“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through
experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition
inspired, and success achieved. ” Helen Keller.

A friend posted these words on Facebook today, and as I am struggling to create a foundation to empower communities in Afghanistan, be the best mother I can possibly be to my young daughter, and still find the energy and passion to be ME,  I find I need to dig deep.  These words are powerful, not just because I see its truth in all those I admire, but also because of who said them.  Someone who knows a little something about trial and suffering, about courage, and about the strength of the human spirit.  Something I see mirrored in the women in Afghanistan.  Like the deaf headmistress in Kabul at the school we are building, sitting in front of the camera like a modern day Madonna.

Having dedicated all of my limited financial resources three years ago to create and develop a non profit, Mountain2Mountain, to empower women and their communities in Afghanistan, I am facing the dark creep of doubt that sneaks in when times get tough.  If it was easy – everyone would do it I guess.  Having my young daughter, Devon, counting on me weighs heavily when faced with the realization that time’s a tickin’ and if I don’t complete the circle soon, I’ll be begging Starbuck’s for a job so I can pay the rent.

But the risk is so worth it.  Devon deserves to grow up in a world where her mother fought against the acceptance of rape, the oppression of women, and for the rights of girls her age to get the most basic access to education and healthcare.

The irony is that I now get why the ‘women who lunch in Chanel suits’ are often the ones most philanthropically active.  They can afford to be.  In order to make the sweeping changes needed to launch Mountain2Mountain, and to keep it moving forward while we develop our projects and programs in Afghanistan, it has meant that I’m struggling more than I ever have in my life.  Yet it all stems from my own struggle to assimilate my experience with sexual violence in my youth that led me down this path.  I can’t turn my back, I have to believe we will find the funding, we are too close to be hamstrung by something as mundane as money!

As my close girlfriend said on the phone a few weeks back, “you are so close, I can taste it”, and she’s right.  Our bold, innovative approach has developed because of my ability to get over to Afghanistan repeatedly to listen and learn.  We are so close to finding the funding, the sponsorships, the support that will sustain our growth and allow our programs to flourish across Afghanistan.   We are too close to fail.

Someday I’ll look back at this time and either laugh, cry, or breathe a sigh of relief.  For now, I work on knowing that what doesn’t kill us, only makes us stronger.   And I can’t let Devon down.

photo credit Di Zinno


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