The Mennonite Economic Development Association (MEDA) meeting with guest speaker, Brenda Burkholder, was held at First Mennonite Church in Denver, Colorado. Two programs for women were highlighted: Through the Garden Gate and Behind the Veil in Afghanistan and Pakistan. These MEDA sponsored programs provide women training, microfinance loans, and opportunities to create small businesses. The possibility to learn more and help with appropriate consideration of the women’s culture and economic situation was especially empowering. As a result, a group of six women from First Mennonite Church was formed and Women Beyond Borders (WBB) was named. A mission statement was adopted soon after…to learn, to connect, to empower.
March 2009-October 2009
WBB began a series of adult education opportunities by showing the video, “Beyond Belief” and creating discussion. The video tells the incredible story of Susan Retik and Patti Quigley, two women who were widowed on September 11, 2001. Rather than turn inward, grief compelled these women to bridge the East-West cultural divide. They started a grassroots campaign of discussion, built connections through women programs, and reached out to Afghani women. WBB found this to be an amazing film that supported both the mission statement and MEDA Women programs, Through the Garden Gate and Behind the Veil. We included a book study of Half the Sky to help us understand “turning oppression into opportunity” for women worldwide.
September 12, 2009
WBB held its first fundraiser at the Tattered Cover downtown. This event included: ethnic foods, wine, a silent auction, and music by a local folk group (Waking Sparrow). Kim Pitkyn, a Canadian MEDA Associate for women programs, was the guest speaker. Waking Sparrow released a professional music DVD of the song, New Day Rises to help promote the MEDA programs and Women Beyond Borders.
WBB began a series of adult education classes at First Mennonite to study two books, The Faith Club and Infidel. Learning and connecting to Christianity, Islam, Jewish faiths was the focus of these classes.
September 10, 2010
WBB hosted another fundraiser on 9/11/10 to learn about, connect and support women of Afghanistan. The event included an exhibit entitled, “Unsung Heroes of Afghanistan.” All proceeds helped support MEDA programs for women in the Middle East.
Spring 2012- Summer 2013
Deborah Schleuter and Iman Jodeh from Meet the Middle East organization presented a series of adult education classes about the Middle East Conflict. Later in the summer of 2013, WBB sponsored a group of ten First Mennonite Church members that traveled to Israel and Palestine with Meet the Middle East for an educational/cultural experience.
An adult education series focused on refugees in Denver. Lutheran Family Services presented their refugee services. A small group formed to help support the arrival of a mother and son from Central African Republic. The support group continued their involvement with the refugee family for over a year. WBB hosted a third fundraiser after the worship service. Denver refugee women cooked an ethnic meal and raised money to provide emergency funds for refugees at Lutheran Family Services.
WBB hosted a series of classes on Human Trafficking. Three different Denver organizations helped us learn about the exploitation of youth and adults, the outreach programs and how the justice system works for or against trafficked people. We included the book, Girls Like Us, as a part of our study. A folk group (Andi Gingerich, Jenny Thompson, Sonia Graber) performed a concert at the “Bakery” to help support the human trafficking organization, Prax(us).