I’m Linda Rendleman. This is my story.
I was born in the Midwest at a time when women wore white gloves and hats and for the most part, a woman’s place was in the home. Yes, it was the 50’s. My goal as a little girl watching the world around me was to grow up to be like June Cleaver…or Donna Reed. I truly thought that I would be happy if I were wearing pearls and high heels around the house with an apron trimmed in lace, all the while being loved and cared for by the most faithful of husbands and having two beautiful healthy perfectly behaved children and, of course, a dog. I can still see the white picket that made my dream complete.
When I was a teenager and ready for college, I was told that a girl should become a teacher or a nurse. A faint little voice inside my head was telling me differently. I wanted to travel to New York City and be an actress. I wanted to play the drums. I wanted to see the world and be a bigger part of it.
By the time I was married at 19, and a mom by age 21…I held on to the dream of the white picket fence and all that came with it. But circumstances can be life’s teacher. And I quickly realized that I needed to dig deep, persevere and find my own way in my own right. Make my own mark on the world.
As so I began. I began to share my story, my truth, in hopes to motivate women who were searching for their voice, too. I encouraged them to come along with me as we found our way together. Through my career, I had a dream of a foundation to support the work of women. Yet, one more lesson was to come my way. The lesson of cancer. Something had to give. In my mind’s eye I laid aside the mission of my life…finding a way to help women make a difference in the world…to stand in their rightful place…to exercise their own power. And I put that dream in an imaginary beautiful little box way up high on an imaginary shelf knowing that somehow, someday, I would bring it down, when the time was right, and begin again. A healthy body would be waiting for me. And people whom I was yet to meet would be a part of this journey with me. They would believe in the same mission I believe in and would come along to make it happen.
And, indeed, that day is here. I am here- healthy. I am here-supporting women’s work in the world. I am here-championing women who have the heart, soul and fortitude to see the work that needs to be done in the world and are pitching in. They are here-women who think like I do and believe in the absolute ability that women have to make a difference.
Women like Rosa in rural Costa Rica who realized that if the women of her community were to have healthy children, they needed nourishing food. And nourishing food means land. And land needs preserved. Rosa brought the women together of her community and created the El Yue Women’s Center. Today the gardens are rich and bountiful. Women Like Us has helped Rosa by building a library and providing an English teacher for the community and the children.
Women like Natalie Angel who knew as a young girl in Canada that she wanted to give back. On a trip to Uganda she was appalled by the health care available to expectant mothers and the lack of care for expectant mothers with AIDS. Natalie made it her mission to create a charity, Shanti Uganda, a birthing center for women and their children who are AIDS victims. Women Like Us Foundation has traveled to Uganda and volunteered in the birthing center, raised funds the building the hospital and helped pay for a mid-wife.
Women Like Prabhavati Dwaba, an American woman who moved to India in search of her life’s mission. While there, Prabha realized that so many children in the “untouchable” class were orphans and realized her life’s work. Prabha started Ramana’s Garden, a children’s orphanage in rural northern India at the base of the Himalaya Mountains. Women Like Us Foundation has traveled there with volunteers; teaching the children and raising funds to build a girls dormitory.
Right here in our country, our signature program, One Girl at a Time, brings teen girls together for group mentoring on values, boundaries and self-esteem workshops. Our most important work with these girls is the power of service. The message-the importance of giving back. We know that these girls hold the future in their hands. They are future women like us.
The Women Effect
Yes, I’ve come a long way from the little girl who thought her life would be pearls, aprons and high heels. And the white picket fence? It would only have been a barrier to the beautiful world in which I have been blessed to be a part.
Women Like Us Foundation is moving into phase 2 after our first five years. I’m asking for your help. It is our goal to move forward with an outreach that will support women in changing the world…and develop teen girls in the knowledge of the importance of giving back to that world. We call it The Women Effect.
I need your help so I can help those courageous, determined women who are leading the way through their hands, their hearts, and yes, their voices for a better world.
Will you come along with me?