USA: Project Love: A Mother’s Journey from Homelessness to Humanitarianism

USA: Project Love: A Mother’s Journey from Homelessness to Humanitarianism

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Melissa Clark, an amazing woman who organized an initiative called Project Love around the holidays. Driving through the valley in which she lives, Melissa spotted a campfire from a homeless enclave. Seeing folks struggling to stay warm on such a cold winter day moved Melissa in a very personal way. You see, not too long ago, Melissa herself was homeless and struggling with substance abuse.

I connected with Melissa through her current home, Acres of Diamonds , in Duvall, Washington, USA. AOD is a faith-based non-profit that provides housing, life coaching, and a variety of support services to homeless women and their children affected by domestic abuse, substance abuse, and mental health problems. AOD provides more than just temporary shelter. The residents at AOD join a program to break the cycles that keep them from self-sufficiency.

The goal for the residents is to achieve complete independence via graduating out of the residence and supporting themselves and their children on their own while making meaningful contributions to society.

At the time of our talk, Melissa had been at AOD and sober for 9 months. Her 7-year-old son was living with her, and she found employment at a local pizza shop. Melissa shared that she finally feels safe, secure, and loved. When she saw that homeless person’s campfire on her drive home, though, she remembered a different time in her life. The cold, the helplessness, and the spiritual battles all came to mind, and she felt God spoke to her heart in that moment to take action. But before she put plans in motion, she thought it best to honor the individuals she was trying to help by figuring out just what they needed. She and a friend visited some of the homeless folks in the community, invited them to lunch at McDonald’s, and asked them directly what they could use.

From there, the two friends put together a PowerPoint presentation for their church and pitched the idea to create care packages to deliver to the local homeless population. These efforts, titled Project Love, in partnership with an event at a local gym, resulted in huge numbers of clothing, toiletries, coats, sleeping bags, and other essentials getting directly into the hands of those forgotten members of the community.

Furthermore, Melissa, along with her son and an escort for safety, delivered packages to the homeless on Christmas Eve. Since then, she has also secured a standing gift card at the local bike shop for any homeless persons who come in needing repairs and provided a pair of insulated boots to a homeless veteran, who thanked her with tears in his eyes. She hopes to organize donation drives at least twice per year.

Melissa feels it is her ministry to show love and understanding without judgement to the homeless. Her goal is to let these people know that she sees their humanity by taking the time to listen to their stories and helping them get what they need to make it through the seasons. She views it as her duty to share the love and security she has received with others still struggling to break the cycle of homelessness. Whether she gets a person a warm meal or gifts them new gloves, she plans to keep taking steps to lift up those around her.

Talking with Melissa inspired me. I admire her ability to celebrate her own milestones while not placing value judgements on those still farther back on the path.

I admire the example she is setting for her son on overcoming obstacles to build a better future for oneself while still showing compassion for others. And I admire her willingness to look another human being in the eye and ask, “Are you ok? What can I do to help?” We live in such contentious times right now in America. People are struggling to find common ground, and they are lashing out at each other daily. Hearing Melissa’s story reminded me how simple gestures towards those around us make a huge impact and prompted me to consider what more I can be doing to help people in my community.

Melissa’s journey to sobriety and self-sufficiency is a testament to her strength, but her generosity shows her outstanding character. It’s not about how much you have, but how much you are willing to give to help those around you. And sometimes paying it forward doesn’t have to cost a thing.  After all, love is free.

Who inspires you in your community?

This has been an original post for World Moms Network by Tara B. Picture used with the permission of Melissa Clark.


Tara Bergman (USA)

Tara is a native Pennsylvanian who moved to the Seattle area in 1998 (sight unseen) with her husband to start their grand life adventure together. Despite the difficult fact that their family is a plane ride away, the couple fell in love with the Pacific Northwest and have put down roots. They have 2 super charged little boys and recently moved out of the Seattle suburbs further east into the country, trading in a Starbucks on every corner for coyotes in the backyard. Tara loves the outdoors (hiking, biking, camping). And, when her family isn't out in nature, they are hunkered down at home with friends, sharing a meal, playing games, and generally having fun. She loves being a stay-at-home mom and sharing her experiences on World Moms Network!

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SCOTLAND: A Land Of Beauty

SCOTLAND: A Land Of Beauty


Edinburgh Castle

Scotland is the northernmost country in the U.K. and its peoples, who have included Picts, Gaels and Scots, have a rich and colourful history. Many people have heard of Macbeth, King of Scots (the Eleventh Century monarch who was immortalised by Shakespeare), and Mary, Queen of Scots (famous for having been executed in 1587 by her cousin Elizabeth who was Queen of England at the time). Hadrian’s Wall, which stretches for 73 miles right across the north of England from East to West gives an sense of what Scotland was like during the Roman invasions. It was built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian between 122 and 128 AD to “separate Romans from barbarians” as the Caledonians (collective name for the southern Scottish tribal clans) were impossible to subdue.

Thankfully, today’s Scotland is much more hospitable place and has a well-earned reputation as a beautiful country full of mountains, glens (valleys) and lochs (Scottish name for lakes) although much of its green beauty comes from a fair amount of rain!

Scotland is known around the World as ‘the home of golf’ and there are over 550 courses throughout the country, the most famous being the 16th century Old Course at St Andrews.

Scotland’s population is small at only around 5.3 million and approximately 3.5 million people live in the ‘Central Belt’ which is an area running from East to West between Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital, and Glasgow, the country’s largest city, which hosted the Commonwealth Games in 2014. The Central Belt covers only an eighth of the total land mass of the country so there are many parts of Scotland which remain very unpopulated and remote. The North of the country has the wildest, harshest and most remote environments within the British Isles and there are many areas which are completely uninhabited, although it was not always the case. Many parts of the Scottish Highlands were once well populated and over half Scotland’s population lived in the Highlands prior to 1750, but people were driven out to make way for sheep farming during the notorious Highland Clearances in the late 18th Century.

Wester Ross

Wester Ross

Nowadays it is possible to walk for days through places such as the Cairngorm mountain range without seeing any civilisation and, further north, Letterewe is one of the largest areas in Western Europe with absolutely no civilisation, not even a road, nor any mobile phone connection! Some areas are now so remote and unvisited that crossing them in winter would be as risky as crossing the Canadian Arctic or Siberian wastes.

(See – Search and go: Getting lost in the Scottish wilderness-

The Scotland of today is certainly a very interesting place to live and raise children, especially in terms of the political scene. For instance, the three main parties in Scotland are led by women and it is the only place in the world where the majority of party leaders (four out of the six parties) identify as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender). That said, only 46 out 129 members of the Scottish Parliament are women, many of whom have no children.

In fact, none of the female party leaders have children and I think this shows that our society and the parliamentary system need to change a lot before women enjoy the same opportunities as men – i.e. the ability to juggle family and work life without compromising their status at work.

Glenfinnan Viaduct

Glenfinnan Viaduct

In terms of the political scene, Scotland has had its own devolved parliament since 1999 and the Scottish Parliament looks after many devolved matters such as health, education, justice and policing. Few people outside the country realise that Scotland has had its own legal and education system for centuries. The Scottish legal system is based on Roman Law (rather ironic when you consider that Scotland was a place they couldn’t invade!) and is quite different from the legal system in England which is based on ‘precedent’.

This gives many Scots a very strong sense of identity and of belonging to a Scottish nation, rather than identifying themselves as British, a point which other nations, both in the UK and elsewhere, often find difficult to understand!

The First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, heads the SNP (Scottish National Party). The SNP was founded as a party for an independent Scotland and it has been increasing in popularity, having convincingly won several elections over the past decade. Nicola is the first female leader and she has been popular with many of the electorate, especially young women who view her as a good role model.

The subject of Scottish independence has continued to dominate the UK headlines over the past couple of years despite an independence referendum in September 2014 where 55% of the population voted to stay in the UK. However, people in the UK will soon be asked to vote on whether the UK should remain in the European Union (E.U.) and this has once again raised the question of independence for Scotland. If the vote turns out to be in favour of the UK leaving Europe, the result is likely to prompt another independence referendum in Scotland because the majority of Scots wish to stay part of Europe and many feel that it is undemocratic if Scotland is forced to leave due its being part of the UK. Some people in Scotland who previously voted against independence feel so strongly that we should remain in Europe that they would now be prepared to vote for independence if the UK as a whole votes to leave the E.U. This means there could be a much higher likelihood of an independent Scotland and many people are impatiently awaiting the results of the referendum which takes place on the 23rd of June.

It looks families in Scotland will face an interesting few months!

What are some interesting facts about the country you live in?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Judith Nelson of Scotland.


SINGAPORE: Giving Our Children Roots and Wings

SINGAPORE: Giving Our Children Roots and Wings

As parents, we desire to raise successful kids. But often the measurement of success can be so vastly different depending on our backgrounds, experiences and expectations. In Singapore, academic success is one of the top measures.  Parents will sign up their kids for every enrichment and tuition centre in a heart beat, if it promises to improve their child’s grade.

For some, it could be developing their kids’ full potential in the area of music, art, or sports, and sending them to take every class to discover their talents from a young age. For others, it might be simply equipping their kids with the life skills to get them through whatever life throws at them, the kind of smart I prefer, “street smarts.”

Over the years, Singapore’s education system is slowly steering it’s direction from just developing book smart students to being more holistic, realising that there is more than one way to recognise our kids’ abilities.

I’m really glad about these changes as my daughter will enter formal education next year, and to be honest I wasn’t an ace student. Many times I felt that I was judged by how well I scored on my exams and if I disappointed my parents and myself when I didn’t achieve fantastic results. But over the years, I discovered that I have other talents and gifts that are just not related to how book smart I am.

Though I think my daughter’s pretty smart (okay, I’m a biased mom ), I know these changes to the education system gives me greater assurance that she will thrive when she starts school. But as a parent, I also have an responsibility in shaping who she is and my role is to give her roots and wings.

Roots and Wings

Just like a tree, in order for it to reach it’s fullest potential and stand strong to withstand the different elements, its’ roots must go deep and be firmly planted. These are the qualities I wish most for and I try to instill in her:

1. To be rooted in her identity
I want my daughter to be deeply rooted in the knowledge of her own identity. I want her to love herself for who she is and not strive to be someone else. I want her to recognize that she’s uniquely her, complete with her vivacious and vibrant personality, her sense of humour, and heart of gold.

2. To be rooted in character and values

Peer pressure will be a very real issue in school and that’s when our kids’ character and values are put to the test. As a parent, we have to ingrain values of honesty, compassion, integrity, kindness, responsibility, perseverance, and the list goes on. The best way to teach these to our kids? To model them ourselves.

3. To soar on wings of exploration
Besides having deep roots, I hope that my girl will develop wings to seek out the world. To be filled with curiosity and awe with a hunger to know more. I want to be the parent that says, ” That’s an interesting question, let’s find the answer.” and never to stop her from asking questions.

4. To have wings of independence

Our kids will grow up no matter how much we wish for them to remain cute and small. And the key is to ensure that they are equipped with life skills to see them through their days. As a young toddler, I’ve roped my girl to help around the house from picking up after herself, clearing her plate when she’s finished her meals, or loading the laundry.

As she gets older, she knows she has to be responsible for her belongings and pack her own bags. We’ve taught her what to do if she ever gets lost, and now she’s learning how to count money, an essential skill needed at the school canteen soon.

I also intend to teach how to manage her time wisely, budget and save,  and maybe even cook. We can start from frying an egg!

As parents, it won’t be easy for us to let go of our kids when they eventually grow up, have their own ideas, friends and all. But when that day comes, we’ll be glad that our children are ready to soar high with their wings, knowing we’ve provided them with the skills to navigate the skies!

How do you help your child(ren) develop roots of responsibility and wings of independence?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by contributor, Susan Koh from A Juggling Mom in Singapore. 

Susan Koh

Susan is from Singapore. As a full-time working mom, she's still learning to perfect the art of juggling between career and family while leading a happy and fulfilled life. She can't get by a day without coffee and swears she's no bimbo even though she likes pink and Hello Kitty. She's loves to travel and blogs passionately about parenting, marriage and relationship and leading a healthy life at A Juggling Mom.

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Call it Mummy amnesia, but I’m certain that our older two children were, well, older when they began to insist on doing things “myself.”

Our lovely Mr Butterfly is the grand old age of two and has insisted on doing things himself for a few months now. Once again I am faced with the mixed emotions of delight (that he wants to do things for himself and often can) and horror (at the things he wants to attempt).

Climbing has been a regular fixture in our family. Mr Hare (nine) spends a good portion of his life a-top tall trees, and Mr Owl was months old when he began climbing chairs to get on to the top of the dining table. I have strategies (mostly involving selected blindness and deep breathing) for dealing with the climbing.

It’s been a long time since we’ve fed Mr Butterfly, and cleaning up the mess beneath his chair, on his chair, beside his chair, on the front of the table, the side of the table and the top of the table, are simply part of my regular after meal routine. We have plasters and hugs a plenty, so in our house small people using scissors and knives is really no big deal. (more…)

Karyn Wills

Karyn is a teacher, writer and solo mother to three sons. She lives in the sunny wine region of Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand in the city of Napier.

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Friday Question: What are the top 3 qualities you want to instill in your children?

This week’s Friday Question comes from World Moms Blog writer DC Blog Mama.  She asked our writers,

“In 15 words or less, what are the top 3 qualities you want to try to instill in your children?”

Check out what some of our World Moms had to say…

Kirsten Jessiman of Ontario, Canada writes:         

“1. How to listen.

2. How to be compassionate.

3. How to share.” (more…)

World Moms Blog

World Moms Blog is an award winning website which writes from over 30 countries on the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Over 70 international contributors share their stories from around the globe, bonded by the common thread of motherhood and wanting a better world for their children. World Moms Blog was listed by Forbes Woman as one of the "Best 100 Websites for Women 2012 & 2013" and also called a "must read" by the NY Times Motherlode in 2013. Our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, was awarded the BlogHer International Activist Award in 2013.

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