Sisters for Peace founder Caroline Wheeler in Nepal visiting with Nisha and Nirmala, two of the girls whose education SFP sponsors through Hands In Outreach.

Sisters for Peace founder Caroline Wheeler in Nepal visiting with Nisha and Nirmala, two of the girls whose education SFP sponsors through Hands In Outreach.

WAM Theatre: Like WAM, Sisters for Peace (SFP) also started in response to reading Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn. When did you become aware of WAM Theatre and the similarity in your goals?

Caroline Wheeler: To be honest I can’t remember but I think we met because we travel in the same circles of women and quickly became aware of our common bond! Since then I feel we are always trying to support each other’s work and find ways to come together. I love WAM”s commitments to empowering women & girls. I think it is rare and beautiful.

WAM: Also like WAM, Sisters for Peace has supported many different local, national, and international projects to empower women and improve their quality of life. Tell us about those efforts.

Caroline: Sisters for Peace is about as grassroots as you can get, and we love to support small grassroots organizations who are really out there in the world doing amazing stuff.

In just four years, Sisters for Peace has rallied to do humanitarian projects and has given over $55,000 to local and global organizations and organized volunteer projects both large and small; including, visiting nursing home residents, caring for women with cancer, delivering supplies and doing relief work for victims of Hurricane Sandy and volunteering with teen Mothers. This past summer marks our third year volunteering with Simply Smiles Inc. on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation in South Dakota, where the poverty, infant mortality and suicide rates are by far the highest in our country. Our work stretches from Nepal to Africa joining organizations in women’s health, girls education and empowering mothers in poverty and caring for young orphans whose parents have died of AIDS.  We also care for our local community and have donated hundreds of diapers and feminine products to  local Mothers living in poverty through our Diaper Project,  we are  active in fighting hunger in America , domestic violence and ending sex slavery . We gather often to highlight the issues we support.. we do house concerts and wine & cheese events and are always looking for ways to talk about and support issues that affect women & girls.

Sisters for Peace is entirely volunteer organization, and every dollar donated, 100 %,  goes directly to our humanitarian projects.

WAM: And with Holy Laughter we are supporting your current collaboration with Hands In Outreach (HIO). Tell us how that came about.

Caroline: SFP chooses only organizations that are fully transparent and allow for a close intimate relationship with their work. Last year SFP began sponsoring the education of four Nepali girls – Manisha, Nirmala, Bimala and Nisha – through HIO. Shortly after our sponsorship began we were invited to come to Nepal and meet all of our girls and visit them in their homes and schools.  As you can imagine this was a heart touching, life changing experience. We spent two weeks with the HIO Director & staff, visiting schools and homes and delivering supplies. This is an organization that walks their talk. They are profoundly dedicated to empowering these young girls with an education. HIO is giving SFP a beautiful opportunity to part of something life changing.

WAM: What exactly will WAM’s donation enable Sisters For Peace to do in Nepal?

Caroline: This is SO incredible and amazing to receive this donation, and every dollar goes so far in the lives of these girls. We will be able to keep funding the education of the four girls we already sponsor and add a fifth sponsored girl in 2016 – which is  AMAZING!!!!!!! The money that goes to HIO will give each of their 125 families a direct deposit of $20 to help with earthquake relief. I have witnessed myself how far just $20 can go – it can feed a family of four for a month!  That is money well spent!!!  And if Holy Laughter raises more than $5,000 (fingers crossed!) the extra funds will enable HIO to make the direct deposit to each family larger.

WAM: What is next for Sisters For Peace?

Caroline: Our Project right now is in Tanzania. Like Nepal, Africa is another place where deep unthinkable poverty exists and as a result many women & children do not have the opportunity to go to school.  We have several projects in Africa, two of which are in Tanzania. We sponsor the nursing education of a poor, young single mother, Jackline at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center (“KCMC”) in Moshi, through another amazing organization call The Tanzania Nursing Scholarship Program. Jackline would not be in school if she was not sponsored… and the best part is that her education not only changing her and her daughter’s life, it saves many lives as Jackline will be a trained nurse and midwife as well..allowing her go out into her community and save many lives.This is what it is all about!!  We are also sponsoring children’s education in Tanzania through Children of Tanzania; another life changing organization doing powerful work in Tanzania. Education is the path out of poverty. It is the best way to empower a human being!

We have been invited by both organizations to come to Tanzania and meet Jackline and our sponsored children, visit their homes and schools. WOW!!!! We hope to travel to Tanzania in March of 2016.

WAM: Other than buying tickets to Holy Laughter, how can people get involved with Sisters for Peace?

Caroline: I really hope that folks will buy tickets and see this show. It is going to be really awesome. But people can really get involved by joining us in our local and global projects. We have a lot going and lots of ways to be involved and to support impoverished communities; from joining us in our volunteer projects, to donating and delivering diapers, to supporting our monthly projects.

WAM: Tell us a little about yourself.

Caroline: I grew up in the mill towns of central Massachusetts. My Mother was a single mother of four very young children and we spent most our lives dependent on government food programs and state subsidies to survive.  We spent time living in rural slums, where poverty, violence, addiction and despair were part of our everyday life.  As the cycle of poverty can often prevail, I too became a very young uneducated single mother, living in poverty.

An incredible mentor believed in me and encouraged me to go back to school as I had dropped out of high school in the tenth grade. Education was my path out of poverty and more importantly it broke the cycle of poverty.  That is why my work with SFP is so meaningful to me.  I know firsthand how powerful it is when someone believes in you and how far an education can take you.

After working hard to improve my writing and reading skills, I attended and then graduated from Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester Massachusetts (I am a big believer in community colleges as an empowering path out of poverty) and then was accepted into Clark University where I graduated Cum Laude, receiving my Bachelor’s Degree. My professional career has included social work, teaching and educational management.

I moved to the Berkshires in 2000 and fell in love with the beauty here. I love to hike and find ways to be outside.  I love to travel and love good food!  I am married to the best man in the universe and I have one daughter, Jennifer, who continues to be an inspiration to me.

In addition to my humanitarian work, I am writing my first book -a memoir of my firsthand experience of growing in poverty.  You can read excerpts on my blog; I am an Op Ed Columnist, writing about human rights issues and empowering women & girls living in poverty.

I also lead women’s empowerment circles designed to empower women, bringing women’s values and voices to build a strong and healthy community.

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