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A sneak peek from our adventures! Inspirational stories for Blog Action Day

Today is Blog Action Day and this year’s theme is “The Power of We”.

6 months and 15 days ago John (my husband) and I left our lives in Australia to travel the world and find and film people that make a difference to their communities. People who genuinely live and breathe “the power of we”.

The journey so far has had us walk for a day in the shoes of people who often have very little, but give a lot. We have been filming these people for mini documentaries and I am very excited to announce the first one here today!

For all the other stories are some “sneak peek” photos and stories that will inspire you to believe in “the power of we”.

Sewing rubbish into fashion

Women sew plastic bags off beaches into beautiful things.

Crocheting old plastic bags into a beach bag.

We met these industrious women by chance near the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua. Large numbers of plastic bags washing up on beaches were not only an eyesore but were killing many endangered turtles who mistake them for jellyfish and suffocate after eating them.

They collect the bags, clean them, cut them into strips and crochet them into lovely bags, hats, purses and jewellery.

This is great for two reasons, not only does it significantly reduce the amount of waste on their beaches and in the ocean, it gives the women a new source of income.

They also use a percentage of each piece sold to fund educating local villagers in the importance of turtle conservation.

Mariposas Amarillas – educating kids in the slums

Children busy at the school in the slum

Children busy at the school in the slum

Drum roll please…

I am absolutely thrilled to present our first ever mini doco! This one is on the work of Oscar Cortes who is dedicated to educating kids in the slums of Colombia. Please tell me what you think.

Las Golondrinas – educating sex workers

Las Golondrinas

The women who are dedicated to educating sex workers

Nicaragua is the second poorest country in Latin America. In the north of the country education is limited and jobs are non-existent for most women and girls.

For many the sex trade offers the only opportunity for them to be independent and earn enough to support their families. Many start at a very young age.

Las Golondrinas is a group of women who are dedicated to educating over 400 rural sex workers on their basic rights, including their right to use protection and not to be assaulted.

Most of them were sex workers themselves and know first-hand the frequent problems of violence and discrimination that these women face.

They shared with us their experiences and even took us to a brothel. These are lovely, fun and gutsy these woman who are dedicated to the empowerment of others.

Amojo – empowering girls through football

Amojo - women who fought for the right to play football

Amojo – women who fought for the right to play football

We drove miles on a rough dirt road behind a volcano in Ometepe, Nicaragua for this story about women who (a few years ago) had fought for the right to play football.

Since then they have combated prejudice and resistance to develop a women’s league that, as well as encourages women to strive for physical and team performance also gives them sex education and empowers them with their human rights.

The sport is now seen as a positive thing that has significantly altered the community with women having more confidence to contribute, less violence in homes and a reduction in teenage pregnancies.

Feeding the destitute

Women make tortillas on a wood fire oven

Tortillas are a staple on the plates of the 60 people who come each day.

San Marcos La Laguna in the highlands of Guatemala is a place where many different spiritual types gather. There is a huge divide between the visiting travellers and the isolated Mayan community and one of the original hostel owners has been running a project that benefits both.

Five days a week they provide a nutritious meal to sixty people in the community including many elderly people and children who are suffering the most. They have seen these people slowly regain physical wellness as well as removed the constant stress of not knowing when their next meal will be.

Pacuare Reserve – Leatherback turtle conservation

Leatherback turtle conservation programs have halted the rapid decline of the species

Leatherback turtle conservation programs have successfully halted the rapid decline of the species

We journeyed by boat through the jungles of Costa Rica to visit Pacuare Reserve. Volunteers live without electricity, working day and night for months ensuring endangered Leatherback turtles are able to safely lay their eggs. Also that their eggs have the best chance of growing, hatching and returning to the sea.

10 years ago the Leatherback turtle faced complete extinction and programs like this worldwide have not only halted the decline but are showing increases in numbers in many places.

Amigos de Santa Cruz, Cepac Centre – educating and empowering a whole community

A woman weaves at home using skills she learned at the Cepac vocational centre

A woman weaves at home using skills she learned at the Cepac vocational centre

In Santa Cruz La Laguna, Guatemala we filmed the work to help another isolated Mayan community.

This group funded by a foreign organisation have built the Cepac Vocational Centre that gives locals the skills and confidence to be employable or create their own businesses in cooking, weaving, woodworking etc.

We had the privilege or filming one young mother. Because of her lack of education and ability to speak Spanish her only option for making money was the tough physical work of collecting firewood from the jungle which includes carrying the heavy bundles on her head.

Now thanks to the course at the centre she is able to weave quality products in her home and look after her young son at the same time.

Casa Guatemala – education, nutrition and love for kids

Kids line up for lunch in the orphanage in the jungle

Kids line up for lunch in the orphanage in the jungle

Perched on a lake in the jungle of Guatemala is an orphanage and school that cares for over 300 children. The civil war finished 16 years ago but left many Mayan communities hiding away, subsistence living and completely cut off from civilisation.

Casa Guatemala was founded to care for orphaned children as a result of the war, but now also support a large community of children who come for the opportunity to go to school and have regular meals.

Having run for 25 years there is a thriving community of orphans who are now educated and enthusiastic adults. Many of them run the hostel and restaurant in the nearby town of Rio Dulce that helps to fund the orphanage.

We spoke to a very intelligent fifteen year old who hopes to one day be a medical psychologist. There since he was a toddler he said “Casa Guatemala is my school, my home and my family. Without them life would be very different”.

World Vision Blog Ambassadors – creative collaborations for change

World Vision Blog Ambassadors

The World Vision Blog Ambassadors – blogging for good

Last but certainly not least is a group of bloggers who were brought together as blog ambassadors for World Vision Australia. These people each have their own community, story, style and passions but they were all inspired that you can “blog for good” as well as for creative expression, business interests or income.

As a group we recognised “the power of we” and how bloggers could potentially help influence the web community for good.

I see the internet as the opportunity to share the information, resources, motivation, support and opportunities that will make this world a better place and personally I am thrilled to be here at the genesis of all the action!

If you like it, please share it!

Speak your lovely mind!

  1. I’m always amazed at the enterprising nature & resilience of people. In my travels I’ve seen micro financing projects at work, women using plastic bags to make all sorts of things & make an income, children making toys for themselves etc. Thank You Serena for firstly showing that many people around the world don’t wait for charity, many people help themselves! Secondly, we need these wonderfully inspiring stories to counteract the dim world view fed to us everyday by politicians, media etc. Thank You! teresa,sydney

    • Serena Star Leonard says:

      Hey Teresa,
      You got it in one. These are countries in which people have no concept of a handout. So they get on with it. The media fills us full of bad news. But I heard recently that there are over a million “for good” projects in the world.

      We intend to share with you as many as we can :)

  2. Serena, this warms my heart…to see all the things you are doing. Thank you. x

  3. Hi Serena,

    It is a pleasure to be working with you on this and I loved reading about the work you’re doing in Guatemala. I was there not so long ago with my kids and we were giving our shoes away to street children.

    • Serena Star Leonard says:

      Thanks Annabel, I am loving the group and what you all bring to the table.

      Yes the street kids for me are the hardest to witness. I want to scoop each one up and take them with me… I even started dreaming about it!
      Guatemala is a beautiful place but with so many kids without food security or access to education there is much to do here.

  4. Oh Serena – so much richness and hope in this post. The video is absolutely beautiful.

    • Serena Star Leonard says:

      Thanks Emma, I was so pleased with how it turned out. John has been learning editing from Youtube so I think he did a pretty awesome job!

  5. Wow! That’s so much good stuff! Exciting to hear about some of the amazing people you have met. So appropriate for this year’s theme ‘The Power of We’!

    • Serena Star Leonard says:

      Yes perfect for the theme, and I just can’t wait to add some WV projects to the list!! Not long now!

  6. Thanks for sharing with us what many of us can’t / won’t see in real life. You inspire me on so many levels!

    • Serena Star Leonard says:

      Thanks Manisha!
      I really hope we can do these stories justice. Once we have spent time with each group we really want to do the absolute best we can to represent them.

  7. Fantastic work Serena & John, you’ve accomplished so much in such a short space of time…these memories you are creating will live with you forever and enrich your lives and all those you come in contact with – awesome, awesome, awesome!

  8. Hi Serena,

    Gosh you have seen so much in such a short time, and have meet so many inspiring women/men along the way.
    The turtle program sounds so good as well as educating the sex workers about their rights (gosh it must be so scary for the younger girls).
    I really like the idea of the women being able to play football. It is so good to hear so many success stories with the power of we :)

    • Serena Star Leonard says:

      I guess we have had a lot of adventures! I can’t imagine what it must be like for those young girls, who really have no option. It just makes us more determined to collect their stories.

  9. WOW. What a brilliant post, Serena. You are doing and seeing such amazing things, brava!!


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