The river is everywhere. – Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha
Rivers inspire. Rivers give way and rivers give life.
Rivers are part of the life-giving water cycle: incessantly moving, shaping, and transforming. Cleansing rivers have beginnings and ends, like the famous Jordan River, washing away the sins of ancient believers emptying them into the Dead Sea where life ceases to exist. Powerful rivers, like the Colorado River, channel wild, rushing water and carve beautiful canyons and deep valleys. Melodic rivers, like famed Czech composer Antonin Dvorak’s Serenade in E Major, relax our senses and guide us into calming, soothing waters.
A river is like an opportunity, beckoning our hearts to listen. Like rivers, opportunities come in all shapes and sizes.
I heard the concept of saying yes to the river by CEO and cofounder of Beadforlife, Devin Hibbard, during a recent podcast interview with MergeLane cofounder, Sue Heilbronner. Her firm discovers, invests in, and accelerates great women and the companies they run.
Saying yes to the river for Hibbard meant heeding the call to begin a heartfelt journey with BeadforLife- a global NGO whose mission is providing sustainable opportunities for women to lift their families from poverty by creating a circle of exchange that enriches everyone. Women in Uganda create beautifully hand-crafted paper beaded jewelry and engaged volunteers and advocates create markets for the sale of their goods. Proceeds are directly reinvested into program expansion initiatives.
In 2004, Devin, Torkin Wakefield-Devin’s mother and former peace corps volunteer-and Ginny Jordan, said yes to the river that is now known as BeadforLife. What started 12 years ago as an intention-setting meditation has grown into an active, global movement placing entrepreneurial training directly into the hands of the world’s most impoverished women. The scale and depth of this work is unprecedented as evidenced by the recent expansion into six African nations outside Uganda including Burundi, Rwanda, and Kenya. This hands-on, mobile classroom approach, aptly dubbed the Street Business School, provides tailored business training through a successful network of implementing partners. Devin’s ambition and belief underlie her goal of reaching one million women by 2027.
Saying yes to the river does not come without challenges as Hibbard points out. “We are and continue to be a learning organization”, she shared when asked how an entrepreneur without formal “business” training has achieved this level of success in her organization. She added, “We felt like this was something the world wanted us to do…and athough we didn’t have the right CVs to pull it off, we said ‘who are we to say no to the universe when it is giving us something’.”
Hibbard combines a passion for social entrepreneurship and international development with a network of engaged supporters, worldwide donors, and a team of devoted colleagues working in Kampala, Uganda, and Boulder, Colorado, the nonprofits’ U.S. location.
Devin is not the only one who says yes to the river, exercising courage and plunging feet first into the deep, often unknown future. The Street Business School encourages its participants to say yes to the river– the river of fresh opportunities where chances at renewed life replace the familiarity of poverty, dependence, and social exclusion. The members of Street Business School, often rural subsistence farmers living on $0.60 a day, are challenged to trust not only the program’s leadership and it’s initiatives, but also- themselves.
Saying yes to the river for a vast majority of BeadforLife members means learning to read and write, and courageously stepping into a mobile classroom environment joined by neighbors and strangers from familiar socio-economic backgrounds as well as women who have successfully transitioned from poverty to economic independence. The program graduates serve as mentors while lending credibility to the program’s effectiveness.
BeadforLife resembles a braided river, whose multiple channels connect flowing streams of believing, compassionate individuals. The river’s source- LOVE.
When was the last time you thought about saying yes to the river?