There are so many platitudes or maybe they are idioms regarding "one step at a time" or "one bite at a time". Yet after 20 years I find truth in them. I never would have thought that I would have helped build the #1 school in Sierra Leone that educates over 700 children or created an international psychosocial FGA program that changes peoples lives or helped build the capacity of many organizations that have touched so many more people, except, I just didn't stop taking the next step or the next bite. So 20 years later, LemonAid Fund gave out 20 plaques of appreciation and 20 certificates to our first group of National Trainers of FGA and my heart was singing. So many shared stories around the room. So much satisfaction of what we had been led to do together. There was Fody who, at first, couldn't articulate his gratitude for the years of scholarship support he received from LemonAid Fund and the emotional support he got from Francess along the many years since he lost his parents in the war. There was Rugiatu (Nene), Christiana and Aminata. long supported by LemonAid Fund in their courageous stance to end the cutting of FGM, who slipped in late apologizing for the dust on their shoes as they had just come from the Bondo Bush (where only those who have been initiated/cut are allowed) to help stop FGM. There was the Secretariat of the Human Rights Commission listening eagerly to what LemonAid Fund had done to promote human rights over the years as he was new to his position. There was Mr. Scott the Ministry of Development and Economic Planning representative of the Non Governmental Organization community in Sierra Leone who said, "MoDEP needs to be handing out awards to organizations like yours". And the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Social Welfare Gender and Children's Affairs stood up and not only launched LemonAid Fund's Vision One Million FGA but she went on to lift our other work with the ministry over the years including that the Ministry would get on board to end FGM!! And the stories go on as wide as the smiles in the room with no smile bigger than mine. "I did that!" with a GREAT deal of help from my FRIENDS and FAMILY and those committed to helping themselves and helping others who are asking for help. I am deeply appreciative of all of you who helped make this happen with me over all the years.
Congratulations to the Honorable Dr. Isatou Touray on her appointment to Vice President of The Gambia. The story of Dr. Isatou and her then organization Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices (GAMCOTRAP) goes back to 2016 when Vicki and I brought six The Chicago School of Professional Psychology students to The Gambia. This was one of the 10 countries LemonAid Fund piloted the Forgiveness, Gratitude and Appreciation (FGA) Approach before launching it on the 22 February 2019. It specifically looked to provide healing of the trauma girls and women experienced during initiation and the cutting associated with Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The women and men of GAMCOTRAP were so selfless that some had spent time in prison, literally lost their hair and had been ostracized for their work.
When I first met Dr. Isatou, she looked deeply into my eyes and said, "I dreamed you were coming to help us. I have seen you in my dreams". There were countless Godincidences during our 10 day stay in The Gambia, however, one of the first stands out to me. As part of an initial meeting with new organizations I have people set an intention for our work together and then have them select an angel that best reflects that intention for themselves and the group. It is always a powerful exercise. This time was no exception. Dr. Isatou picked the first angel for our time together "healing". Then 20 other people picked other angels and we wrote each of them on the board. I was the last person in the circle to pick my angel. Now I have to say that I've had the angels for years and years and there are a few duplicate angels, not because the cards came that way but because the angels have found there way into the bag. I also picked "healing'. The connection between Dr. Isatou and Dr. Nancy was noted by everyone. It created a foundation for trust and a friendship.
As we left The Gambia, Dr. Isatou voiced her desires to run for President of The Gambia to make much needed changes. Although not President, being the Honorable Vice President is pretty close to her dream coming true. Wondering if LemonAid Fund will be back in The Gambia to implement a nation FGA program to help heal not only those who experienced the trauma of FGM, but to help build resiliency and well-being throughout the country for another dream come true.
An evening to remember February 22, 2019. Looking out over the sea of faces and seeing 23 years of your life right in front of you is an amazing feeling. From three original Kids in Distress (KIDS) members I trained in 1996 in psychosocial techniques who were the precursors of FGA to a former member of the National Commission for War Affected Children where I helped conduct a National Children's Strategy after the war to representatives of the Ministries and our Network Partners throughout the years. When expressing my great gratitude I must start with Francess Browne for helping to make miracles happen from the Sierra Leone side. Without Francess LemonAid Fund may not be here and definitely would be so successful. She has been the bug that has been the catalyst for so much of what LemonAid Fund has done over it's 20 year history (and even before as a KIDS trainer). While I was evacuated out of Sierra Leone by the UN, Francess was chased out as rebel's burned her house and shot at her as she ran with nothing but a lapa (a piece of material used to wrap around a woman) and her 5 year old daughter. I flew home and she was left to wander in the bush for days and make her way to Guinea (the neighboring country) on her own. She has given tirelessly over the past 20 years to help her fellow Sierra Leoneans and grow LemonAid Fund as a volunteer.
But then without Vicki Browne (just incase you need clarification, no relation to Francess Browne) where would the global Vision One be? I am deeply grateful for Vicki who has been there in over 6 years and 10 countries as the Vision One Million FGA has taken shape. It is rare that you can find a friend (48 years) and a volunteer work mate that brings joy to your life and makes a difference in the world. It is rarer still to find someone who will take the Postal Bus in Uganda, 11 modes of transportation across El Salvador through Honduras to Nicaragua and sleep under mosquito nets across the world without complaint.
And for the fabulous week of workshops, visits to villages, planning for the future and celebration, my appreciation to Kathy Reinhardt (who came on a second trip with LemonAid Fund) and her boys Quinn and Oliver can't be expressed enough. Because of their willingness to step into the unknown and support LemonAid Fund, LemonAid Fund was able to make dreams realities. They didn't flinch when I explained how to flush a toilet with a bucket of water provided, they asked well thought out questions when meeting a young girl who told her story about finding the safe house to escape Female Genital Mutilation and were willing to squeeze into the car for yet one more bumpy ride so we could visit a school or a group of people unexpectedly added to the list because they were excited to see us. It does take a village. Together we celebrated! You will read more in another post of our evening highlights and visit upcountry to just a couple of LemonAid Fund's Network Partners. Peace, Nancy
Dr. Nancy Peddle Founder of LemonAid Fund and Vicki Browne Liaison for LemonAid Fund, friends since 1972 and co-adventurers and passionate people supporting positive and lasting change globally, write about their experiences and invite others to share theirs along the way.