I opened the door to retrieve the package. There was no surprise there, as this has become a daily occurrence in the age of COVID. What was surprising, however, was that the package was for ME! Rectangular and pink, from “Urban Stems.” Flowers, but why? I read the card first. “Congratulations Madame Chair! Love, Justin, Alison and Josh.” My eyes welled up and the tears began to flow.
If there is meaning behind behavior, then what emotions had been stirred? Was I moved by my children showing they were proud of me? As a parent, I don’t believe I will ever stop being proud of my children’s accomplishments but now that they are adults, did this represent a palpable change? Were they proud that I had made the choice to redefine myself and assume a position of leadership? Were they proud that I am the first woman to be Board Chair of Crossing Thresholds?
I am the daughter of a mother and the mother of a daughter. It took going to Kenya to reconsider those relationships and where, as a woman, I want to focus my energy. It felt natural to want to disrupt the effects that a pattern of patriarchy and paternalism can have, as it clearly resonated with my own childhood experiences.
I too was taught to be “small,” quiet, obedient. So, little by little, I brought in programs to address the physical and mental health of all the students, but especially the older girls.
We started with sexual violence prevention and brought the “No Means No Worldwide” program to both girls and boys. We expanded into a literacy program that targets the most vulnerable girls. We had “Girls Club” meetings and discussed sexual and reproductive health, and listened to a podcast called “Shh! Periods,” and established a policy of distributing menstrual products. We partnered with the dance program, Cheza Cheza, that concurrently addresses social and emotional issues. The goal, I fervently hope, is that by providing the opportunity and skills, children learn to be proud of themselves!
Let me sit in this moment to take an inventory of what we can be proud of. Being part of a remarkable organization that provides opportunities in so many ways, for meaningful and positive change. The educational accomplishments of our students. The resilience of our friends in Kenya, despite unimaginably difficult circumstances. The tireless efforts of our teams in the US and on the ground. Thank you to our board, our partners in Kenya, and my family for their support as we continue this journey together, and for giving me this opportunity to be proud of myself.
I snapped a photo of my beautiful and evocative flowers and sent it off with a text to my children. “These are so beautiful but not as beautiful as the thought that is behind them. Thank you so so very much…”