If you are from St. Louis, you are all-too-familiar with the two most common questions asked of those who live and work here.
First, the unavoidable socio-geographic litmus test:
Where did you go to high school?
And, if you are working in the world of philanthropy with a mission that reaches beyond our city and county lines, the inevitable:
But why aren’t you doing this work in St. Louis, especially when we have so many problems in our own backyard?
And it’s true. St. Louis is rife with challenges that intersect the lines of race, poverty, environment, and employment. From the Delmar Divide to the Bridgeton Landfill, we have our own slew of social inequities that disproportionately affect the poor and minority populations. Why, then, would—or should— someone support a bakery in East Africa to create jobs for women (and men) who they will most likely never meet?
I, for one, believe that the answer is simple:
Because we are all people.
Yes, it is undeniable that we live in changing times; yet, despite the rise of nationalism and the backlash of globalization, our shared humanity is, and will forever be, undeniable. Whether you live in Ferguson or in the far reaches of the African bush, we are all people. Suffering is suffering. Opportunity is opportunity. And love is love—compassion bound by empathy, an unstoppable force that cannot be contained by lines on a man-made map.
Philanthropy itself means love of humanity. And this year, St. Louis proved why it is said to be one of the most philanthropic cities in the United States. You, St. Louis, love well, deeply, without border or boundary. This year, you, our friends and our neighbors, single-handedly helped us open 2 bakeries in Rwanda, training 54 women and men. You asked us the familiar questions and the hard questions, all the while listening whole-heartedly, allowing the mission of The Women’s Bakery to capture your heart and imagination.
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for making our work possible—for helping us create jobs where they are desperately needed.
Thank you for believing in the power of people to change their own lives.
Thank you believing in the transformative power of bread.
And, perhaps most importantly, thank you for believing in us.