Dreamer: Kerry Docherty, Mindfulness Mentor

Dreamer Kerry Docherty, Mindfulness Mentor

Think about an orange-robed monk meditating quietly in a temple in the green hills of Thailand. Now, imagine the exact opposite person. You might think of someone in a dark suit barking into a cell phone and hustling through a big, crowded city. Someone like a lawyer in New York. These two would seem to live in different worlds, but Kerry Docherty is building a bridge between them.

The year before she started Pepperdine Law School she spent three months in Thailand, ending with a week in a Buddhist monastery. “I had nothing to do all day but sit with my thoughts and meditate,” she told me by email. “What a struggle!” But this introduction to the usually unnoticed workings of her own mind stuck with her, and during law school she started training at UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center.

The practice of mindfulness helped Kerry handle the stress and competitiveness of law school, and she continued the practice when she moved to New York to clerk for a judge in Brooklyn. The judge’s daughter was applying for college at the time and Kerry taught her the basics of mindfulness to help handle the stress, which proved very helpful. “Most of our lives,” Kerry said, “we are told to ‘calm down,’ ‘pay attention’ and ‘chill out,’ but we never learn how to do these things.” Kerry wondered if there was a market for this kind of training, and a way to unite her two worlds into one pursuit. She started exploring mindfulness training as a business.

“Walking away from a financially stable and comfortable career was scary, exhausting, energizing, and empowering,” she said. “My biggest obstacle has always been myself, particularly self-doubt and people pleasing. But at some point I just accepted that I can still have self-doubt and move forward.” She said that the day she decided to put aside her law career and fully commit to her new pursuit was the day doors started to open. Now she works full time on her business, The Mindful Mentors, teaching the practice of mindfulness to everyone from busy professionals to a class of fifth graders.

When practicing mindfulness, says Kerry, “we’re learning about ourselves and about the fleetingness of emotions; we’re learning that there is beauty in the mundane moments of the day; and we’re learning that there is a place inside of us that is always okay, even when the world isn’t.” Kerry is injecting the world of the monk into the chaos of modern American life, uniting the two worlds she lives in. And, fittingly, one of her key client groups is New York City lawyers.

Connect with Kerry using the form below. Send her a question on mindfulness, an encouraging word, or order one of her guided meditation CDs—one for adults and one for mindful youngsters.
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Our First Podcast: A Conversation With Ember Hero Rachel Goble

Rachel Goble cofounded The SOLD Project to help prevent the sex trafficking of kids in northern Thailand. We chose her as our latest Ember Hero. All this month, we’re donating 50% of our online sales to further her work with The SOLD Project.

I had the pleasure to chat with Rachel over Google Voice. She had just returned from Thailand and I was in Kampala, Uganda. Isn’t technology amazing? We talked about her background, how and why she started The SOLD Project, and how hope informs her work and life. I hope you enjoy.

Rachel Goble, Ember Hero

Ember Hero: Rachel Goble Keeps Children Out of Brothels

Shop here and 50% of your purchase will be donated to support Rachel’s trafficking prevention work at SOLD.Rachel Goble, Ember HeroEarlier this year, in a small, green village in the hills of northern Thailand, a woman approached a 14-year-old girl and made her a simple offer. She could earn the equivalent of $1,000 dollars, the woman told her, for losing her virginity to a paying customer. This woman wasn’t going to forcibly kidnap her. The girl had the choice to say yes or no.

Silicon Valley native Rachel Goble, through her organization The SOLD Project, is working to educate Thai girls on the real terms of offers like these—that they won’t be paid $1,000, that they’ll likely be confined to a brothel for years and forced to sleep with not just one, but thousands of paying customers, that accepting one of these offers will lead to new kinds of pain and poverty, the kinds that tear not just at the stomach, but at the soul.

Rachel’s childhood was at the opposite end of nearly every spectrum from the poor, undereducated Thai girls most at risk of being trafficked. Her parents run Goble Properties, a San Jose commercial real estate company founded by her grandfather. The business afforded Rachel an idyllic childhood. “I lived down the street from some of my best friends,” she told me, “and so evenings and weekends were spent riding bikes between each others’ houses and getting into mischief.”

Rachel Goble, Ember HeroRachel’s parents also had a unique passion that took her into a much larger world. “Some of my earliest memories are tromping through jungles looking for land while a Mayan man would swing a machete only inches from my head to clear a path,” Rachel recalled. Her parents began exploring the connections between the environmental damage and poverty in the Central American country of Belize. Rachel took her first of many trips to Belize when she was only nine.

By Rachel’s teenage years the Gobles had built Jaguar Creek, a sustainable center in the jungle to host teams from universities and churches around the world, who would come to learn how environmental degradation contributes to extreme poverty. Belize, Rachel said, was her second home. Her passport was completely filled with stamps by age fifteen. And she told me that her time there gave her a great and lasting gift: a sort of naivety in regards to cultural and socioeconomic boundaries, a comfort amidst difference.

It was this foundational comfort that allowed her to find one of the world’s most uncomfortable places, a place whose desperation became her calling. While traveling in India as part of her postgraduate work at Fuller Theological Seminary, Rachel visited a brothel. “We walked up sets of stairs to a hallway lined with rooms,” she recalled. “Each of these rooms was a waiting area that then had multiple doors that opened to bedrooms. This was where the women slept, as well as took customers.”

She sat down with two of the women in a waiting room and asked them their stories. One of the them, still in her early twenties and already a brothel veteran, said that unlike Rachel she had no opportunity, no way out. Although there were no bars or chains, she was trapped.

Trafficking is, in economic terms, people with opportunity and resources preying on those without, or put more simply, the rich paying to sleep with the poor. And Rachel, who had grown up with so much opportunity, now faced a woman whose life was shaped by the absence of opportunity. The consequences were unbearable. “I realized then that prevention was my calling,” said Rachel. “That no person should ever get to a place in their life where they’ve lost hope.”

About that same time Rachel was introduced to another Rachel, filmmaker Rachel Sparks, who was producing a film about trafficking in Thailand. When they both returned to the States they connected over similar experiences, and very similar conclusions: that trafficking is enabled by poverty, lack of education, a fundamental devaluation of girls and women, and that preventing trafficking starts with empowering girls.

In northern Thailand many families can’t afford much education, and by age 15 girls often have no choice but to drop out of school and start making an income for the family. But without the skills that a good education provides their chances to make money are extremely limited.

Student in Northern Thailand

Rachel signed on to help produce the documentary, and to start a non-profit alongside the film to start doing the work of education and empowerment—the work of prevention—in Thailand. Today that non-profit, The SOLD Project, has 140 students on scholarship, giving them the education that might save them from the world of trafficking and prostitution. These students get mentored by staff and older students, and have access to a resource center that gives them a fun and encouraging place to spend their non-school hours. SOLD also teaches the communities where they work about the tricks and terrors of trafficking, helping bind them together in a sort of safety net of prevention.

The 14-year-old girl at the beginning of our story is one of these students. Her sister came to SOLD, scared, and told them about the trafficker. A thousand dollars is a near life-changing sum in the hills of northern Thailand, especially for a family in hard times, as theirs was. Many girls, too many, have been taken in by such shiny, empty promises.

But this 14-year-old girl said no. She told the SOLD staff later that she remembered the the anti-trafficking training she’d been given and she simply told the woman no. And the next morning, instead of going to a brothel, she went to school.

I don’t think it’s exaggerating to say that her life was saved.

This is what Rachel is after, that more girls, indeed all girls, have the education and opportunity to say no. “This is our message,” she says, “that child prostitution and exploitation can be prevented, and we all have a roll to play in ensuring that prevention.” And somehow her simple story about a girl in northern Thailand, more than a raft of statistics and annual reports, makes me think she must be right. 

The Rachel, Ember Arts

All this July we’re giving 50% of our online sales to The SOLD Project in Rachel’s honor. And this necklace is a special, limited edition piece we’ve designed to represent SOLD’s work to prevent human trafficking.

The necklace is made of two types of recycled paper beads: black beads, which represent the dangers of trafficking, and beads made from old books, which represent the stories that SOLD are helping their students live.

There are four sections of story beads along the necklaces sides, representing the four pillars of SOLD’s work: Education, Mentorship, Resources, and Awareness. And there are 140 beads in total, representing the 140 students SOLD currently has on scholarship. And the necklace transitions from dark in the back, through the four pillars, to bright stories in the front. It represents Rachel’s dream and The SOLD Project’s continuing mission to lead children out of trafficking’s dark halls and into the light of opportunity.

Partner Update: Gladies’ New Business

Join our contest on Pinterest to win a Mabira Necklace!gladies_portraitGladies is one of our first partners, which means she’s been working with us for the last five years. We affectionately refer to her as ‘Special Teams’ because she’s smart, dependable, and can get just about anything done. Recently she made a big step towards her dreams by starting her own small business.

Gladies fled from her family home in Amuru, an area in northern Uganda, about a decade ago during the civil war. When she first arrived in the Acholi Quarters community of Uganda’s capital city it was only a collection of mud huts around a stone quarry, where men, women, and children could do hard labor for about $1 per day. That’s what Gladies did to pull her family through.

These days Acholi Quarters is looking a lot better, and so is Gladies’ family. She has three children, and she’s paying for all of them to attend good local schools, an expensive feat in Uganda’s capital.

cover_gladies_smallAnd now Gladies is using her earnings from Ember Arts to expand her earning potential, too. She recently traveled back to Amuru and bought a rice milling machine, and rented a place in a big trading center to collect, mill, and sell rice. Farmers come for miles around to sell their harvest to her.

She partnered with her brother in the business, so now his family is benefiting, too. And they have big plans for the future.

Gladies and her brother plan to put up their own commercial building in the trading center, a place where they can process and store not just rice, but other crops, too. Building, she says, will start in December.

Like most of our partners here in Uganda, Gladies wants to eventually move back to her family home. With the money she’s earned and skills she’s learned as an Ember partner, she’s well on her way to accomplishing that dream.

 

Dreamer: Megan Krempels, A Creative Director’s Global Sabbatical

Connect with Megan and read more about her adventures on her blog.Megan Krempels, Ember DreamerIt’s a long way from South Korea to small-town colonial Pennsylvania, a trip Megan Krempels made at the tender age of two, when she was adopted from her native Korea by an American couple. Last month, after 28 years, she took the scenic route back. Megan put her successful career as a creative director on hold and sold most of what she owned for a four-month, around-the-world exploration of new cultures, her own identity, and the tensions between successful American life and the deeper values she has cultivated in herself.

Megan grew up in a small town near Pennsylvania Amish country—”the only Asian in a sea of white people,” she told me by email. Then for college she moved to Los Angeles, where she felt like a “small-town girl in a sea of city kids” and an “Asian who looks Asian but doesn’t act Asian.”

“You just feel out of place, everywhere,” Megan said.

She stayed in Los Angeles after school and built a career in design, eventually helping launch Little Black Bag, a fashion e-commerce site, as the company’s Creative Director. From there she got offers from a number of top companies and had startup ideas of her own. But something didn’t feel right this time.

“Here I was at the top of my career, being requested at incredible jobs most people would kill for and I felt completely jaded and empty,” Megan recalled. “Why do I keep hustling for this? To buy more? To move to a better place? I started getting healthy as a human but as a corporate cog I felt burnt out.”

She decided to leave Los Angeles, and started kindling an old dream of traveling the world, a dream she had postponed due to financial worries. “Fear of not having money kept me in the spin cycle,” she said. But now she thought about it differentlyShe had some savings, a retirement account she could cash out, a tax refund on its way, and plenty of stuff she could sell. She decided to go for it.

Megan Krempels, Ember DreamerShe listed most of her stuff for sale on Craigslist and in a few days was driving across the country with her dog, going back home to spend time with family and old friends, and to plan her adventure.

First she booked a flight to Peru, a country she’d itched to return to ever since a trip there in high school. When she learned she needed proof of a return flight to be allowed in the country, Megan happened upon a strange itinerary: Rio De Janeiro to London to Seoul, back to London and finally back to Philadelphia. And it was cheaper than direct flights home from Rio. She booked it, realizing as she did that it would be her first time to Korea since her adoption in 1984. This trip would truly take her full circle.

Megan’s goal in traveling, as close as I can get it, is simple enough to write. We all know the stuffiness that creeps into our lives, the accumulation of questionable habits, unquestioned assumptions, postponed and missed opportunities. These things hang around because they fit into our current lifestyle and relationships. Even seeing them clearly is tough. Changing them is near-miraculous.

Traveling internationally, not touristing but really traveling and experiencing cultures that are different from our own, is a wide open door that we walk through, out of our own stuffiness. From such a distance—the actual geographical distance giving rise to an emotional one—we can see our little worlds as the strange and arbitrary places they are and we can choose to live differently.

Part of the stuffiness Megan was trying to air out in her travels is the uniquely Western—and perhaps even more uniquely American—elevation of economic achievement as the primary value of a person. “Accomplishments, accolades, job titles, earning money and stuff: my personal self-worth was, um, 100% this for the majority of life,” she wrote on her website. And by unraveling this flag of identity and exploring other value systems, she seeks to get closer to her own core values, and ultimate value, as a human being. “The fullest versions of myself. Who is that?” Megan asks. “I honestly dunno. I’m learning it little by little but honoring each second.”

Finally, after four months in South America and a quick stop in London, she touched down in Seoul, South Korea and walked out into the country of her birth for the first time. “Physically, at first glance, yes I fit in,” she told me. “The clothes magically fit, the shoes slide on my short, wide feet perfectly, and they know how to cut my hair.” But when she asked locals if they could spot her as a foreigner, “there was a resounding response of, Yes, duh, absolutely.”

Megan Krempels, Ember DreamerMegan’s American upbringing and fast-lane career success set her apart from the average young Korean woman. “The country still values traditional gender roles in their most stereotypical sense,” she said. “Girls have found this interesting space of emulating the little girly-girl where they primp in public in front of huge floral-motif mirrors and take selfies in coffee shops. Meanwhile they run the show at home with their husbands and sons.” Megan was not as fashion-conscious as her Korean counterparts, and not as conservative, and acted a little more confident.

At first she was turned off by the formality of Korean culture. “Korea is a land of discipline and conformity,” she wrote, recalling a trip to a Korean salsa club. “You could only dance with a partner or you were forced into a corner to practice the steps in a group in front of a mirror. You weren’t allowed to just dance freely.” But soon she started noticing positive things: people’s considerateness of others in public spaces, thoughtful design incorporated into everyday life. And when she got out of Seoul a whole new appreciation blossomed. “Once I got out of the hustle of the city, people invited me into their lives and homes like family. I’ve never felt that way before. That feeling of being fully accepted and part of a culture immediately without trying.”

Now back home in Pennsylvania and planning her next venture, Megan says the trip helped her to appreciate her unique identity as a small-town-Korean-American-woman-startup-leader. “It’s become kinda fun to surprise people and remind them not to judge a book by its cover,” she told me, “to show them that someone young can have wisdom, a playful person can have depth, an artist can have a science brain, and being Asian isn’t easily defined.”

Through her travels Megan realized that she’s not alone in her mixed identity. “I’m not part of one single entity. But I don’t actually think any of us are now, so I feel a little less alone in that.” Our increasingly connected world gives us the opportunity to identify ourselves not only by our origin, but also by our destination, and perhaps most importantly by the journey we take to get there.

Connect with Megan and read more about her adventures on her blog.Megan Krempels, Ember Dreamer

 

Dreamer: Musician Karina Frost

By day Karina Frost manages our shipping department. By night she rocks San Diego’s soul.Karina Frost, Musician and Ember Dreamer

“My brother and I shoved toilet paper in our ears many nights to drown out the song my mom and dad just had to listen and dance to at full volume,” musician Karina Frost told me by email, a smile in her writing. “My parents’ love language is definitely music and dance.” It’s easy to imagine how contagious such a love would be to a child watching her parents enjoy themselves, their lives, each other.

As a young child Karina’s own particular love was books, or one book in particular: a children’s chapter book called Old Granny Fox. Raised in a Mexican household in Chula Vista, California, she spoke and read only Spanish. But so entranced was she by “aged, yellowed pages and the glorious musty smell” that she held the book close and imagined 100 different adventures for the old fox. Years later she joined an English speaking elementary school and found in books both a refuge from and a tool to tackle the challenge of learning a new language and a new culture. Books became, she told me, “as much a part of me as my blood and muscle.”

Both of Karina’s parents are from Ensenada, a small coastal city on Mexico’s Baja California peninsula, about an hour’s drive from San Diego. Her parents drove her and her brother to Ensenada nearly every weekend, where they were surrounded by family.

One of the great privileges of being family to a younger generation is introducing them to the small wonders of the world, and sometimes watching them fall in love with one of them. Visiting her grandfather in Ensenada when she was only 12, Karina asked him to teach her how to play a song on his classical guitar. He taught her to play La Bamba. She took that guitar home for a week and wrote her first song.

fox n janeThe lyrics, she said, were embarrassing. But the collision of her love of music and her love of words was transformative. The next Christmas, Santa brought her a guitar of her own, and in writing and performing songs she found an opening through which her deepest thoughts and feelings could flow, and a place to connect on that level with others. “I have to admit,” Karina said, “the true reason I perform my music and not just write songs while alone in my little room is that I feel the most connected with mankind while exposing myself in the intimate way a performer does.”

It seems to me that her ability to dig down into herself, into the places where we all feel alike but alone, and to bring back something to share is foundational to Karina’s life. This, after all, is what she must love in the books she so treasures. This is what was unleashed in her when she wrote that first song. And this innate understanding of the value of her own thoughts and feelings and stories is probably why, though she still owns the book, she has never read the actual pages of Old Granny Fox. She doesn’t need to. All the fox’s stories are within her.

Follow Karina’s music on Facebook!

Dreamers: Shiloh and Jovanna, Ember Models and Much More

Shiloh and Jovanna, Ember Arts DreamersOur new online store features two beautiful women modeling our jewelry. Choosing models is tough. The standard way is to hire the most impossibly skinny blond you can find, dress her in something expensive and trendy, and put some jewelry on her. But that’s just not us.

The whole idea of models troubles me—that there is a standard of beauty women should aspire to, and that we have to abide by that standard in presenting our products. Especially when the standard is set by women whose dress size is literally zero. And more especially when these women are usually photographed in fabricated fantasy worlds, passively enjoying their impossible lives. These images, which saturate our lives, paint aspirational pictures for women that are as unhealthy as they are unattainable.

Here at Ember Arts we think the dreams women hold in their hearts and enact with their minds and hands are far more important than their dress sizes. We think that beauty is found at the intersection of a healthy body, an active mind, and a positive, confident sense of self. Models in this sense are far more than just pretty girls. They are women we can admire.

Our search for models turned up two remarkable and beautiful women: Shiloh and Jovanna. Both are friends of the Ember family, and each brought her own story and style to the shoot.

Jovanna Williams

Jovanna wearing the Ember Arts Gravity necklaceWhile we were shooting, Jovanna told me that she dreams of hiking the Appalachian trail. She has a strong sense of adventure and wants, in fact, to travel the world, starting with America.

For now she is busy working and studying early childhood development, her professional passion. “Those early years are such an important time,” she told me later by email. Jovanna loves working with children, and currently interns at a progressive elementary school in San Diego.

I asked her one of my favorite questions: If the world could be different in one way because you lived, what would it be? She said she hopes to inspire people to be more kind. “I feel sometimes that the world can be unnecessarily harsh,” said Jovanna, “and if everyone was just a little kinder to others, to animals, to our environment, or even to themselves because of me, well then, wow, that would be amazing.”

As a student, Jovanna is focused on the future—not only her own, but the future of education and all the children it touches. Thinking about Jovanna’s future, it’s wonderfully hopeful to imagine all the little girls and boys that she will inspire with her sense of adventure, and imbue with her value of kindness.

Shiloh Schneider

Shiloh wearing the Ember Arts Jinja banglesShiloh has a tattoo on her arm that means ‘gypsy’ in Romanian. To understand what this means to her you need to know two things: first, gypsies are despised in Romania, and in the greater part of Europe; and second, Shiloh spent a good amount of time living with gypsies in Romania.

“My tattoo is a reminder of the family I made in Romania,” she told me by email, “and the sacrifice and love they had for me right from the start.” She said that American friends of hers who are ethnically Romanian have questioned her about the tattoo. Doesn’t she know that ‘gypsy’ has a terrible connotation? they ask. “I am able to talk about what my gypsy family was like and how they lived to serve and my experience in getting to know the deeper part of a people group on a personal level.”

The story of her tattoo illustrates two of Shiloh’s guiding passions. One is for travel. “I dream of living in Paris with two dalmatians, a bike, and a good typewriter.” said Shiloh. “I also dream of doing research on a boat somewhere in the middle of the ocean like Jacques Cousteau, and yes I would have to don the red beanie and turtleneck look.”

The other is her desire to peer behind the veils of culture and stereotype, and to engage people as unique individuals, each as human as every other. Asked what sort of difference she’d like to make in the world, Shiloh replied, “That everyone knows their importance and the effect they can have on others and how special and truly unique everyone has been made!”

Giveaway

We’re celebrating Shiloh and Jovanna by giving away one of our favorite pieces: An aqua Gravity Necklace, like the one Jovanna is wearing above. To enter the giveaway, just comment on this post!

Obligatory Jumping Photoember_1

 

Dreamer: Fay Johnson, Founder of Deliberate Life Magazine

Ember Dreamer: Fay Johnson, Founder of Deliberate Life MagazineOn a clattering bus dodging potholes in the Kenyan countryside, Fay Johnson realized that she hadn’t had enough time for dancing lately. It was 2012 and Fay had just finished a consulting project for Nuru International—an organization that aims to end extreme poverty—helping them increase the use of latrines in rural Kenya. She worked eye-to-eye with Kenyan community health workers. She watched them assimilate new skills and improve their communities. It was change she could literally touch.

Making this sort of change has many rewards, but Fay found that time for the simple things that bring her joy—dancing, painting, storytelling, photography—is not often among them.

Ember Dreamer: Fay Johnson, Founder of Deliberate Life MagazineA South African raised mostly in California, Fay’s parents made a point of introducing her to the wider world. “It was not uncommon,” she told me by email, “to spend Thanksgiving dinner with guests including Communist People’s Party officials, Indian professors, French scholars, Nigerian princesses and the children of political refugees.” She visited 26 countries before graduating high school. This global foundation, said Fay, “solidified my deep, personal commitment to the betterment of all human life, regardless of national identity.”

After college she moved to Washington, DC and worked with Human Rights Watch, the US Congress, and Oxfam America, all before getting a Master’s degree focused on behavior change communication. She founded a consultancy called Red Balloon Ideas to put all her education and experience into practice. Which brought her to this bus ride, traversing the vast Kenyan countryside, thinking about dancing.

There are things we believe in, things we know to be good and worthy of our time, like improving health conditions in Kenya. And then there are things we love. For some its music, for others teaching; for some it might even be organizing files. We can’t say why we love these things, or make a good argument as to how they are better than other pursuits. We just know that they open springs of joy within us. Before her bus dropped her in Nairobi, Fay decided to move the things she loved closer to the center of her life.

Ember Dreamer: Fay Johnson, Founder of Deliberate Life MagazineThrough a good amount of research she decided to create a digital magazine to engage the world in the kinds of stories and ideas that molded her. She named it Deliberate Life. The goal, in the pattern of her upbringing, is to create a global community of people building a better tomorrow, with Deliberate Life as a venue to read about and share their common challenges, solutions, and stories. “I have set out to create something that I wish existed,” said Fay, “a manual, as it were, for what I should be doing if I want to make a difference.”

But nothing ambitious comes easy. Founding the magazine solo she has to constantly keep herself motivated and learn new skills like becoming a registered Apple iOS developer. And then there’s the emotional risk. “Whenever you put your heart into something, and it is out there with your name on it, it’s nerve wracking,” said Fay. So far the iPad-only magazine has been downloaded in 52 different countries. A community is growing. It’s small still, but with issue number three launching today for the iPad, you can bet that somewhere near San Francisco, Fay is dancing.

Support Fay: download the Deliberate Life iPad app and like Deliberate Life on Facebook.

Dreamer: Jessica Connolly, Co-Founder of Ember Arts

Jessica with Gladies in Acholi Quarters, UgandaThe first seeds of Ember Arts were planted back in 2007, when my sister Jessica Connolly was pregnant with her first child. The birth of her daughter, my niece, transformed our family. It was my parents’ first grandchild. Jessica stepped away from marine biology to focus on motherhood. And both she and my mom started selling Ugandan jewelry, little by little, at farmer’s markets and craft shows.

Of course it was most transforming for Jessica herself. Not only was she suddenly a mother, a world entire for this new little person, but the process of being pregnant and giving birth gave her a burning new interest.

“I dove in and learned all I could about the maternity system and the choices women have,” Jessica told me. The birth of her daughter was attended by a midwife, a woman trained to understand giving birth not just as a medical event, but as a normal and healthy part of a woman’s life. That experience, Jessica said, “was the beginning of a passion that has turned into a calling to educate, empower and attend women during this transformative life event.”

Jessica Connolly, Co-Founder of Ember Arts

Jessica set her sights on becoming a midwife. She sees it as not just a personal calling, but a global one. “Training skilled midwives to attend women in places of conflict and poverty, where women don’t have a voice or access to care, is one of the most powerful social development tools we have today,” said Jessica.

Now with two daughters and another on the way, freeing up the time and resources for the necessary schooling is a challenge. Jessica started by becoming a doula here in San Diego, and offers physical, emotional, and informational support to women throughout their pregnancies and births. “The challenge is balancing a calling with the current season of life,” she told me. “My priority now is to invest the better part of my time in my kids while they are young and maintain my role at Ember while stewarding my dream.”

It’s strange to think that my nieces never knew a time before Ember Arts. And that so many of the dreams of my family trace their way back to that same year that Jessica’s oldest was born. It probably doesn’t surprise Jessica, though. “Birth is one of the few raw, wild moments in life,” she told me, “when, in a day, we are transformed and empowered and changed.”

Nominate Our Next Ember Hero

Nominate an Ember HeroTwice every year we choose a new Ember Hero, a young woman chasing a beautiful dream to make the world a better place. We share her story with the world and donate 50% of our online sales to her dream for one month. Past Heroes are empowering sex trafficking survivors, creating jobs in the developing world, and working to end conflict in central Africa. Learn more about each of them on our Ember Heroes page.

Now we want your help to find our next Ember Hero. Use the form below to nominate a woman you think should have her dream featured and supported by the Ember community. We’ll narrow down the nominations and then open it to our community to vote for the winner.

Update, May 3, 2013: Nominations are closed. Voting begins soon!