Lovable Dogs Who Also Save Lives

We love Riley, our rescued dog at Prosperity Candle where we pour handmade fair trade soy blend candles and gifts

OK, we love dogs. We go crazy over ours and every dog we meet in the century old mill building where we pour our candles.

They’re lovable, huggable, snuggable goof balls. We adopted Riley in 2014 from a shelter and have been bringing her to the studio every day since. Now we can’t imagine life before her.

And for people with service dogs, this bond goes far beyond love.

Love dogs who save lives here at Prosperity Candle where we pour handmade soy blend fair trade candles and gifts

As November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, we thought we’d share an incredible story of an 18-month-old Labrador retriever who alerts a 14-year girl old to dangerous changes in her blood sugar.

Emily has Type I diabetes. She was diagnosed when she was just 6. About 5 months ago she was given a very special furry companion named Koda who has been trained to smell when Emily’s blood sugar drops too low or rises too high. The magic of Koda is that he detects the fluctuations a full 30 minutes before the medical equipment does.

These 30 minutes are huge. Emily has fallen into a diabetic coma 4 times in her life so far. And her doctor said that if she were to fall into another one, she might not wake up.

Incredible dogs savings lives here at Prosperity Candle where we pour handmade soy blend fair trade candles and gifts

Yet Koda is always keeping watch. He’s trained to keep alerting Emily when her blood sugar is too low or high until she takes action. And if she ignores him, he finds friends and family to alert. It’s called trained disobedience.

Koda has changed Emily’s life. Today she is a junior in high school and can try sports and dancing for the first time. Koda is her loyal sidekick and best friend who looks out for her at home and at school.

There are so many reasons to love dogs. They are there when you’re sad or want to wrestle, need to get out for a walk or cuddle on a cold day. Or just hang out. We don’t know Koda, but we love him and are inspired by how he’s helping Emily live a happier, safer and more fulfilled life.

Do you have a story of a dog who saved or helped someone? We’d love to hear it! Share in the comments section below.

And if you’re curious, read the full story about Emily and Koda here.

Image Sources.

Amazing Stories of Kindness

WBUR Kind World podcast acts of kindness and compassion resonate with Prosperity Candle

“Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference.” – Barbara De Angelis

We all have good years and bad years. That’s life. But 2017 feels unusually tough. Maybe not on a personal level so much as a national one.

OK, bear with us – this is worth it.

No matter what your politics, gender, race or religion, it’s hard to argue that things aren’t different this year. The tenor of conversation has turned particularly sour. You see it every day on the news, in online comments, and across social media. Even the comic satire of late night TV is based on extreme negativity.

We’re stuck in divisiveness. And not just here… it’s a global trend. Even our friendly neighbors in Canada are seeing it. The emphasis is on our differences rather than common ground. And the words – already mean last year – are getting meaner.

But don’t despair! There is something out there that will renew your faith in people, society and the kindness of strangers.

WBUR Kind World podcast about kindness and compassion resonates with Prosperity Candle

It’s called Kind World, a podcast from WBUR created by Erika Lantz. Short stories about the positive impact people have on others, from small acts of kindness to saving a life. Each episode is 6-8 minutes and will amaze you. Some will make you cry. All are real.

We listen to Kind World often, usually with kids. Then we end up talking about what happened for weeks and share the stories with others. They are the perfect antidote to what ails our nation.

Kindness, compassion, helping those in need whether you know them or not. Bringing a smile to someone’s face, or joy to a broken heart. Sacrificing oneself for another. The stories are so powerful they alter the course of your day and change the way you view the world around you.

WBUR Kind World podcast about kindness and compassionate resonates with Prosperity CandleAs a social enterprise that supports refugees, a recent Kind World story especially resonates with us. It’s about a young Muslim refugee who was welcomed into an American household with unexpected kindness. Listen to Turning Point, then sign up for the podcast. You won’t regret it.

If you’re a baseball fan you’ll love Almost Impossible. If you want to inspire a kid, listen to So Chocolate Bar. And if you’re thinking of skydiving, listen to When the Parachute Failed before you jump. The entire archive (46 episodes so far) is available here.

We hope these stories inspire you as much as they have us. If so, please share Kind World with others, and let us know. You can also follow Kind World on Twitter and Facebook.

Thanks. Here’s to a brighter and kinder future, together.

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Top 10 Inspiring Women’s Events

Create Cultivate Women's Conference “Seize every opportunity you can to advocate for the women who are advocating for everyone else.” – Melinda Gates

When you invest in women, change happens. Because when a woman thrives, a family thrives, a community prospers, and an entire nation is better able to create a foundation for peace and prosperity.

That is what many people believe and advocate, and we’re 100% with them. At Prosperity Candle, we’ve been investing in women in places like Haiti, Iraq and refugees here in the U.S. for the past 8 years because we believe it leads to a brighter future for everyone, everywhere.

Today people all over the world are focusing on the power of women to create big and lasting change. And for good reason. Check out Time Magazine’s recently published series Firsts: Women Who Are Changing the World that showcases inspiring women who are indeed making big and lasting change happen.

Want to get involved? Great! Reach out to women’s groups in your area to connect with like-minded people, and take a look at this list of upcoming events across the U.S. and in London that have inspired us. They take place every year, so if one has already passed, mark your calendar for the next one!

Upcoming Events

IWF World Leadership Conference: The Global Citizen (Oct. 25-27): This conference draws women from over 30 countries, connecting leaders and innovators to create a more equitable world. The International Women’s Forum holds global events, and this year’s IWF World Leadership Conference is in Houston, Texas on October 25th to 27th. The conference will focus on energy, health, space exploration, and more. Connect with IWF on Twitter and Facebook for updates.

TEDWomen 2017: Bridges (Nov. 1-3): This inspiring event focuses on women and girls as TED Women 2017 Bridges as part of Top 10 Inspiring Women's Events at Prosperity Candlepowerful innovators, creators, and change-makers. The 3 day conference in New Orleans November 1-3 is centered around women sharing powerful ideas and making connections. Some of this year’s bold speakers include social activist Valarie Kaur, leading international soccer scorer Abby Wambach, her activist wife Glennon Doyle, feminist actor Justin Baldoni, and author/poet Cleo Wade, who are all doing amazing work to propel women and girls forward. Connect with them on Twitter and Facebook. This one sells out quickly, so be sure to get on the list for next year!

WDN Connect (Nov. 9-12): The Women Donors Network is a network of women philanthropists who invest in progressive change for a more fair world through grantmaking and advocacy. WDN Connect started in 2013 as a way to connect women change-makers and progressive speakers and engage with local and national leaders. This year’s conference takes place November 9-12 in Atlanta and will focus on issues of race, equity, and gender. There will be conversations and workshops around building inclusive communities, protest and power, and the role of women donors during a time of resistance. Sally Yates kicks off the event with a talk. Join the community on Twitter and Facebook.

8th Womensphere Emerging Leaders Global Summit: The Next Generation of Women Leaders Creating the Future (Nov. 10-11): Womensphere is an organization that invests in women innovation and leadership development to empower women to create a better future and world. This year’s Emerging Leaders Global Summit is held in New York City November 10-11th. The event celebrates and connects women who are transforming the world through leadership, innovation, creativity, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and design, and math), entrepreneurship, and sustainability. Connect with them on Twitter and Facebook for inspiring news and updates.

Tech Up for Women Conference (Nov. 14): This exciting event is about empowering Tech Up for Women conference as part of Top 10 Inspiring Women's Events at Prosperity Candle.women in technology, and it is launching this November 14th in New York City. Women in tech, this is not an event to miss! Connect with them on Facebook.

Trust Conference (Nov. 15-16): The Trust Conference is an event that started in 2012 as Trust Women, where global corporations, world leaders, lawyers, and change-makers come together to discuss advancing women’s rights and ending slavery. The conference takes place in London November 15-16 and focuses on taking action. It has expanded this year to also include larger global human rights issues. Join the community on Twitter.

The Massachusetts Conference for Women  (Dec. 7): This is a sell-out one-day annual Massachusetts Conference for Women as part of the Top 10 Inspiring Women's Events at Prosperity Candle.event where women in the workplace gather to talk about entrepreneurship, personal finance, business, and health. We’ve been many times, and even participated! This year features inspirational speakers Viola Davis, Meryl Streep, and Adam Grant. The one-day conference takes place on December 7th in Boston, MA. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook for inspirational content and news.

Create & Cultivate LA (Feb 24): A one-day event for women looking to create and cultivate Lauren Conrad Hannah Skvarla Create & Cultivate LA Prosperity Candlethe career of their dreams. Feel inspired, enhance your business, mix, mingle and cultivate new friendships. At Create & Cultivate you are destined to meet other talented, like-minded women, including our incredible and inspiring partners Lauren Conrad and Hannah Skvarla who will be the keynote speakers! Join the next generation of curious creatives, entrepreneurs and bosses to spark conversation around the topics they are passionate about from influencer marketing and brand building to raising money.  Connect on Facebook and Twitter.

Mark Your Calendar For Next Year

Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (Oct. 4-6): This October 4-6th is the world’s largest gathering of women in computing in Orlando, FL, produced by the Anita Borg Institute. Attendees will hear from women leaders in computing and network with a community of women technologists. Keynote speakers include philanthropist Melinda Gates, Dr. Ayanna Howard, Dr. Fei-Fei Li, and Mary Spio, CEO and President of CEEK VR INC. Follow GHC on Twitter and Facebook for inspiring updates on women in tech. (Last year we made custom candles for attendees)

Emerging Women Live: Changing the World (Oct. 5-8): This inspiring event brings engaging speakers to talk about creative entrepreneurship, courage, self-compassion, and leadership from a woman’s lens. This year’s Emerging Women Live is held in Denver, CO on October 5th to October 8th, and features speaker Alicia Garza, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement. Connect with Emerging Women on Facebook and Twitter.

Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit (Oct. 9-11): Every year, Fortune Magazine partners with large businesses to host a three-day Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit to highlight today’s women leaders in business. The summit is October 9-11 in Washington, D.C., and includes networking opportunities, one-on-one interviews, and panels to inspire participants. Some of this year’s speakers are Sheryl Sandberg, Co-founder of LeanIn.Org and Facebook COO, Sally Yates, U.S. Department of Justice and Former Deputy Attorney General, and Gretchen Carlson, Journalist and Women’s Empowerment Advocate. Connect with the community of women business leaders on Facebook and Twitter.

Women in the Workplace (Oct. 10): Women in the Workplace was started in 2015 by The Wall Street Journal as an annual event to discuss the current state of women in the workplace and address challenges and successes. This year the dinner will be held on October 10 in New York City. Speakers Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, and Dominic Barton, McKinsey & Company global managing director, will talk about the Women in the Workplace 2017 survey findings and what they mean. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook for news and updates on the event.

What Did We Miss?

OK, that was actually 12 not 10, but there are so many great ways that amazing women are joining forces… which inspiring events did we miss? We’d love feedback and to hear your thoughts on any you’ve attended. Please let us know in the comments below!Save

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Support Breast Cancer Research & Treatment

Prosperity Candle donating to Breast Cancer Research Foundation for Breast Cancer Awareness Month to support research and treatment.

One in eight women in the U.S. develop invasive breast cancer in her life, and most have no family history of it. That’s why self-exams, screenings, and knowing risk factors are so important. They can mean the difference of someone’s life.

Equally important is research. Every day countless organizations invest in developing better treatments for breast cancer and to find a cure. Ultimately, they seek to prevent it. In the last 15 years, the rates of breast cancer in the U.S. have started going down because of this tireless effort as well as increased awareness, which allows for early detection and more successful treatment.

Women make powerful contributions to families, communities, the economy and the world at large. And while October is a single month in a long journey toward a cure, spreading awareness and offering support and compassion to women battling breast cancer happens every day throughout the year and makes a huge difference. This is a fight we can all be united in.

Please consider making a donation this month to an organization battling breast cancer.

We are drawn to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation for its A+ rating by Charity Watch and 4 stars given by Charity Navigator. But there are many others equally worthy of your support (see list below).

If you have already made a donation and have gift-giving on your mind, you can also make an impact with a Brilliance Candle, now with new cover sleeves to reflect your sentiments. Each is handmade by a woman refugee earning a living wage here in the U.S.  We will donate 10% of all proceeds to BCRF.

Soy blend Brilliance Candle ethically handmade by women refugees at Prosperity Candle with 10% proceeds to go to Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

If you’d like to get more involved, here is a list of breast cancer organizations in the U.S that offer research and resources – all are rated 4 stars by Charity Navigator. There are also various online communities and forums where current survivors, breast cancer patients, and communities can connect and receive support.

  1. National Breast Cancer Research Foundation – A nonprofit organization committed to achieving prevention and a cure for breast cancer. They provide critical funding for cancer research worldwide to fuel advances in tumor biology, genetics, prevention, treatment, metastasis and survivorship.
  2. National Breast Cancer Foundation – A charity that helps women by providing services, education, and inspiring hope to those affected by breast cancer, for example by providing mammograms to women in need.
  3. Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation – An organization that works to achieve a future without breast cancer and improve the lives of people impacted by it now through education, advocacy, and collaborative cutting-edge research on cause and prevention.
  4. Lynn Sage Cancer Research Foundation – A nonprofit dedicated to making innovative contributions to the understanding, research, and treatment of breast cancer.
  5. It’s The Journey, Inc. – An organization founded in 2002 in Georgia that raises money for breast health and breast cancer programs that focus on screening, diagnostics, genetic counseling and testing, support services, and research.
  6. Prevent Cancer Foundation – The Prevent Cancer Foundation saves lives across all populations by focusing individual behaviors, public policy, and research on prevention and early detection.
  7. Bay Area Cancer Connections – This organization offers free programs, services, and access to care including emotional support, cancer information and education, complementary therapies, health and wellness, and survivorship programs.
  8. Breastcancer.org – A nonprofit organization dedicated to providing the most reliable, complete, and up-to-date information about breast cancer to help women and their loved ones make sense of the complex medical and personal information.
  9. Living Beyond Breast CancerAn organization that provide programs and services to help people whose lives have been impacted by breast cancer and connect people with trusted breast cancer information and a community of support.
  10. Casting for Recovery – Casting for Recovery combines breast cancer education and peer support with the therapeutic fly fishing to enhance the quality of life of women with breast cancer.

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Sesame Street & IRC: Helping Refugee Children

Sesame Street Workshop IRC helping Syrian refugee children with education opportunities

The ability of education to change lives is amazing. The women refugees here in the studio often share how grateful they are to have received education and healthcare from the International Rescue Committee while living in refugee camps, and what it has meant for them, their families, and especially their children.

Moo Kho says she uses the math she learned in a refugee camp every day to calculate the correct amount of fragrance to blend into wax. More importantly, Moo Kho is hopeful her four young daughters will one day go to college to pursue a master’s or doctorate’s degree and become leaders in a field of their choosing. To her, it doesn’t matter what they pursue as long as they can determine their own futures.

This vision of a brighter future originated in a refugee camp, and was made possible by education provided by international support. That’s why we are so happy that the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Sesame Workshop are partnering to bring local, culturally-relevant learning opportunities to millions of refugee children displaced from their homes in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and northern Iraq.

Sesame Street Workshop and IRC providing education program to Syrian refugee Children

These children are undergoing terrible trauma from war and conflict – and being uprooted from their homes – and are deprived of that basic childhood experience of learning and playing that most of us here in the U.S. were fortunate to have. Bringing love and care to these refugee children through education is important for them to be able to cope with challenges and begin the process of healing. Because these children are still so young, a nurturing learning environment has the power to reverse the effects of traumatic stress.

A whole generation of refugee children whose future and development is at risk will now have an opportunity to follow a different path and, hopefully, grow into adults who can thrive in their communities and contribute to the world.

We feel tremendous gratitude to Sesame Workshop for supporting these young  refugee children and helping bring them a brighter future. We believe that kindness and compassion are the ingredients for making the world a better place, and there is no better place to start than with children.

IRC and Sesame Street Workshop helping Syrian refugee children through education and opportunity

Read more about IRC and Sesame Workshop’s work with Syrian refugee children.

And please watch and share: great video of actor Mandy Patinkin and Sesame Street’s Grover talking about education for refugee children. It’s short and inspiring!

#nolostgeneration #standwithrefugees #achildisachild #refugeecrisis #childrenuprooted #missionforchildren #savethechildren #wakeupworld #sesamestreet

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Link/source: https://www.rescue.org/article/irc-and-sesame-workshop-bring-education-and-hope-refugee-children

Image sources: https://www.rescue.org/article/irc-sesame-workshop-rescuing-childrens-futures

Video source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=121&v=AFfw5MQdnTw

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Women’s Equality Day – Why It Matters

Today, Saturday, August 26th, we are celebrating Women’s Equality Day, where we highlight the enormous women’s civil rights achievement that created the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in 1920, giving women the long-awaited and hard-fought-for right to vote in the United States.

As a studio mainly made up of women, we are sometimes shocked at how long this took and yet how little we think of it today. In the past year, three of our team members have become citizens and now have the right to vote, and we were reminded of how momentous it is.

Women's Equality Day and why it matters to Prosperity Candle and women refugees making fair trade handmade soy blend candles
We have come a long way and we all know there is still more work to do both in the United States and around the world in terms of women’s equality. Currently, the wage gap for women persists in the United States, with women earning on average 80 cents to the dollar. For women of color and mothers who are head of households, the wage gap is even larger.

We recognize that around the world today, women are fighting for equality in rights to economic resources, opportunities for leadership, representation, and access to education. In Yemen, not only do women need their husband’s permission to leave their own home, but in court cases, women only count as half a witness.

While we recognize that there is more work ahead, we still will be celebrating Women’s Equality Day today. Let’s use this suffragette movement as an inspiration to continue working toward a future of women’s equality in the United States and around the world.  

Join In! Celebrate #FairTradeDay

World Fair Trade Day

May 13th is World Fair Trade Day. Around the globe, people are gathering to celebrate the principle of ethically made goods sold for a price that supports a living wage.

Take a moment and make some noise with #FairTradeDay and at WFTO on Facebook.

Imagine for a moment that you weave baskets, working daily to earn enough to put food on the table, send kids to school, and pay for medicine when needed. And you’re good at it… one of the best. Your baskets are amazing.

But somehow, no matter how hard you work, it’s just not enough. Traders come by once a week and pay you a pittance, barely more than the cost of the materials. Yet your baskets sell in distant markets for what seems an outrageous price.

Sometimes that’s simply the way it is. Shipping is crazy expensive, as is marketing, rent and packaging. It can cost a lot to get a product from maker to market, and everyone involved needs to earn a living too.

But often it’s simply unfair. Too little of the price consumers pay goes to the person who made a product. Too much goes to everyone else.

That is where fair trade comes in and is so important. Businesses and nonprofits that are Fair Trade Certified follow 10 principles that help ensure products are ethically made – a reasonable wage, safe workplace, gender equality, environmental sustainability, no child labor, and more.

World Fair Trade Day

We are a proud member of the World Fair Trade Organization, and believe that every single product offers the opportunity to do good. Not just avoid harm, but actually improve lives – help lift families out of poverty and clean up the environment.

If made the right way, everything we purchase can contribute to a better world. Is that far-fetched? We don’t think so. For the most part, it’s about the choices we make each day.

Sometimes the best option is too expensive, unavailable or simply not quite right. That’s OK. What is important is that we are thinking about our buying decisions and making an effort where and when we can. Switching to fair trade coffee, shopping at a fair trade store, choosing a t-shirt that was made in a fair trade certified factory.

And steering clear of the really bad stuff no matter what.

Together, we can make a big difference. Each of us can be an agent for change in a small way that cumulatively has a huge impact on the world.

World Fair Trade Day

So take a moment to celebrate World Fair Trade Day with us. Tweet, post, share a fun selfie, and by all means purchase something stamped with a fair trade logo!

#FairTradeDay    #AgentForChange  

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Discover Our Secret Finds

long-burning candle

“What you seek is seeking you.” – Rumi

We love Rumi. Born in 1207, Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi was a Persian Sunni Muslim poet, jurist, scholar, theologian and mystic. That’s quite a list, which truthfully we have never studied. But we love his quotes, notably this one:

“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.” In other words, pursue your passions, follow your dreams, and do good work. That’s our interpretation, and with Prosperity Candle – its mission and unique designs – we feel we are following his advice to the letter.

But locating a particular beauty on our website is sometimes a challenge, as a number of friends have pointed out. We’re working on it… by June we hope to have a whole new look that will be much improved, making it easier to get to what you’re searching for.

In the meantime, just for fun, we thought we’d help you discover candles that seem hidden from view… a few secret finds. And that is how we arrived at another favorite Rumi quote:  “What you seek is seeking you.”

Whether you are in fact seeking something hidden, or are just curious, here is our shortlist of Secret Finds.

Secret Finds #1. Moroccan Canister Candle

With this secret find, it’s like Summer is already here! 

This very long-burning candle – 20 oz of soy blend that burns 90 hours! – has made it to our Secret Finds list. It’s a pastiche of patterns in a vibrant lime green, a wooden top and a distinctly Moroccan flavor. The perfect touch for kitchen, bathroom or patio decor.

Customizable in 11 fragrance options and 4 levels of scent strength, this will be your best kept aroma therapy secret. Now available at $21 for a limited time (original price $28). 

moroccan candle

Secret Finds #2. Cannes Trio

These adorable votives are sold as a set of three, a great value and Secret Find… imagine having a hot candlelit bath on a cold night or creating that same ambiance in your bedroom. Any room, actually!

Each Cannes Trio votive is 2.5 oz and burns 12 hours. Customizable in 11 fragrance options and 4 levels of scent strength, for $46 (about $15 each) you’ll enjoy the light of three wicks in one go. 

 

candle set

Cannes candles trio

Secret Finds #3. Shikoku Sake Set

Crafted by ceramic artisans in Japan, this boxed set of 6 sake cups creates a dazzlingly beautiful display of candlelight. Each vessel is unique in its color and pattern, adding a zen ambiance to your home. Each burns about 8 hours and the cups are easily cleaned when candles are finished – dishwasher and microwave safe – so get ready for a sushi night with sake or tea in these gorgeous vessels!

Limited quantities available, made to order, the time is now. Customizable in 9 fall fragrance options and 4 levels of scent strength, for $60 this multi-purpose-reusable-zen candle set is yours. 

sake set candles

mini candles

As always, we support women artisans – in style. Browse our Top Picks here!

And don’t forget to send us some love on Instagram!

Do you have one of our candles at home? Share your best shots and tag @prosperitycandle to be featured. Let’s be consciously good, together.

refugees welcome proudly made by refugees

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Compassion & Kindness

Prosperity Candle Compassion Refugees

“Here are the values that I stand for… honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated, and helping those in need. To me, those are traditional values.” – Ellen DeGeneres

Our values, too. Especially compassion.

Compassion is what binds us together, not in pity, but as human beings who have learned how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future. Nelson Mandela said that.

We are a small candle studio in an old mill in a town with empty manufacturing buildings long since closed.

We provide living wage jobs to women refugees who have relocated from places of conflict to the U.S. through federal programs.

We don’t mind where they are from or what religion they practice.

For the past seven years, these new Americans and their families have enriched our lives in countless ways. We are proud and fortunate to work side-by-side with them.

We support Muslim women in Iraq, helping them perfect candle-making skills and earn a livelihood. We’ve shared meals, embraced their husbands and friends, and exchanged photos of our kids. We’ve told stories and laughed at each others’ jokes. We are equally frightened of terror and saddened by violence.

We are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and agnostic.

We all want the same thing… a safe place to live, enough food on the table, healthcare when needed, education for our children. Everyone seeks a brighter future for their loved ones.

As we look around and engage in the world, we feel a lot of things. Sometimes fear, often joy, occasionally sadness. But the strongest emotion is compassion.

Albert Schweitzer said “The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.”

That includes refugees.

#compassion #kindness #equality

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Change is OK. Hate is Not.

kindess compassion candle

My name is Kay. I was born in Burma, but spent most of my life in a refugee camp. My family is one of the minorities that the Myanmar military persecuted. Led by a succession of strongmen, they burned our homes and forced us to flee our country because we are not in the dominant ethnic group.

Hundreds of thousands of us sought asylum in Thailand, and although we were safer in the camps, conditions were very poor. We had few freedoms, limited opportunities for education or work, and little hope of returning to our villages and way of life.

I am one of the lucky ones, though.  I was in the refugee camps for 11 years when my application to relocate to the United States under UN and U.S. government programs was granted. To this day, I am immensely grateful to this country. For its humanity, its compassion, and its generosity.

There are many who have been in the camps for much longer, some close to 20 years. I ache for them because I know their despair. I understand their fears for their children who face discrimination and joblessness for their entire lives. I know what it is like to have no rights, no voice, no path out of poverty. The sense of hopelessness can be overwhelming, even with faith at your side.

kindess compassion candle

Here in the United States, I just voted for the first time in my 31 years. After 9 years of working and paying taxes, and weeks of studying the U.S. constitution and all of its amendments, I took a test and passed, then stood with hundreds of other new Americans and pledged my allegiance to this country. I was proud, emotional, and ready to accept not only the freedoms but also the responsibilities of citizenship.

The simple act of casting a vote so that your voice can be heard is extraordinary. I listened to the arguments, watched some of the debates, and talked with others. Then I made up my mind, registered, and voted. I did what so many around the world admire about America – participated in a democratic process to elect our leaders. Without tanks rolling, thugs in my home, or laws blocking me. Mine was only one vote among many millions, but as Aung San Suu Kyi said, “even one voice can be heard loudly all over the world.” I believe she is right.

The next day I was disappointed. The candidate I voted for did not win, but that is not what saddened me most. Only 55% of those who could vote did. Almost half gave up a privilege that a judge had just told me was the most important I would ever exercise as an American.

The electoral college is a mystery to me, no matter how many times it is explained. Apparently it determines who becomes president even when a majority want someone else. And if I understand correctly, the outcome might have been different if more people had gone to the polls.

On the cliffs near where I live and work, anti-black and anti-Jewish graffiti has appeared along with demeaning words about women. I know this is not who we are, whether your family immigrated here 200 years ago or more recently. Americans are a decent people, with compassion and kindness for our neighbors and those less fortunate around the world.

Some say this election was a rebellion and a demand for change. As a Burmese woman, I understand that. My brothers and sisters are fighting for the same right now. But let’s be careful it doesn’t become something much darker, fueled by hate and cruelty. I’ve lived that as well.

#kindness #compassion #peace #gratitude

Burmese Candle compassion kindness

Burmese Candle in Peace, Joy, Compassion, Kindness and Gratitude scents. Handpoured by Burmese women in Prosperity Candle’s studio, Easthampton, MA

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There is no one named Kay at Prosperity Candle, yet she exists. Hers is the combined voices of the women refugees who work at this small social enterprise, as well as its founders, and the many who embrace our values and commitment to the greater good for this country, the planet, and everyone seeking a brighter future for themselves and their families. Kay’s story and opinions are common to all the refugees here. Thank you for hearing their voices.

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