My favorite mini session/fundraiser event is back! LOVE GIVES is a fun way to kill several birds with one rather inexpensive stone:

A mere $60 will secure the following:

  • 15 minute session block
  • set of custom created valentines cards
  • $30 donation to either LOVE146 or Preemptive Love Coalition
  • 1 digital file

This year I am partnering with two amazing organizations who exemplify LOVE to the most vulnerable in our world… child survivors of sex trafficking, and Syrian/Iraqi refugees.

Preemptive Love Coalition has been on the ground in Aleppo and Mosul all while hell literally broke loose. Instead of retreating to safety, they ducked and moved TOWARDS the thousands who were either trapped behind enemy lines or fleeing for their lives. Preemptive Love feeds and cares for thousands of families, including children, who have faced the worst the world has to offer.

LOVE146 has been on the front lines fighting against child sexual exploitation and rescuing children out of the “trade.” I have long supported the wonderful work of this organization and am so happy to know these precious survivors of unimaginable evil have places of refuge and healing with LOVE146.



Dates: January 24,25, 30 and February 1,2,3 during the day or after-school slots available. Spaces are limited.

Props: I will provide some very simple props such as flower bouquet and/or balloons, and I am open to discuss you bringing your own props to the session.

Products: A set of custom designed mini cards will be available as well as your choice of 1 digital file. Other products, prints or files will be available to purchase.

Location: Sessions will take place in my neighborhood in Ellicott City, MD by appointment only. Email or message me through this site if you are interested and I will get you the details for donations and time slots available.

Here is a sampling of previous years’ images and cards:


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This blog series is a #My500Words writing challenge. I will be sharing one photograph and the story belonging to it each day for 31 days around the theme of “Oh the places I’ve been…” These are meant to be letters to my three girls about the places I have been, the adventures I have had and the lessons I have learned along the way.

My Dearest Girls,

How am I possibly going to be able to explain my deep, abiding love for Berlin and our sojourn there with one image and story? It is just not possible. So this is a  6 Things I Loved About Living in Berlin post, or better yet, “6 reasons I left my heart in Berlin”

  1. Living in Berlin meant that we could travel quickly, easily and inexpensively around the rest of Europe. We made the most of this fun fact and traveled to the following places from Berlin (by plane, train and car): Prague, Denmark, Sweden, France, Bavaria, Austria, Spain, Italy (3 times!), Greece, and Turkey. We also traveled throughout Germany a few times: Heidelberg, Wittenberg, Berchtesgaden, Munich, Nuremberg and more.

















    WITTENBERG, GERMANY (in front of Martin Luther’s thesis!)








    ROME (with S in my belly!)


    A looooooved Rome



  2. Biking, walking and riding the S-Bahn (above ground trains), U-Bahn (below ground trains), trams and busses for about 95% of our transportation was good for the heart, lungs and soul. I miss this aspect of Berlin life every day. We were healthier in Berlin than at any other point in our lives. Exercise was functional not an accessory. Food was less polluted by chemicals and additives (thanks to stringent German laws), and was served in smaller quantities. Beer was plentiful.

    Ready to go for a walk, right outside our apartment.


    Riding the S-Bahn


  3. Living with and around tangible history has to be one of the things I enjoyed most. I read many books about East Germany and “the wall” and WWII. But more importantly, I rubbed shoulders with people who were still living with their stories from these era’s. One day, I walked outside my apartment and saw and old woman shuffling up the sidewalk with grocery bags in each hand. I knew I should offer to help her carry them but I hesitated thinking “Because she is older, she is not going to speak any English to me and might even get mad that I can’t speak German to her.” I shook it off and did the right thing and offered her with halting English and hand gestures to carry her bags. She responded with the biggest smile, handed me the bags and started talking in fluent English with me. In about 5 blocks I found out she grew up during the war and that when she was a child her village was bombed and she and her siblings lived in a field for some time. I wished I had been bold enough to have asked for her contact info and taken the time to meet with, sit with and listen to her stories. Another time, we invited a couple over for dinner right before moving away from Berlin. We lived on the east side. The girl walked into our apartment with eyes wide open saying, “This is where I grew up! This is my apartment building from when I was a child.” She and her boyfriend spent their childhoods in East Berlin, behind the wall! I couldn’t help myself and I begged her to tell us what life was like behind the wall as an East Berliner. All I had ever read about was a western perspective on East Germany and the wall. Their stories will stay with me for a lifetime. img_6339 bw-chels-wall
  4. While in Berlin, we had more people visit us than anywhere else we have ever lived in America. It was such a delight to have so many friends… friends my my past, college friends, and family members. Here are just a few images of some friend/family visits (not shown: Loretta, Gabe, some other JBU alumni, friends of friends): 100_1620100_0781img_2094img_4571amys-pictures-082dpp_0044img_3453bwimg_4545bw
  5. Golden October in Berlin is spectacular… especially for park life. We spent so much time walking through parks, playing in parks, picnicking in the park, riding bikes in the parks. Our first apartment was right around the corner from a real palace and its parkland. Dad’s job was right at the end of the famous Tiergarten park (think Central Park in NYC… but better). img_7456img_2087img_6556_1

    Your Dad’s project, the US Embassy is the white building directly behind the yellow tree. This is also the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin.

    6. Last but not least… the most important reason I will forever love Berlin is because Berlin gave me my first daughter, A. I will forever love this city for making us a family of 3 and for giving us such a spectacular environment to experience parenting for the first time. And although daughter number 2, S, wasn’t born in Berlin, she was most definitely made in Berlin. 🙂 Did you know Germany paid us to have kids? No joke! We would receive money each month from the government, even as expats. Our bank account really misses this part of Berlin living. 100_1139img_3671bwimg_1499img_6356img_0036dsc_0181_1dsc_0155

Day 13 – 812 words

#My500Words #TheDailyStoryOGraph

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This blog series is a #My500Words writing challenge. I will be sharing one photograph and the story belonging to it each day for 31 days around the theme of “Oh the places I’ve been…” These are meant to be letters to my three girls about the places I have been, the adventures I have had and the lessons I have learned along the way.

My Dearest Girls,

Have I ever told you how much I love to travel? (understatement of the century I know.) I do love to travel… plane, train, boat, car, bike, foot. Anything that will get me to new places.

One of my favorite feelings in the world is traveling solo. Sure, I love traveling with you gals, taking you on adventures, exploring the world. But I really love traveling alone. There is something so freeing about being lost in my own thoughts and dreams, looking out the windows, figuring out how to get from point A to point B (especially if in another language). I love meeting new people, especially fellow solo travelers.

One of my favorite solo trips was to and from India with a stopover in England to visit some dear friends. I had flown to Bangalore on my own to meet up with college friends who ran a brilliant social enterprise called Daughters of Hope. I did some documentary storytelling photography work for their business and to help communicate with partners and supporters back home. It was one of the best weeks of my life to date.

On my way back to the USA, I decided to make a 36 hour stop in England to visit a friend from Texas who was stationed in the UK. So, I hopped off the plane, gathered all my luggage, made my way to the train station, found the right train, took it to the end of the line and then met my friend for the rest of the drive by car.


They lived in a quaint little village called Bury St. Edmonds (I wrote about it in detail here) and for the 36 hours I was visiting, the sun came out and blue skies graced us with their presence.

How would you like to live in a village with a huge Abbey? And the world’s smallest pub? And cobblestone streets? It was pretty spectacular. We shopped at the farmer’s market, ate dinner at a local pub (not the smallest one) that was a local favorite for families. The pub has couches and game tables, stacks of board games etc. Families would come and eat and play games together. What a fun atmosphere!

We drove to another local village, Lavenham, that is known for its asymmetrical architecture… as in houses sitting sideways, and nothing straight or even. We walked and talked and drank coffee and beer. I played with their little daughter, Julia. It was such a nice way to break up the trip home.

After my short 36 hour break, I hopped back in the car to be deposited at the train station to hop on the train to the airport to catch my flight back home to you girls.

There was a moment where I sat on the train platform waiting for the right train. I took a sideways selfie. I remember that moment and the feeling of complete contentment I felt from head to toe. I was in my zone. Traveling from point A to point B, alone, on my way home to you.


Day 13 – 577 words

#My500Words #TheDailyStoryOGraph

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This blog series is a #My500Words writing challenge. I will be sharing one photograph and the story belonging to it each day for 31 days around the theme of “Oh the places I’ve been…” These are meant to be letters to my three girls about the places I have been, the adventures I have had and the lessons I have learned along the way.

My Dearest Girls,

One of my favorite experiences while living in Western Europe was to the southeast corner of Germany, Bavaria.

Grammy  had come to Berlin to visit us and I was pregnant with AZH in my belly. We decided to rent a car and drive down to a town in the Bavarian Alps called Berchtesgaden. Driving the German Autobahn is about as exciting as they say. Although we did not max out our vehicle’s acceleration to test the “no speed limit” option on the A-Bahn, we were supremely impressed with the well oiled system it was. No one parked in the left lane, and easy dance of weaving in and out of traffic. It was like a work of art. But, I digress.

Staying in Berchtesgaden was like staying in a storybook. Picturesque doesn’t begin to describe it. We rented a chalet on the side of a mountain. We took hikes and drives throughout the fairytale countryside. I remember seeing men walk down the trail in lederhosen and hats… I thought they were in costume for some local festival. They were not. Fascinating! Farmers would set their barrels of fresh milk from their cows on the side of the road and a truck would pick them up each morning.

We went on a boat ride on the Königssee, a lake buttressed by mountains on all sides. It transported us across the lake to a hiking trail leading to another smaller lake. We passed cows with large cowbells around their necks, like a page out of Heidi.

Next, we drove across the Austrian border to see the actual places that The Sound of Music was filmed. The Lake District of Austria is also breathtaking. We drove backroads along beautiful lakes, and drank cold drinks at a castle in Salzburg. The hills were alive with such beauty and serenity.

This photo is of the small lake near the Königssee that we hiked around. As in the case of most photographs, this one doesn’t do the place justice.



Look across the lake… there are cows with bells around their necks dotting the pastures and a small shack with fresh milk and cheese available to hikers. Some hikes will always stay with you, no matter how short or long. This is one hike I would travel across the ocean to take again. In fact, if I could, I would pitch a tent on that little patch of green and spend a few glorious weeks in paradise.

What do you say, girls? How about we pack our bags and hop on the plane and plant ourselves smack dab in the middle of a fairytale in Bavaria?

Day 12 – 505 words

#My500Words #TheDailyStoryOGraph

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I received an amazing email this week… an update on the programs that our #1MTclimb4peace team fundraised for. It was such good, good news in the midst of a world that seems to be going to hell in a hand basket.


Some of my teammates and I have been processing together through a writing group. Six months after the big event, and we are still scratching our heads and looking at each other wide-eyed saying, “What just happened? What was that? Did we really do that? Why?” You would think we would have pat, well rehearsed answers to give by now, but we don’t. And we are working through that together. Detailed updates with numbers, facts and stories, however, greatly aids us in this process.

So many of you have “walked with us” on this journey and I wanted to give a detailed breakdown of what money we raised and what programs that money was able to support and grow in partnership with World Relief.

THANK YOU for your support via financial donations, social media support and even climbs, hikes and walks of solidarity. We climbed for REAL women with REAL (horrific) pain and REAL(ly) big systemic issues of gender violence and injustice. And these grassroots programs are really providing hope, healing and change in their communities for women (and their children and families). 

May God bless and multiply the money and the impact that our little team strived so hard to achieve for our sisters in the DR Congo, South Sudan and Jordan (with syrian/iraqi refugees).

Please see the below breakdown of our inaugural One Million Thumbprints #1MTClimb4Peace up Mt. Kilimanjaro in March of 2016.



One Million Thumbprints

 – Sustainable, long term solutions for women in war torn areas


$56,500 given to increase program capacity
827 total women and community members empowered

Program: Ibba Sustainable Agricultural Recovery and Development Project

Location: Western Equatoria Province, Ibba County, Ibba CEZ, South Sudan

Number of Total Program Beneficiaries: 200 Farmers receiving seeds, cassava cuttings, honey collection buckets, tools; 570 SFL members;

Amount Requested: $23,000 (10% of total program budget)

Project Description: Women farmers who have suffered as a result of conflict will receive improved seeds and as a result receive increased and surplus yields. Moreover, women farmers will gain the purchasing power for other farming implements, such as tools or storage facilities, through income from the sale of surplus products or through accessing a savings group loan. Farmers making purchases and sales themselves and not relying on distributions or interventions from NGOs or the government benefits the whole local economy.

This creates a positive cycle of sustainability, breaking the vicious cycle of poverty. As food productions and incomes increase, savings have the potential to increase, and this presents opportunities for community members to access micro-loans to invest in business and produce more increases in food production and income.

Project Update:

  1. During this quarter, 89 training sessions were carried out in which 590 farmers (277 women and 313 men) were trained in various farming and agronomical practices. The training topics range from land preparation, planting, conservation agriculture, post-harvest and storage (using grain vacuum storage bags, construction of maize storage crib and drying).
  2. In the Savings For Life program, 12 new groups with 239 members were formed and trained, bringing the total saving groups cumulative members to 1,499 (548 men and 951 women). Seven groups have graduated and have started their second savings cycle.
  3. 576 farmers (271 women and 305 men) were trained in, land preparation methods, planting, and weed and soil management by application of conservation agriculture principles which included soil cover by using green manure cover crops and mulch and reduction of slash and burn practices. Several practical demonstrations were conducted on the effect of rain water on bare soil and moisture losses during each training session. 6 lead farmers have been identified and trained on conservation agriculture and have set up training sites at their field to train other fellow farmers.


Program: Ibba Sustainable Agricultural Recovery and Development Project

Location: Bentiu, IDP Camp, South Sudan

Number of Total Program Beneficiaries: 5,000 consultations per month; under 5 monthly curative consultations 2,500 per month; 25% of births in sector 2 attended by skilled birth attendant within the first year within the maternity ward.

Amount Requested: $33,500 (10% of total program budget)

Project Description: South Sudan is looking to build a primary health care center in the Bentiu IDP camp that has a strong focus on mother and child health, complete with a small maternity ward. This facility is necessary as the rains are coming and we have been treating patient, using tents that have exceeded their lifespan. This facility will allow for the ability of women to receive health consultations and treatments and give birth attended by skilled birth attendants.

Project Update: 

  1. Impact of Health Facility to the Beneficiaries.There has been a great impact of health services being offered to the beneficiary population as the community members have been able to be reached with quality affordable and available health services. This has been realized during meetings with Community High Committee usually held on weekly basis with service providers whereby World Relief has been lauded on several occasions for quality service provision. The reduction in consultation cases as depicted in the table above is linked to timely intervention by World Relief during the Malaria Upsurge whereby World Relief set up a malaria treatment point within block 16 of sector 2 for timely intervention of malaria cases coupled with community messaging on malaria prevention strategies by World Relief Home Health Promoters. Key to this construction was a maternity wing that is open 24/7 for maternity and delivery services which has seen an increased number of deliveries with 52 skilled deliveries conducted in the month of July, 2016.
  2. Home Health Promoters. Home Health Promoters are an essential pillar in provision of emergency health programs. They also contribute to gender equity as they are responsive to the needs of women and children. During this reporting period, WR with support from OFDA recruited and trained Home Health Promoters to aid in community awareness, health message distribution, home visits, follow up of women with complications in pregnancy, and community referrals targeting 3,083 households within sector 2 of Bentiu POC. This has been a success as mobilizing the HHPS has caused a tremendous increase in uptake of RH services from June.


L-wing, Health facility construction. Image: World Relief

L-wing, Health facility construction. Image: World Relief


$56,500 granted to increase program capacity

140 women directly served, 1400+ influenced

DRC Program: SGBV (sexual and gender based violence)/Fistula Surgeries

Location: Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo
Number of Beneficiaries: 40 women will receive fistula surgeries and 100 identified women survivors of rape will be supported and trained as members of the survivor club to fight against SGBV and HIV/AIDS.
Amount Requested: $56,500

Project Description: World Relief DR Congo has decided to open its pilot CEZ (church empowerment zone) in Rutshuru Territory. Kako CEZ is located near Virunga National Park. Much of the conflict that happened in DR Congo, North Kivu Province since 1996 were rooted in that area. Due to the location of Kako, near the National Park, people have been always victims of lootings, killings and rape by armed groups that used the remoteness of the National Park to hide.

In the same Virunga National Park, inhabitants couldn’t find firewood without going to the forest lands. Also their farm fields neighbored the National Park. Therefore, when women go in the National Park to collect firewood, they are sexually abused by the many armed groups that are hiding there, and this has been a problem that continues to this day. When people go to their farms, some of them are shot, especially the men who fight to protect their wives in order to not let them be sexually abused. Many cases of rape have been reported in Rubare/Kako and neighboring villages, in Rutshuru territory. The SGBV/HIV program is now based in Kako. After an assessment within the Church and Community, it was discovered that hundreds of cases of fistulas were hidden in the community of the CEZ Kako. Women who survived sexual abuses couldn’t declare themselves publicly because they risked being divorced by their husbands and cut off from their families. Cultural beliefs claim that being sexually abused equates with being cursed. There is a high stigmatization towards survivors of rape in the community. Our SGBV/HIV program has the mandate to work with the local church to eradicate these cultural beliefs and therefore, there is need of new education for men. Clubs have been put in place to educate people in the church and community to be supportive to survivors. The results of the first training to fight against stigma were so positive that some broken families were united.

With the 1MT funding, there will be two interventions: the reparation of existing cases of fistulas and also the prevention of violence, discrimination and stigmatization done to sexually abused women that will be done through trainings. (1) A surgery will be done to 40 women with fistulas and (2) 100 identified women survivors of rape, survivor club member to fight against SGBV/HIV will be trained in order to empower them, in Rubare and Kalengera CNCs. Income-generating activities will be provided to these 100 women beneficiaries to allow them to move towards meeting their daily needs. World Relief DR Congo is so grateful with the support by 1MT for this very sensitive program that brings back hope to hopeless women and families in the church and communities.

Project Update: 

  1. Through work of the Field Officer working with the members of the clubs to fight against SGBV and HIV, a total of 7 sensitization events were held in Rubare and Kalengera in this quarter. Among them 4 in churches and 3 in schools. These events attracted a total of 848 attendees, of which included 729 youth and 119 men and women
  2. We have also identified and assisted survivors of SGBV who were in need of medical intervention. A total of 5 cases of vesico vaginal fistula required surgical intervention at GESOM hospital. These survivors were also able to receive support for starting income generating activities. We anticipate additional fistula surgeries to take place within the next quarter.
  3. An event in Rugari CNC included the participation of 27 churches and resulted in 81 religious leaders being trained for spreading SGBV awareness and sensitization. In turn these newly trained leaders implemented sensitization club comprised of 50 members that would act to fight against SGBV and HIV in this area. The members of this club received training focused in SGBV/HIV prevention and communication for the change of behavior.

Below is a “transformational story.” Our team sat with 33 of these women and heard their stories. My teammate, Kim, wrote about this time HERE. Our hearts are simultaneously broken and full of hope for these sisters of ours.

My name is Deborah Ngorore, I am 26 years old and I have one child born out of rape. I am from Ntamugenga village in Rutshuru territory and I grow cassava and maize to support myself and my child. In February 2015, when I was in the farming place in the process of cultivating, two armed men met me and told me that if I try to shout they will kill me. They both abused me. 

When I got home, I told everything to my husband thinking he would help me, but instead he kicked me out of the house. A few months later, I realized I was pregnant. It really ached to keep a fetus without knowing who the father was. 

During the delivery process I had complications of childbirth. They ended up transferring me to a qualified hospital but it was too late. I unfortunately developed a VVF. During that time, I stayed there as I didn’t have any means to go for medical treatment.

I would later learn through volunteers who were sensitizing the local community that I was in that there was an NGO helping people like me. I did not hesitate to come and see them. May God bless you as you think of the most vulnerable women, as from now on I have recovered my smile. 




$10,000 granted to increase program capacity

60+ women directly helped

Syrian Refugee Program: Caregiver Psychosocial Support Groups

Location: Multiple Locations, Jordan
Number of Beneficiaries: World Relief plans to launch 6 new support groups run by Syrian refugee ladies in an effort to promote healing, empowerment and strengthening relationships among the women.
Amount Requested: $10,000

Program Description: Women and girls in the displaced communities are facing a myriad of challenges after experiencing violence, displacement and conflict. They face many stressors and challenges in their daily lives in displacement. World Relief trains women from the community to facilitate groups themselves in an effort to promote healing, empowerment and strengthening relationships among the women. Support groups for mothers and caregivers operates as a parallel program to our Child Friendly Spaces, allowing mothers to connect, talk and receive counseling while their children participate in the child protection program.

Women are happy to have a place to come and share with one another. They are able to share their experiences and worries, learn with their children, and the friendships formed in the groups extend beyond the group. Participants have shared that they are grateful to learn that other women are experiencing similar challenges.

One of the Syrian mothers that helps to facilitate the Kids Clubs said, “If you’re going to impact the child, you have to first start with the mother. She is the one who provides support to the family and she is important. We need to focus on women. They need to know how to help their children.”

Program Update: We will be getting a detailed report at the end of October.



If you want to learn more about our team and climb, here are a variety of reports, articles, blog posts etc.

Climbing Kilimanjaro #1: We Actually Did It!

Climbing Kilimanjaro #2: Why We Did It

Behind the image | DRC Edition


This is their story. This is their song.


Beautiful Kilimanjaro – Take a photo walk with me.





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