop, who was a long-time manager in Haverford, took the photos of AWG-LR's contribution.  She found out about the Free the Girls project via their website after seeing the CNN Freedom Project documentary. Bras can also be sent directly to the Free the Girls domestic shipping address at 1552 Pioneer Trail, Chesterton, Indiana  46304, accompanied by the “Bra Donation Form” which is available on the Free the Girls website.  They suggest that you might want to make a financial contribution to help cover overseas program costs and shipping.  They call it "a buck and a bra." Melissa Swearingen Watson, National Director of Free the Girls, extended her heartfelt thanks to members of AWG-LR and any other FAWCO clubs which participate.  She said they love their FAWCO partners!

Maggie Palu
FAWCO Rep, AWG Languedoc-Roussillon

ComeOutPlayLogo

In conjunction with the Region 2 meeting in October, the AWC Oslo is holding a photo competition. This photo competition is open to all creative FAWCO and FAUSA members who like to "play" with a camera. In keeping with the regional’s theme, Come Out and Play, we are looking for any images that convey the message and spirit of the theme “Play”. The best photographs will be featured in a book with proceeds going to the Target Project.

Contest entrants are asked to submit photo(s) conveying the message and spirit of the theme “Play”. For those attending the FAWCO Region 2 meeting, there will be no charge for up to 3 photo submissions. For those not attending the FAWCO Region 2 meeting, the cost for photo submission is USD 5.00 per photo, with a maximum of 3 submissions allowed. The photographs will be featured in a book with proceeds going to the Target Project.


Entrants-

Must be members of FAWCO or FAUSA.


Topic-

Let your camera’s lens “paint” your own picture. Photos should reflect what "play," our conference theme, means to the photographer.


Submissions-

Deadline for submission: September 30, 2014.

Individuals are responsible for emailing their JPEG digital photos as an attachment to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

JPEG picture should have an expansion quality for one European Letter Page A4 - 5 MB.

Your email must include a comment or paragraph explaining why you took this picture, your name, your (or your affiliated member’s) FAWCO club’s name, and where the photo was taken.

Color, black and white, or sepia photographs will be accepted.

Maximum amount of pictures per person: 3

If you are not a FAWCO Region 2 meeting attendee, you must also pay a non-refundable administrative fee of USD 5.00 per photo entry (maximum of 3). Payments can be made via Paypal (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or through the bank. Bank payments should be made to "American Women's Club of Oslo" to the following account:

Account number: 7038.05.21839
IBAN:  NO61 7038 0521 839
SWIFT: DNBANOKK

Terms-

A panel will choose a selection of finalists. These finalists will be voted upon by participants at the FAWCO Region 2 conference to determine a winner.

Submission deadline is September 30th, 2014. Winners will be announced during the Region 2 Conference, in October 2014.

Proceeds generated from this fundraising campaign will support the FAWCO Target Project, “Free the Girls”."

Photos submitted become the property of the American Women's Club of Oslo.

Questions-

Please email any questions to Kristin Haanæs at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


REGION 2 MEETING

When the American Women's Club of Gothenburg discussed the planning of the Region 2 Regional Meeting, three recurring thoughts came up consistently: show them who we are as a club, keep it relaxed, and feed the guests good food! Looking back on the Region 2 Regional Meeting held on September 20-22 in Gothenburg, Sweden, I think we accomplished all our goals!

The weekend kicked off with the “traditional” dinner hosted by the AWCG's members. The AWCG is a club with an embracing spirit. It isn't easy to sum a club up in one in three words, but the AWCG is all about laughter, home, and family. So, carrying on the Region 2 tradition of a pot luck-style dinner was never in question. We just spiced it up a little by making it all about PIE. (An idea borrowed from our friends and neighbors, the AWC of Malmö!) The dinner was held at the club's regular meeting location, the Emigrant Museum in Gothenburg.

The next day, it was off to another museum, the World Culture Museum for the main conference day, “Thinking Outside the Box: which box would you choose?” Throughout the day, we heard speakers talk about daring to (re)define who we are, about when to embrace organizational thought (inside the box) in order to allow for creative problem solving (outside the box), and how to retrain ourselves to see something amazing in something seemingly mundane. And, of course, we ate. Cupcakes, sandwiches, a big lunch, carrot cake and, a fabulous vegetarian Indian dinner at a local hot spot. Oh, how we ate!

Turns out we needed the extra calories though because the unseasonably wonderful weather gave way to a nasty cold Gothenburg torrential down pour just in time for the Sunday walk. What are girls to do when the heavens are pouring down? Introduce the out-of-town guests to Swedish “fika” at the oldest building in the city, of course! (Fika = coffee + something sweet or a sandwich.)

After three days, everyone left Gothenburg happy, tired – and full.

Kara Fairchild

Region 2 Coordinatior
AWCG FAWCO Rep

Region_2_2013

On April 7, 2014 a few AWC Lebanon members had the unique opportunity to meet Paula Lucas, founder of the American Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center (AODVC). In the very congenial atmosphere of a board member’s home, we learned about the terrifying experiences Paula and her children went through with her abusive husband. Her courageous escape with her three boys, and the consequent problems she faced in the US, made us sit up and listen. Her suffering and final salvation prompted her to decide to help other American women in similar situations around the world.

We would have loved her to tell her story to all our club members, but time constraints made that impossible. We did invite two ladies from local associations Beit Al-Hanan and YWCA, which both offer crisis centers and shelter for abused women in Lebanon.

It was our wish to help Paula Lucas, by letting her know of local possibilities, if her US crisis center is contacted by American women in Lebanon.

We have these contacts and others through our charity work. The AWC has helped where it can, by giving much needed supplies and donations to the various organizations that help women, as well as other charities across Lebanon.

We concluded our meeting with refreshments which gave each one of us the opportunity to meet Paula, ask her questions and buy her book Harvesting Stones. It was an eye-opening experience that made us realize how fortunate we are in our own marriages.

June Bechara
AWC Lebanon FAWCO Rep

June Paula and Cynthia
 
L to R: June Bechara, Paula Lucas, Cynthia Abi-Habib

Coincidence, fate, serendipity, destiny, all similar words, describing that sometimes things are just meant to be. Such is the case with my involvement in the American Women’s Club of Dublin, FAWCO and the ISPCC.

When my husband and I moved to Dublin over five years ago it wasn’t for any other reason except for a dream come true. As a dual citizen (through my grandparents) I had always said that one day, some day, I’d live in Ireland. The impetus to finally take the plunge was when faced with a life-changing scenario: my husband’s brain tumor operation. There’s nothing like a little dose of reality to make you act on long held desires. 

We have never looked back and savor our life on this side of the pond. In 2008 as the Celtic Tiger was ending we were starting our life here. As we began to get settled into our routine with our jobs we joined our local parish church. With our financial and spiritual fitness on track I needed a bit of help in the physical realm. 

With the colder climate I was getting too ‘buddy-buddy’ with Shepherd’s pies and Apple Tarts! So I joined a nearby gym and as coincidence would have it I met an American lady there. She asked me if I had heard about the AWCD, which I hadn’t, and gave me the details. I didn’t really think much about it at first. I never felt the need for American friends here in Ireland (or so I thought*see footnote below), but what I did realize was lacking in my life here was community involvement.

I had always been engaged in charitable endeavors back in the States and I was looking for a way to give back to others in my new homeland. And the AWCD had many ways to give back, which I discovered at my first meeting. When I got home that day after the meeting my husband jokingly asked what activities and groups I had signed up for (he knows me too well). There were several, of course, but fate played its hand when at the meeting (the AGM) it was announced that all of the nominated board positions had been filled except one: the philanthropic chair.

I whispered to someone on the nominating committee that I had extensive experience with fundraising and event work, but since I was a “newbie” I didn’t expect to be the chair, just happy to offer my help. Apparently, no one seemed to mind that it was my inaugural meeting and before I could blink I was chosen as the chair!  That was my initiation. It was serendipity that the chosen charity that year was the ISPCC (Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children).

Myself a survivor of child abuse and neglect, I suppose I was unknowingly hand picked to be the philanthropic chairperson. I adopted an unwavering desire and passion to do whatever was necessary to raise money for the children helped by this wonderful charity. I said nothing to my committee or even the representative from the ISPCC about my past. Only my family and close friends knew about my hidden scars. Even while working one full time and two part time jobs I kept at it.

The ISPCC slogan, “Doing it for the kids” was my mantra. I spent that year dedicated to overcoming the people who said, “It’s a recession, you have to lower your expectations about how much you can raise.” With a fabulous committee and a supportive club president, we raised over 17,000 euro. We had various fundraising activities every month, whether a gala evening or a small bake sale, there was something for everyone that year. We put on events such as a family day for example and even a poker night. You name it, we did it! We were the “Little Engine that Could”!

Finally, on the day prior to our last fundraising event, I decided it was time I shared my story with the club members. However, when I spoke to them, I didn’t want it to be a downer, rather an uplifting and tangible version. It seems that often times in giving to a charity we don’t get to see those that are actually getting the assistance, which creates an emotional distance. But these members knew me, so I presented it in such as way as to thank them on behalf of the kids who couldn’t. Every club member that spent even 10 euro on a raffle ticket was making a difference in the life of a vulnerable child, and that child, if given the opportunity to say thank you, would mostly likely want to do just that. I know in my life there had been “angels unaware” and I wished I could have said thanks.

Since I am still here today I feel my life can be a living gesture of gratitude. I didn’t realize that my words had made such an impact to the club until Eileen Doyle approached me and offered to help with submitting a grant to FAWCO to benefit the ISPCC. She saw the passion in me, and realized that since the club had also gotten behind the fundraising efforts, maybe FAWCO would as well. Destiny is indeed sweet as the DG 2013 recipient of 4500 euro grant for “Around the corner, a world away” was the ISPCC. Eileen, Nancy Ward (FAWCO rep) and I attended the check presentation to the ISPCC this past week.

AWC_Dublin_check_presentation

It took place at the Cheerios for Childline (which is part of ISPCC) kick off breakfast. It’s funny how things happen for a reason, as Cheerios was one of the products for television advertising I appeared in as a child actress. I never actually saw any money from my work in the Cheerios commercial or any of the acting jobs I did in my youth because my mother spent it all on her drug habit. So in a strange twist of fate, I feel that the check presentation was a visible sign of something positive from something painful.  

I was delighted to see the money going to such a worthy cause. Sadly there are children in this world that can’t speak up for themselves. They are innocent victims of violence, neglect and abuse. They are blameless. Particularly in difficult economic times, their suffering can go unnoticed and unattended to if not for the help of all of us that are more fortunate. I feel fortunate to have not only survived, but also thrived from my past. I hope and pray that the children we are helping can grow up to be happy and healthy members of our community and pay forward the kindness. My wish is that they will experience the love and care they deserve and I won’t stop working towards that so long as I am alive.

So I want to thank FAWCO and those responsible for choosing the grant winners.  Those funds will go a long way to continue the cause. And I want to acknowledge the American Women’s Club of Dublin and my appreciation for my American friends in Ireland!

*Footnote; I really do need you after all!

There is a quote that says, “Coincidences mean you are on the right path.” I am delighted to get that confirmation and will continue to embrace those “meant to be” moments!

Bras, bras, bras!  AWBS (International Women of Berkshire and Surrey) joined the ever-burgeoning groups of women across FAWCO and the world that are helping women make lives for themselves after breaking free from the horrors of the sex trade. 

It was easy for our club to collect 85 bras in just a few months as every woman has a few ill-fitting bras in the back of her dresser.  A member took them to the US (hoping security wouldn’t ask too many questions about a suitcase full of colourful bras!) and sent them to  1552 Pioneer Trail, Chesterton, IN where they were sorted, counted and sent on to the women who will sell them as a way to create productive lives for themselves and their families.  It was fun, easy and a great way for women to help women.  Our board voted to send a check to the organization to help defray the costs of organizing and shipping.  Obviously many FAWCO clubs are getting excited about the project as Free the Girls was voted in as the new Target Project! 

Chris Lienert
FAWCO Rep, AW Berkshire & Surrey




Free the Girls pic

 

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News from Our Clubs showcases the varied activities of FAWCO's member clubs worldwide.

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