Dining for Women
15 September, 2011
Dining for Women

Once a month a group of women get together for a dinner party. Nothing unusual can be said about such occurrences. Many people get together to enjoy a meal or two in every part of the world. Friendships are forged, deals are brokered and new ideas are explored over food and drink. For Marcia Wallace, the concept of dining with friends w

as not something new, but an article she had read about a group of social workers who forwent dinner at a restaurant to eat together at one of their homes and then donate the money they would have spent on a restaurant to a needy family made her look at dinning with friends in a different light. As she states in her youtube video the article made an impression, but it took time and meditation for Mrs. Wallace to realize that she also wanted to utilize the idea of dinning for a cause.  Soon after, Dining for Women was born.

Dining for Women, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping women around the world, started as a simple gathering of friends over potluck dinner in South Carolina. They had raised seven hundred dollars for the first group nominated for their dinner. The group was Women for Women, an organization focus on helping women survivors of wars.  Women for Women was started in 1993 and had since been working in war torn areas around the world providing financial and humanitarian aid and support for women suffering in those areas. Building on the model of Women for Women, Dining for Women too is focused on providing tools for economic self-sufficiency for women around the world who are unable to do so by themselves due to economic and/or societal restrictions. Since 2003 Dining for Women has grown into a nonprofit that has 275 chapters throughout the United States and internationally.

I happened upon Dining for Women through One Love Generation, a nonprofit organization that strives to empower children by introducing them to art.  I was recruited to paint a pair of sneakers for a charity event by OLG, and I jumped at a chance to paint on a blank canvas, or in this case, a blank shoe pair. The OLG studio size was considerable, but even so, there were very few spaces available to sit down to paint as children and their art teachers took up most spaces. I got lucky and spotted a tiny empty chair, and after successfully squeezing in, went to work on my sneaker. There were two newcomers to the group, and for them there were no more chairs available, so they sat on the floor across form me and painted anyway. Becky Maki, a member of Dining for Women chapter in Atlanta, was one of the newcomers, and before we had finished our perspective sneakers we got to talking and she introduced me to the work Dining for Women did and invited me to one of their monthly dinners.

Each month Dining for Women picks out of many applications one group that they support and fundraise for a specific month. There are follow ups and progress reports on each venture Dining for Women supports, but every month a new group of women is introduced for a grant. The dinner I went to was focused on Tanzania, specifically on Nurturing Minds, an organization representing The Sega Girls School. Dining for Women agreed to fundraise for them because The Sega Girls School wrote up a business plan detailed down to the last cent on how they intend to develop and manage their first school-run businesses—Poultry Farming.  Side fact that I found disturbing - Worldwide, women own less than two percent of all property, and millions of rural women in developing countries cannot legally own land.

Nurturing Minds applied for a grant from Dinning For Women to build a business that not only provides money, but also helps develop related business and technical skills for the students. Any organization interested in building a business that can establish self-sufficiency and sustainability for women is welcome to apply for a grant. On the website http://diningforwomen.org there is an application form that is available to everyone who wishes to apply for a grant. Organizations that apply can be either big or small, as are the chapters that donate to them. For example this month, Dining for Women is supporting The Fistula Foundation in Ethiopia. The mission statement reads, “To raise awareness of and funding for fistula repair, prevention, and educational programs worldwide.  Dining for Women’s donations will fund life-changing fistula repair surgery and post-operative care for 66 Ethiopian women.” This is what Dining for Women is all about – changing lives one dinner at a time.

Through my personal experience with Dining for Women I will say that it is a great alternative to a dinner at a restaurant, and judging from my last dinner with Dining for Women, the food alone is definitely worth attending.

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