Celebrating a 60th birthday… by giving back

Collecting water in Mali. Photo: ©2009 Justin Douglass/World Vision

Collecting water in Mali.
Photo: ©2009 Justin Douglass/World Vision

Turning 60 is a big deal – especially for someone who had Stage 3 colon cancer 24 years ago. Our Women of Vision partner, Patti Francis, part of the WOV East Bay, CA chapter, is grateful to be here! She wanted to make a big impact that made a difference for someone who doesn’t have the opportunities she’s had her entire life.

Through reading the pivotal book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Patti read the stories of pain and opportunity which inspired her. And through the WOV East Bay chapter, she met a woman who raised enough money for her 50th birthday to build a well in Africa through World Vision. That struck a chord with her!

In many cultures, the responsibility of collecting water falls to women and girls, who must often walk for miles in search of water that may well be contaminated. This time-consuming chore prevents many girls from attending school and impedes the ability of mothers to care for their children. Giving girls equal access to school is critical to the health of the next generations. They won’t be married off at a young age, die giving childbirth before their pelvis has grown or lose their baby and develop fistulas such that they always smell and are shunned from everyone. Patti traveled with World Vision to Congo in 2011 and met some of these women. Improved access to education for girls will also equip them to add their voices and gifts to their communities’ efforts to break the cycle of poverty. If educated, they can qualify for loans and start small businesses that will help them feed and educate their families. Just having clean water can change a community!

So, for her 60th birthday, Patti asked her friends, family, neighbors, colleagues and everyone she knew – who might buy a gift, lunch, or even a card – to consider donating to building a well in Mali through World Vision. She picked Mali because it is one of the most difficult places in the world to be a woman. More than 2/3 of women ages 15-24 are illiterate, more than ¾ of girls in rural communities are married before age 18, and 2/3 lack access to improved sanitation facilities.

And the response was overwhelming. Over$15,000 was raised for a well in war-torn Mali! A matching grant given to World Vision will allow that impact to be doubled. These wells will bring better living and education to the people in their villages. Patti truly celebrated her 60th birthday.

“Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40


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  1. […] of gifts, she raised money for a well in Mali. In the next year, I was turning sixty and excited to do the same. I emailed everyone I could think of, even those who didn’t know it was my birthday, and […]

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