My Arms Wide Open Core Action
Who we are
My Arms Wide Open is a foundation, which we founded in 2009, focused on creating change by working along side women, youth and children. Although our primary focus is in South Africa we have not limited our efforts to communities in South Africa as we work with aboriginal and indigenous communities globally. We are doing work in the Down Town East Side of Vancouver as well as in the communities of Bergnek, Limpopo and Cradock, Eastern Cape in South Africa.
What we believe
Our view is that the manner in which development takes place on an international scale needs to change to help create new avenues of funding that are direct to beneficiary communities collaborating with local and national governments rather than funding those governments directly. In other words, focus and prioritize the community, not the hurdles you have to cross in order to be able to do community development. This is an opportunity to get funds working where they need to be rather than large amounts of funding 'evaporating' as it lines the pockets and bank accounts
of a few. Not an easy task and one that will take courage to overcome the ego and greed we have bred worldwide, to this point in our evolution.
The projects that we participate and collaborate in are driven from within the community. It is about the empowerment and enabling of people to think and act for themselves and their communities. This is an important point. Many claim that same fact, but inadvertently lead͛ the community by speaking or acting on behalf of the community. Development does fall into broad categories, and we have 5 causes, but what is done and how it is done should always community driven with support and skills transfer to enable the community to create the change they see. This is a sometimes a
tough one to navigate as we each believe we are doing good and doing what benefits the communities and supports their needs. Think of it in these terms: We believe we should work alongside and with communities, never for;
We believe that we should not create any dependencies, so that if we leave or are not there the community continues to thrive, to build and to change remembering perhaps who we are or were but not needing us to continue; We believe that we should be working in the context of BY the Community FOR the community NOT FOR the Community BY the
Community – The former implies the community and it͛s members are leading, every step of the way. The latter implies that we may have inserted our ideas and interpretations of the communities needs and have then involved them to implement the solutions or initiatives.
We believe that our role is to ask only questions to be able to understand, accept and hear the true needs of the community; the answers lie with in and come from within the community
At My Arms Wide Open, we work and serve leading from 2 questions asked in two forms; First: Do the Children in your life know that you love them? Do the Children in your life know WHY you love them? Secondly: Do the Children of the World know that you love them? Do the Children of the world know WHY you love them? We ask ourselves these questions on a regular basis. The first is relatively easy to answer, the second not as easy. What I am doing in the world today working with children, youth and women that helps them to understand and accept their own value, their
contribution to their families and communities, their ability to do more? How do I put opportunity in front of the people I serve so that they can make choices for themselves? Give children opportunities to choose rather than having their circumstances dictate their actions just to be able to survive.
You matter and YOU are worth it
One of our key approaches is working with mothers, youth and young adults to be able to accept and own their own story and then use that story to take a leadership role in their own lives. We lead all our engagement and community development with Mindset and helping members of the community who choose to participate to understand that
their past is their past, and it counts; they do matter and they are important; and that they do have skills and are able to make contributions and add value to the development and future of their communities. This is done through our Iziko Labahlali program, which means "Hearth of the Community".
Part of Iziko Labahlali is the initiation of the community planning process whereby the future vision of the individual is extended to the community. This includes discussions and planning around policy and governance development and implementation.
Can people really change? Most ask this question as a judgment or because they have already judged another person or group. Our thoughts:: As humans we are in balance and as such have both 'Good' and Evil', 'Love' and 'Hate', etc., all
within us. The reality is that for some of us as a result of our circumstance, our environment and our experiences we have been exposed to only the 'Evil' has been called from within us. We believe that if we focus on and call on and giving opportunity for the 'Good' to surface in people it will. Now if that is the 'change' you are speaking of, then yes people can change, just ask them the right questions, treat them as equals and present the 'right' opportunities.
I'm passionate and I believe ... In people and the ability of people to embrace their communities and create change. In the goodness, kindness, acceptance, understanding, compassion and empathy inherent in each of us. People just need
to be seen, heard and called upon to see the light versus the dark. The power of 'good' versus that of 'evil'. It's not so much about God. For me I see it as, after all we each were given free will and the power to choose. My role is to facilitate a different choice and one that nurtures versus one that destroys.
With MAWO you know exactly where your money is going. Our projects are real and you can touch them and pick up the phone and find out what is happening and going on - transparency and accessibility.
First Steps in our Journey
In Cradock we supported a community initiative to turn houses into homes by making affordable, good quality furniture. The business is now in it͛s second year and employs 10 members of the community and is growing and growing looking for new community opportunities to invest in and support themselves.
We have run our Iziko Labahlali program in Cradock, Eastern Cape, Bergnek, Limpopo and the Vancouver Down town Eastside for over two years now having had the opportunity to work directly with nearly 200 people with an indirect positive effect on over 3,000 people around those individuals and much more to come.
In Bergnek, Limpopo we have supported the start of a new community owned business (Watch the video to see more) call GirlStuff.Period, which manufactures reusable, washable menstrual kits for girls, helping them to stay in school. Along side that we have built the first of the My World In a Garden Sister Walls in Bergnek (Watch the video to see more) which is growing and ready to provide over 30 families with the fresh vegetables each week. In March 2013 we will build the wall in the Vancouver Downtown Eastside at the Ray-CAM Center, supporting the Ray-CAM food bank. This is a project that will be managed and run by the Youth leaders of the Ray-CAM. Why we do it
Personally, I love what I do and am grateful for each of the people in my life. I have had so many wonderful opportunities presented to me in my life, that I have been able to take advantage of, and that have brought me to where I am today. I want the people I serve to have opportunities too. Opportunities to be able to choose for themselves what
their future will look like and the tools and skills to create their visions for themselves and their families and communities.