Reflecting on the Legacy of a Great Man

On April 27, 1994, millions queued in line for their first opportunity to vote. One man came in a wheelbarrow, having no legs to bring him to the polls. He had waited his whole life for this moment and would not be denied the right because of a disability. And with his vote – a simple X because he had been denied the opportunity to learn to read and write – he helped end apartheid and made history, ushering in freedom for South Africa with Nelson Mandela as its leader. I was married to one of the poll watchers.

Implementing Human Rights Education: Setting Youth Up for Success

Why don’t we discuss human rights violations with our youth? Are we afraid of shattering the façade of perfection we have built around them?

The Gift that Can't Be Gift Wrapped

As nearly any guide book or travel magazine will tell you, my home country of Madagascar is indescribably beautiful. It’s heaven on earth for anyone who loves the outdoors, with a wealth of breathtaking landscapes. Within one island, we have rain forests, deserts, beaches and barrier reefs – and all of the wildlife pertaining to them.

Global Grandmothers

As the head of an organization that helps older people around the world, I speak with lots of grandmothers. And each time I do, I remember my own.

Giving the Gift of Yourself: Juliet's Story

The earrings are simple – a thin piece of pink plastic, almost like a small spear. They’re inexpensive, not from any known designer, but they are one of my most treasured possessions. They were made and given to me by Juliet, a young Kenyan woman I met several years ago while working on an advocacy film about the effects of abstinence-only sexual education.

Juliet is an extraordinary person, and the story that she shared in the film, and countless times since then, is one that I will never forget. With herpermission, I’d like to share it with you now: 

Education Provides Refugees Hope for a Better Future

(Washington, D.C.) November 25, 2013 -- "Education is a key in combating the evil of hatred, violence and war. I'm ever more convinced of that," says JRS International Director Fr. Peter Balleis S.J.

"Learning is a way to nourish, in a situation of utter despair, the hope in people, the hope in children. It is so important to get (displaced and refugee) children into school, to establish a routine of life. It is important to keep learning, it is a form of trauma healing in the midst of a conflict."

A Simple Dress that Transformed a Life

A young woman in a crisp white blouse and orange skirt handed me a gift wrapped in butcher paper and tied with string. Attached was this note:

Dear Renee,

We the Child mothers learning Tailoring in the centre

Are pleased to have you in our centre.

We give you an African dress we have made as a gift in


May God bless you.


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