Don’t miss Nicholas Kristof’s column today in the New York Times. He writes about Lisa Shannon, whom he met up with in the city of Bukavu, in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Inspired by an Oprah episode about the rape epidemic in Congo, Lisa ran 30 miles to raise sponsorships for Congolese women through Women for Women International. What started as a lone run has since become a global movement that has provided a lifeline to thousands of Congolese women and their children. (There’s also a moving video accompanying Kristof’s piece about Lisa and some of the sisters she sponsored.)
I’ve gotten a chance to get to know Lisa over the years, and I am constantly in awe of her drive and passion. She is a relentless warrior for peace in Congo. I recently spoke at a Run for Congo Women event with Lisa in Portland, Oregon. During the event, Lisa pointed out her mother, Ann, whose support she says is instrumental in the work that she does. In fact, Ann is meeting with her senator today to push him to sponsor the Congo Conflict Minerals Act of 2009.
What’s so great about Lisa’s story is that she and her mother are shining examples of how each of us has the power to make an immeasurable impact on this world. When Lisa decided to do that first run, she had no idea that she would one day be at the helm of a global effort to support Congolese women, be interviewed by Oprah Winfrey, or have a Congolese baby named after her. But she took that blind leap of faith – she turned her compassion into action. And it has paid off. Yet Lisa’s story also involves countless other actors – from the Oprah producer, who pushed to do a show about rape in Congo that ended up inspiring a movement, to Lisa’s mother, whose commitment to helping others and looking beyond her borders inspired her daughter to go out and make a difference in the world.
No matter your station in life, you have the unique ability to impact the world. What may start out as one small action could turn into a global movement. It’s the “butterfly effect” of social activism. It may not be obvious, and sometimes it requires a blind leap of faith, but it’s at your fingertips.
To learn more about how you can take action for the women of Congo, visit www.raisehopeforcongo.org.
Photo: Lisa Shannon with the Congolese Lisa named after her, and the girl’s mother. (NYTimes/Nick Kristof)