WHY I WANT TO ADOPT

I've always wanted to adopt. For whatever reason, I have no desire to have a biological child. Having a child is not a bad thing, of course, but I feel called to adopt. Ricky and I had very candid discussions about this when we were dating so he knew this was the position of my heart from the very beginning. When we tell people we plan to adopt, we often get a very surprised reaction followed by a lot of questions. While I appreciate the interest and excitement, I long for the day when adoption is the norm because right now, I'd say more often than not, it's seen as a last resort. I want to change that. I want adoption to be seen as "Plan A" when it comes to starting and growing a family, not a last resort. 

So why do I want to adopt?

1. IT REFLECTS THE GOSPEL

As a believer in Christ, I have been adopted into the family of God. The Gospel is a story of adoption so I don't know of anything that can physically represent the Gospel more than adopting a child into your own family. As you already know, identity is a big deal to me. I identify myself through my faith and the family I'm now a part of. I have inherited everything in the Kingdom of God. I'm a co-heir with Christ. So how beautiful it is to open your heart to a child and say, "Everything I have is yours. You did nothing to deserve this. You don't owe me anything. There's no way you can repay me. Just receive and be mine."

Sound familiar? 

I was recently talking to a friend about adoption and she said something that has stuck with me. She was telling me that her pastor said he wanted their church to look like heaven so she thought, "I want my family to look like heaven." I love this so much because when you're adopting you have no idea what the child is going to look like or where he or she will come from, but none of that matters. Love sees no color or socioeconomic status. It simply sees individuals for who they are. I can't wait for my family to look like heaven! 

2. THERE'S A HUGE NEED

The number of adoptions have declined over the years. The difficult and costly process that's in place is partly to blame, but I also think part of the problem is that people aren't taking the Word of God seriously. A daring statement, maybe,  but when I see God's heart for the orphan and the commands to take care of them, I can't help but spring into action. And while I understand that not everyone feels called to adopt, I do think we're all called to care for orphans in a multitude of ways. Being a part of God's family means we get to participate in the works of justice that He puts before us and our world is full of opportunities to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Church, let's take hold of these opportunities to love and serve those around us and around the world with our whole hearts. 

It's hard to get a clear understanding of the numbers, but according to Christian Alliance for Orphans, "although reflecting only broad projections, the estimated number of orphans globally currently reported by the US Government and UNICEF include: 

  • 17.8 million children worldwide have lost both parents (“double orphan”).  
  • 153 million children worldwide have lost either one parent (“single orphan”) or both parents.

One of the greatest weaknesses in these global orphan estimates is that they include only orphans that are currently living in homes. They do not count the estimated 2 to 8+ million children living in institutions. Nor do current estimates include the vast number of children who are living on the streets, exploited for labor, victims of trafficking, or participating in armed groups. Thus, global orphan statistics significantly underestimate the number of orphans worldwide and fail to account for many children that are among the most vulnerable and most in need of a family." 1

Regardless of the accuracy of the statistics, we must all realize that orphan care is a real and huge need all around the world. It's my prayer that more people will rise up to care for and defend the orphans. 

I want to leave you with a story from one of our trips to India. We visited an organization where a couple has adopted 37 girls. They have 2 biological children as well, but there's no difference in the way they treat them. The mother of this home was sharing with us that some of the girls were feeling a bit insecure and pointed out the fact that they weren't her biological children. I will never forget her words. She told them, "they might have been born from my womb, but you were born from my heart." I plan to tell my sweet babes this same message some day.

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(1) http://www.christianalliancefororphans.org/wp-content/uploads/Christian-Alliance-for-Orphans-_On-Understanding-Orphan-Statistics_.pdf

DO YOU KNOW HOW PRIVILEGED YOU ARE?

 

Privilege: n., a right or benefit that is given to some people and not to others- Merriam Webster Dictionary

I do not consider myself a privileged person. I’m a twenty two year old office manager living in Brooklyn. Most of my salary goes towards rent and paying down student loans. My apartment is modest and my spending carefully budgeted. I feel like I know what privilege is. Privilege is The Real Housewives of Wherever. Or the well dressed lady I see walking out of her Park Ave apartment into a waiting car. Privilege looks nothing like me. And yet….

I know how to read. Roughly one in ten women don’t.1 If knowledge is power, then the ability to read is the key to the engine. How is anyone supposed to lift themselves out of poverty if they can’t read their own name or keep their own business records?

Second, I can practice whatever religion I want, or practice no religion at all, which is more than can be said for millions of people around the world. If I had been born in Iran, Sudan, or Afghanistan I could be killed by the government for expressing my religious beliefs, or any religious beliefs at all.Even many countries that by law allow freedom of religion do not adequately protect their citizens from religion-related hate crimes. A government that gives its citizens the right to practice the religion of their choosing but does not prosecute offenders who attack others based on their religious beliefs, is no safer than a government killing its citizens themselves.

These are just two examples, but the list of privileges I have seems to grow every time I think about it. I make over $40,000 per year while a quarter of the world lives on less than $2 per day.3 I trust my local law enforcement to protect, not exploit me. I have access to the medication I need to survive. I’ve never wondered where my next meal would come from.

Although I’ve worked hard to get where I am, I have to recognize that so much of the life I lead is due to pure circumstance. I am no better, no smarter, no more deserving of privilege than a woman of the same age who lives in India or Bangladesh or Afghanistan. I feel what can perhaps be best described as survivors guilt. This guilt coupled with a love for my fellow human beings motivates me to seek change in the world. But what can one girl do to effect change in a world so full of brokenness?

I do my best to use my privilege to help others and I would encourage anyone who is reading this to do the same. It can take many forms. Perhaps you set up a recurring donation to a cause you feel passionate about. Or maybe you volunteer your time to help an organization that works to give others the basic rights you take for granted. Or even use your talents to work for a non-profit. It’s your call, but a call that should not be ignored. As Voltaire wrote, “All people are equal, it is not birth, it is virtue alone that makes the difference.”


So I challenge you to make a difference by using the privilege that you never asked for, to privilege those who never had a chance to ask.

 

Written by: Tahlia Prindle 

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(1) http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2014/jun/17/literacy-women-illiteracy-development

(2) http://iheu.org/you-can-be-put-death-atheism-13-countries-around-world/

(3) http://www.unmillenniumproject.org/resources/fastfacts_e.htm

 

NOMI NETWORK

I have had the privilege of working with and getting to know the ladies behind Nomi Network over the last couple of years. They are such a joy and are doing really amazing things in the lives of women and children in India and Cambodia. I've been inspired by their growth and relentless pursuit of freedom for the women they serve.

Photo by davidgoldmanphoto.com

Photo by davidgoldmanphoto.com

Nomi Network was the result of a trip that co-founder, Diana Mao, took while doing research in graduate school. In her words, "at the age of 25, I was a graduate student at NYU learning about issues such as poverty, human trafficking, and other pressing global issues. Stats thrown around in class were truly meaningless to me until I witnessed the horrors of sex trafficking first hand in Cambodia while conducting research for a micro-finance bank. The research brought me to some of the poorest and most remote villages in Cambodia. It was there that I met a single father with seven children. He offered his youngest daughter, no older than seven years old, to one of my male colleagues. As I looked into the father’s eyes, I could tell that he was desperate and did not really want to give her up. In Cambodia, some children are sold for brutal sex, and others are chained to a sewing machine in a sweatshop. This encounter left a lasting impression on me. It is clear that poverty is a breeding ground for traffickers to prey on young girls. After coming back from Cambodia, I was determined to do something, and in 2009, I co-founded Nomi Network, a non-profit organization named after Nomi, an eight-year-old survivor of sex trafficking."

Photo by davidgoldmanphoto.com

Photo by davidgoldmanphoto.com

Nomi Network’s mission is to create economic opportunities for survivors and women at risk of human trafficking by equipping them with leadership, entrepreneurship, and production skills to become financially independent. This happens through their unique training methods and program model

Last year, they trained over 100 women and created over 300 jobs in some of the most poorest and remote parts of the world where slavery is prevalent. Nomi Network has been effective at increasing wages by at least 200% in some cases and moving women to advanced career paths including becoming entrepreneurs in their villages. They helped support over 1,200 children last year through their programs and the sale of our awareness raising products, the “Buy Her Bag, Not Her Body” collection. This collection can be found through select retailers, on their website,

Photo by davidgoldmanphoto.com

Photo by davidgoldmanphoto.com

You can shop at Nomi Network and feel confident in knowing that every purchase you make is greatly impacting and improving the lives of women and children around the world. I would highly recommend this tote. It's SO versatile! It folds up into a small pouch that's easy to carry/pack when not in use, it's extremely durable (I use it as my reusable grocery bags), and ultimately, it empowers and brings dignity to women - it doesn't get much better than that. 

I want to say a big thank you to Diana and the rest of the Nomi Network team for your unwavering passion to end human trafficking in our lifetime! 

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CONFESSIONS OF A FORMER FAST FASHION JUNKIE

I am a proud bargain-hunter. If there’s a coupon, I’ll clip it. If there’s a sale, I’ll shop it. In fact, paying full price for something feels like defeat to me. My love for finding deals is partially because I’ve had to survive on a limited budget for a long time. Living in one of the most expensive cities in the world and putting myself through school meant having to scrimp and save in every way possible. But I also bargain hunt because I like the thrill of it. I pride myself on not falling for savvy marketing ploys or paying more for something because of a brand name. In my mind, it’s me against the big guys and with each buck I save, I win. 

Or at least I thought I was winning until I learned that my affinity for all things cheap was actually fueling the exploitation of people halfway around the world who had far less than I did.

Let me explain. I love clothes and luckily for me, I’ve come of age during an era when clothing is cheap thanks to to the overwhelming presence of fast fashion retailers. For those unfamiliar with the term, fast fashion retailers are stores that sell on-trend clothing at rock bottom prices. They can do this by producing large quantities, using cheap materials, and turning merchandise fast. They are stores that sell $8 dresses that last maybe two or three wears before falling apart. They are everywhere these days and are becoming increasingly the norm in shopping centers across the country. 

The problem with fast fashion is that due to the size of these retailers and the massive amount of product they churn out, it is almost impossible for them to ensure that the people actually making the clothes are being treated fairly. It’s a multi-layered problem. First, there’s the issue of lack of transparency. Almost all retailers have some sort of auditing program in place to make sure their factories are up to standards. But it is easy for a factory owner to clean up their factories and coach workers into saying the right things when an auditor comes. A factory worker who feels lucky to even have a job is not going to speak up for herself if she risks losing it. 

shirts_revivelifestyleblog

The use of subcontractors is also a huge problem.  Many factories will get orders from retailers to produce garments. But the factory owner may outsource some of the work to another factory. This may happen because the original factory has simply too much work or because the factory owner knows the work can be done at a cheaper cost, reaping more of a profit for himself. This happens without the retailer's knowledge, although it is a retailer's responsibility to be aware of how much production capacity a factory can take on. Sub-contracted factories will not undergo the same auditing procedure as the original factory so especially in countries who do not have a minimum wage or the right to unionize, it is very difficult to ensure these workers are being treated fairly.

The young women who work in these factories have little if any knowledge of their rights, and rarely resources to fight back should these rights be violated. If you’ve never been told that you deserve a break during a 12 hour shift, are you going to ask for one? Probably not, especially if you are one of the few people who has a job. 

What truly breaks my heart is that according to the most recent data, the global apparel market is valued at $1.7 trillion. Yet there are many places around the world where women choose prostitution over employment in a garment factory. Not because prostitution is a lucrative career but simply because they can earn marginally more by selling their bodies than toiling for 12 hour days in a factory. It’s a simple choice of survival over starvation.


I soon found that I could no longer walk into a fast fashion retailer without envisioning the impoverished women and children who made my clothes. In place of the thrill that I once got from purchasing a shirt for less than I’d pay for a glass of wine, was the guilt of valuing my convenience and vanity over the well-being of others.

Contrary to popular belief, paying workers a living wage does not result in significantly higher retail prices. In fact the cost of labor for a $14 t-shirt that is made in Bangladesh is only 12 cents! 2 Tripling the wage of workers would result in only a 78 cent increase in retail cost. If my 78 cents means a worker in Bangladesh can take home three times as much money everyday to feed her family, I’m more than happy to pay it. And I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t be. Unfortunately though, ethical production is still a niche market. So you will rarely see ethically made clothing even close to the prices of fast fashion retailers. Because economy of scale has not been actualized by these retailers, their prices are sadly exhorbitantly higher than most high street retailers. 

dresses_revivelifestyleblog

Because I still live on a limited budget, I could not realistically invest in these brands all the time. So I came up with a strategy to live out my beliefs.

When I need something right away at a low cost, I go thrifting. The price of the garments is comparable to those at fast fashion retailers. And the quality is better, I promise. Most thrift stores won’t accept items from fast fashion retailers based on quality. 

When I need to buy an item that I will wear frequently (shoes, undergarments, a handbag), I do research. I find a product that I really love and I make sure it’s been sourced ethically. It takes time and money. But both are investments I am willing to make. The pride I get from wearing garments that I know are ethically made, far surpasses the pride I once got from scoring a deal at a fast fashion company. It’s even better when someone compliments me on my purchases because it gives me an opportunity to tell them what I’ve just told all of you; the importance of holistic consumerism.

If nothing else, I’m an advocate which is free. The more people who know, the more people will care. And what I hope is that if enough people make the conscious decision not to shop at fast fashion retailers, these companies will have no choice but to put more of an effort into ensuring that their workers are being treated ethically and getting paid fairly.

Until then, I’ll keep frequenting thrift stores and investing in clothing that makes me look and feel great!

Written by Tahlia Prindle. 

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