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AIWC Cologne on "Marrakech, Girl Power, and the Verge of Tears Tour"

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by Robin Meloy Goldsby, FAWCO Rep AIWC Cologne

May, 2011

Marrakech, Girl Power and the Verge of Tears Tour

What a week! Representing the AIWCC in Marrakech was one of the highlights of my peripatetic life. How I wish I could have taken each of you along to witness the joys of attending an annual FAWCO conference.

It’s difficult to describe the conference vibe without mentioning FAWCO fever, a swell of emotion that has overtaken me each time I’ve attended a conference. FF isn’t just a philanthropic high, but something deeper. You know that puffy-throat feeling you get right before you burst into tears? I felt like this for much of the week in Marrakech.

Take two hundred open-minded women—most of them representing clubs like ours—put them in a conference room together, and watch what happens.  It sounds corny, but in Marrakech, little by little the world changed for the better, and, I swear, the atmosphere buzzed with an almost palpable electrical charge. When I attempted to describe this feeling to AIWCC board members, Jenny Taylor smiled and said, “Oh, that’s girl power.”

We count, ladies. Along with our sister clubs we are doing important work. We are women. We may not roar, but we are 15,000 strong and we make a lot of very meaningful noise.

The programs FAWCO has initiated to better serve the international community—the Target Water Project, Development Grants, Education Awards, Emergency Relief Fund, and numerous other endeavors—remind me that women who stay focused and work together can build sturdy footbridges over raging rivers and shaky ground.  You’re part of the construction team. If you buy raffle tickets or bid on handbags; if you donate to clothing drives or patronize club charity concerts; if you attend AIWCC activities, carb-loading breakfasts or the occasional wine-inspired event—you’re contributing to the social and financial welfare of the AIWCC, and building the very strong “girl-power” network that makes up FAWCO.

In Marrakech, incoming AIWCC President Janet Davis and I sat side by side each morning in a conference room set up like the United Nations assembly. At one of these general meetings, the AIWCC was acknowledged for sponsoring the Right to Food and Water Development Grant. As your representative, I accepted this honor on behalf of our club with tremendous pride. I felt as if the entire AIWCC Board, Marie Benedicte Luxem and her Charity Committee, past President Julie Holter, and every single person who attended the 2011 Charity Gala were standing next to me. Part of the money we raised at our gala will pay for the Right to Food and Water Development Grant, awarded to the Water for Mentawai project in Sumatera Utara, Indonesia.

The Water for Mentawai project provides water storage tanks for a permanent supply of uncontaminated water in a village where no tap water is currently available.  Diarrhea, dysentery, cholera, and typhus are common. YBTI, the organization supervising the project, has built housing facilities for teachers in learning centers and a dormitory for children who come from remote villages to study in the center in South Siberut.

The AIWCC funds will be used to purchase and install five water storage tanks to replace reservoirs damaged by the 2010 earthquake, whose epicenter was near the Mentawai Islands.  These tanks will provide a constant supply of clean water, not just for the dormitory, but also for the 700 residents of the village where the dormitory is located.

The grant is a big deal to the 700 Mentawai residents whose lives will change once the water tanks are installed. But it’s a big deal for us, too. What started as a small group of women (your AIWCC Board) tossing ideas back and forth about the best way to celebrate our club’s 50th anniversary, will result in clean water for an entire village in Indonesia. How great is that?

Our club’s achievement has given me faith in human potential—the way a chain of good intentions and deeds can result in a noteworthy action.  I wasn’t the only conference attendee choked up by a sense of accomplishment. My colleagues, experiencing similar successes with projects put forth by their own clubs, claimed to feel that same verge-of-tears throb at the back of their throats. At the conference we often found ourselves too overcome with emotion to speak individually, but, as the week wore on, our collective voice grew stronger and clearer.

Janet and I attended seminars on gender violence, domestic violence, and the role of advertising and the way it promotes negative body images for women and girls. We took part in tax and voting seminars, a United Nations workshop, and a session with the American Ambassador to Morocco. We were treated to a seminar about financial success abroad, community and club leadership, and ways to motivate our members to become more involved with FAWCO.

Although we were busy with workshops from 7:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. every day, our evenings—well planned by our Moroccan hosts—were luxurious, exotic, and a glorious way to connect with our sister clubs.  The Moroccans have hospitality down to a cumin-scented science.  Wine, couscous, a couple of percussionists and belly dancers, and, hey, you’ve got a party.

We laughed a lot, we cried a little, we embraced the expatriate bond we share and felt grateful for the chance to belong. We got down to work. Call it girl power; call it FAWCO fever; call it beautiful.

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