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.

Tazreen Factory Fire: A Year Later, Survivors Feel Forgotten

 A year after the deadly factory fire that killed 112 garment workers at Tazreen Fashions Ltd. in Bangladesh, survivors and the families of those killed and injured say they have been forgotten by the factory owner, international buyers and the government.

A Dollar a Day

Years ago, I made an important choice.

As head of Women Thrive Worldwide, an organization that works to amplify the voices of women and girls in developing countries, I needed a better understanding of the lives of the roughly 829 million women around the world who subsist on little more than one U.S. dollar a day.

That’s why, for about 10 years, I’ve travelled to countries around the world to live with the women and girls on whose behalf we advocate. I work where they work. I sleep where they sleep. And I try to do it all on less than a dollar a day.

How My Family Transformed Our Christmas Giving

Two years ago, my son Jordan—a freshman in high school at the time—launched a chain of events that transformed an entire village half a world away. It also transformed the way our family gives during the holidays.

Turning Nonprofit Beneficiaries into Donors

This holiday giving season, I’d like to encourage you to give your neighbor half the cash in your savings account.

Sounds absurd, right?

Imagine you’re among the world’s poorest: you’ve never had enough for your family, let alone to spare. But today, for the first time, you will become a giver, and you will give your neighbor roughly half your wealth.

Can you even fathom what that might feel like?

I have witnessed this happen, and it’s one of the most powerful things I have ever seen.

A Great Gift: Community Fortitude in the Face of Disaster

When I first sat down to write this piece, Typhoon Haiyan was bearing down on the Philippines, where I live and serve as the director of the disaster response office of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). At the time Haiyan was a category-2 storm, it has since been declared one of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded and the UN has issued a level-3 emergency.


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