Verena’s Story

The journey that led me to share my story with all of you began several years ago. Oddly enough, it started with an issue of Vegetarian Times. Hardly a life-changing event, I know. This particular issue had an article about small, lesser-known charities that were worthy of receiving your time and money. The article mentioned a charity called Women for Women International. This amazing charity has since received a lot of acclaim and attention after being mentioned on Oprah and other national shows. At the time, however, I had never heard of it. Women for Women helps women survivors of war and conflict. The countries in which Women for Women works have suffered through civil wars as well as international wars. In many of these countries, rape is consistently used as a weapon of war.  Along with witnessing the brutality and bloodshed of war, many of these women have been raped by soldiers or have seen their family members suffer this fate.  Women for Women provides them with economic training, training in women’s rights, and gives them a network of support.

After reading the article and visiting the website (www.womenforwomen.org), I was deeply moved by these women’s stories.  I chose to sponsor a woman for myself.  When you sponsor a woman, you get to correspond with your new “sister”.  This was the most meaningful part of the experience for me.  Not only did I know that my money was going to help her financially, but I could write and receive letters from her.

My sister is named Verena, and she lives in Rwanda.  Yesterday was the 18th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide.  I had heard very little about this tragedy until I started writing to Verena and did some research.   Over the course of 100 days in 1994, 800,000 Rwandans were killed and half a million women were raped.  Reading these statistics brought tears to my eyes, and the fact that it really seemed like the world sat by and watched it happen was appalling to me.  Verena lived through this.  She has 5 children, and is also raising her brother’s children.  Her brother was killed in the genocide.  I never asked her the full details of her experience, but I did share some of mine with her.

As a survivor of abuse or rape, I can tell you that sponsoring a woman who has gone through the same thing is amazingly empowering.  I can’t encourage you enough to sponsor a woman through Women for Women.  My experience is nothing compared to what the women in these countries have gone through.  Hearing their stories gave me strength to deal with my attack.  And I hoped that hearing my story gave Verena some hope as well.  Verena is now done with her year long program.  I will not hear from her again, but I know that she will always be a part of my life.

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