Posts in Social Justice
Using art to help child survivors of war find joy again — with Bethany Williams
 

“Sometimes these children just don’t have the words to express the trauma they’ve been through. That’s a reason why I believe the arts — art, dance, drama, music and drawing — are so powerful in bringing us to the next level of healing.” 

BETHANY WILLIAMS, Ph.D., Founder, Exile International  

Orphans. War. Child soldiers. Displacement. Abuse of nearly every form. Topics like these often feel so astronomically huge that we don’t know what to do or where to begin — let alone feel as if our tiny effort could actually make a difference.

Thankfully there are people like Bethany Williams in the world who not only refuse to buy into that narrative, but decide to do something about changing it.

Bethany is world leader at helping restore children — emotionally, psychologically and spiritually — who have been affected by war and who can’t yet imagine a life worth celebrating again. Bethany pulls from her own hurt and brokenness (documented in her book The Color of Grace) as well as her training as a psychologist and counselor to help these children. And it all starts with art therapy that includes a white handkerchief and some markers. It is on a simple yet symbolic handkerchief that children can express in pictures what they don’t even have words for. It is where the pain within can safely be expressed to initiate the process of healing.

Led by Bethany and her husband Matthew, Exile International is going into the darkest places to do this difficult and often emotionally devastating work. But thanks to that willingness, there is a generation of former child soldiers, abused daughters and sons, and war-torn kids who now get to dream again. They get to experience renewed joy. And they can imagine a life of great expectations — just like any other child.

Exile International

Bethany’s story

Pouring into people & purpose — with Kenny Sipes

"A lot of people think I'm crazy and they're like 'I don't get it, I don't understand why it's working' and I tell them it's because I got out of the way. My favorite saying that an old guy taught me years and years ago is -- if you want to be happy, forget yourself." 

KENNY SIPES, Founder, The Roosevelt Coffeehouse 

Talk to anyone who frequents The Roosevelt Coffeeshop in Columbus, Ohio and they'll tell you what a great guy Kenny Sipes is and how they love the mission of his shop. His nonprofit coffeehouse has become a magnetic hub for people looking for community, good coffee and to do a little good in the process. The Roosevelt is fueled to give back by supporting three human-centered, justice-driven issues: providing clean water, fighting hunger and abolishing human trafficking. 

Kenny's story continues to gain coffee clout and the Roosevelt has become a community darling in the social enterprise space. That reality is a far cry from the 40-day stint he spent in rehab as a teenager, the years growing an urban record store, and his beloved service as a youth pastor to middle school kids. Even as he employed the hard work and discipline he first saw his father model, he also recognized his gift of being a connector of people. For Kenny, an ideal way to be faithful to what he was being called to do was open a communal space centered around coffee so he could pour into people and purpose in life-changing ways.  

Kenny is an open book on this episode, sharing his unconventional road to entrepreneurship as well as his next moves with The Roosevelt -- including one rather lofty aspiration (we hope you're listing Jeremy Cowart).

The Roosevelt Coffeehouse

The power in pursuing small things — with INCH x INCH
 
camper_2.png

“We didn't set out to create a business. It was more about how can we create something cool and possibly do a little good in the world.”

DREW HILL, co-founder, Inch x Inch

 

"It sounded just ridiculous enough for us to get really excited about it." 

BOB EWING, co-founder, Inch x Inch

When two longtime friends and artists decide to finally collaborate, naturally they land on... one-inch buttons?

As quirky as it sounds, Drew Hill and Bob Ewing gravitated to this tiny canvas with much a bigger purpose in mind. What if they could get other artists to submit designs? What if by buying a series of rad buttons from Inch x Inch, patrons would also be supporting arts education (which is continuously in danger) and fuel a future generation of artists? What if their own idea about collaboration turned into an organization that was fully reliant on collaboration and committed partners?

Drew and Bob talk about the importance of side projects, how theirs came about and ensuring it wasn't all about them, and how something as ridiculously inconsequential as one-inch buttons is actually making a tangible difference.  

inchxinch.org

Bringing light into the darkness — with Amber Runyon

“I believe that if we can teach little girls to dream that they'll be the force that changes the world.

But more than that; I believe that if we can teach broken women to dream like little girls again, it will be a force the world is yet to see.” 

AMBER RUNYON, Founder, Legacy, and Eleventh Candle Co. 

Changing the world can be daunting and overwhelming. So how do you do it? How do you seek justice without being crushed by the injustices around you?

According to Amber — one small act at a time. Oh, and start a candle business while you’re at it.

This former hospice nurse will tell you that running a nonprofit organization that owns a for-profit business isn’t easy. She’ll say she never set out to be an entrepreneur. She’ll admit to not even being a fan of scented candles — the kind her company, the Eleventh Candle. Co., makes. But in the next breath she'll tell you she couldn’t sit on the sideline and do nothing as she saw women in her hometown of Columbus, Ohio — and young girls in Ethiopia — being trafficked; bought and sold like a commodity.  It’s exactly how to bring light into darkness — and the powerful metaphor isn’t lost on her either. 

Amber’s story is deeply personal while also being selfless. She’s employing women who desperately want to dream again and believe in life’s possibilities. She’s also giving hope and refuge to little girls a continent away. And she’s doing it with some wax, a wick, and a little redemptive storytelling.

Amber epitomizes what it means to change the world with small steps. In time, they add up to an impact that far exceeds expectations.    

Eleventh Candle Company

Legacy (mission video)

Taking a leap of faith for the good of others — with John McCollum
 

“Early on, I acknowledged ‘I don't know what I’m doing’ and that was one of those things that was really helpful. I didn’t get the big picture of what this would become, so I was able to learn piece by piece. 

I didn’t have any illusion that I had anything I could bring to the table that would help these people other than money — and I didn’t have much of that." 

JOHN McCOLLUM, Executive Director, Asia’s Hope

 

John will jokingly refer to his decision to close down his design agency to take on the leadership role for a nonprofit organization that helps orphaned kids in Asia as taking the down escalator in terms of wealth, influence and success in business. Admittedly, it’s not a conscious decision that many of us would choose to make — John included. But what John discovered, first through adoption, and then by recognizing those who would never have that chance, led him on a journey half-way around the world to bring hope to some of the world’s most vulnerable children at risk of sexual and economic exploitation. 

John’s story is about listening, feeling, and acknowledging that call on his life — and then having the faith to step out and actually do something about it.   

www.asiashope.org

Persevering & rediscovering your purpose — with Jessica Hollins
 

“Instead of asking ‘why did this happen to me?’ ask ‘what am I supposed to learn from this?’ 

What I learned was what a child in foster care goes through. I know exactly what it feels like to have your life ripped out from underneath you.” 

JESSICA HOLLINS, Founder & CEO, My Very Own Blanket

When you’re going through hell — keep going.”

Despite this quote that Jessica references in our conversation, her story is truly an uplifting and inspiring one. While she never set out to start a nonprofit organization that would comfort tens of thousand of kids in the foster care system, her idea for providing hand-make blankets grew from her own rocking chair into something much bigger. But with growth comes new and different expectations, and the curve ball she was thrown in her own life provided the perspective she needed to persevere for the good of the kids she was called to serve. Jessica takes us through the highs and lows of trying to do good by everyone, and along the way rediscovers her joy by redefining what success and impact looks like. 

www.mvob.org