harp-weaver is an independent philanthropic advisory firm based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Teresa Araco Rodgers, the principal, works with individuals and families to gift to issues that matter in a meaningful way.

Monday, November 29, 2010

"It is important for women to inform themselves."

Wangari Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement in Kenya to encourage rural women and farmers to plant trees to protect the environment and promote sustainable development. Maathai won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her efforts. She speaks of the conditions which led her native Kenya into environment degradation and the impact on women. When farmers plant cash crops they remove vegetation resulting in soil erosion. The soil is carried away to the river and there is no clean water. Women bear the brunt because they are responsible for getting the water for their families.

On the surface Green Belt Movement is about providing incentives to farmers to plant trees and educating them on managing their resources. At a deeper level it is about encouraging women to inform themselves on the impact of bad or lacking government policies.

More information can be found at www.greenbeltmovement.org.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Night Out With Meaning: Women & Giving

I just hosted the first Night Out With Meaning: Women & Giving on November 11th. Thirty-four women witnessed Peggy Dolan tell her story. Through family pictures, Peggy told the story of her family and their experiences caring for two of their daughters, Kelly Anne and Kim, as they battled aplastic anemia and a rare form of leukemia. Peggy and her husband Joe turned their tragedy into providing help and hope for families with seriously ill children through the Kelly Anne Dolan Memorial Fund.

Night Out is about learning, connecting and reflecting. It is my hope that attendees take away knowledge that they did not have before about the experiences of families in crisis. It is my hope that attendees will meet someone new or discover something about a friend that brings them closer. And it is also my hope that there are pieces from Peggy Dolan’s story that make attendees stop and reflect about their own lives and experiences.

At the beginning of the year, I decided to take a step back from what I was doing to figure out where I wanted to go professionally and as a mom. I started a journey that began with talking to people. With each conversation, which really was an exchange of stories, I was inspired. And from those conversations, I gained clarity about what would bring meaning to my professional life. The thing I thought would be really fun was working with women in my community around some aspect of charitable giving. I want to inspire women to take the time to think about their personal giving and I want to encourage women to align their passions with their gifts – both financial and non-financial. Then came the internal question - how exactly am I going to do this? I thought about what has given me great satisfaction and inspiration recently and I kept coming back to my meetings with people and hearing their stories.

And so Night Out With Meaning was created. It is pretty simple really, let’s enjoy elements of a typical Girls Nights Out – food, wine and friends – where women can feel comfortable and welcomed. Let’s pick a topic of interest to focus on like understanding the needs of families in crisis or why empowering women is so important to alleviating poverty. And let’s have one inspiring woman stand before us to simply tell her story. Stories, told well, have the power to transport us. Storytelling encourages exploration. It is a nurturing way to remind us that our spoken words are powerful, that listening is important, and that clear communication between people is an art. I am committed to inviting storytellers with different backgrounds and approaches to their chosen issue. I am also committed to helping make connections.

I witnessed women exchanging information, comforting each other, and creating an environment to allow those at the table to speak openly and personally.

My mission is to inspire others by helping them articulate their values and passions to be purposeful givers. Informed philanthropy can bring great satisfaction to a person’s life and has the power to transform communities, organizations and people.

I look forward to sharing future Nights Out with such creative, sensitive and inquisitive women!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Chasing Miracles

Last night I had the opportunity to watch the movie Extraordinary Measures and meet John Crowley, activist and entrepreneur. Extraordinary Measures is the story of the Crowley family and their quest to find a treatment and ultimately a cure for a rare genetic disorder known as Pompe disease. Two of John and Aileen Crowley's children have this disease. Their names are Megan and Patrick. In 1998 there was no treatment for this often fatal neuromuscular disorder. John Crowley started his own biotech firm over an 18 month period and sold it to Genzyme, one of the world's largest biotech companies. After the efforts of hundreds of people they finally discovered and produced a medicine to treat Pompe disease.

Following viewing the movie, Crowley made a few remarks and took questions from the audience. He answered the questions he always gets asked. First, how did the movie come to be? And second, how are Megan and Patrick doing? In 2003, the Wall Street Journal published an article written by Geeta Anandon on its front page about the Crowleys. Harrison Ford read the article, was struck by it and contacted producers to get the wheels in motion to make a movie. Crowley's message: If you are written about in the Wall Street Journal and Harrison Ford calls, do not hang up! Megan and Patrick are both doing well. They are still confined to wheelchairs and ventilator dependent, but they are thriving 8th and 7th graders. They receive the enzyme treatment once every two weeks. Thankfully this can be administered at home otherwise the children would have to spend a full day in the hospital and be exposed to germs that could compromise their respiratory systems. Crowley says that this is the biggest risk the children face. He continues to work on treatments - better enzymes to combat the sugar in their bodies which debilitate muscles and organs.

The Crowleys have written a book called Chasing Miracles. It is divided into 3 parts: Strength, Hope, and Joy. The book intimately chronicles the journey of the Crowley family and profiles all those who have helped along the way. If you are interested in learning more about this family, they have a website - www.crowleyfamily5.com. If you are interested in supporting charities which address the needs of families with rare, orphan diseases, the Crowleys include 4 links to charities on their website: The United Pompe Foundation, The Make A Wish Foundation, The Muscular Dystrophy Association, and Children's r.a.r.e. Disease Network.

John and Aileen Crowley did whatever it took to help their children survive. This is an inspiring story. It is about learning to ask for help, about not losing faith, about coping with challenges, and about the kindness of others. Stories like this one inspire, energize, and encourage self-reflection. I was honored to hear pieces of this story directly from John Crowley. The movie and book have really given him the opportunity to spread his message. It is a powerful one.