SowHope Inspires World’s Neglected People: Impoverished Women

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

Sow Hope235 Mary Dailey Brown, co-founder, president and CEO of SowHope, has impacted more than 56,000 women in the world by funding projects in 15 countries.Mary Dailey Brown's work as a White House staff photographer for Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but she wouldn't trade that job for what she's doing now as co-founder of the international charitable organization, SowHope.

Since its founding in 2006, SowHope's programs have impacted more than 56,000 impoverished women living in 15 Third World countries.

Hope for a prosperous future

By "impoverished," Dailey Brown is referring to women who earn $2 a day or less.

She means women who toil in fields under a blazing sun who hold scant hope for a prosperous future. She has in mind women who know little to nothing about their bodies or what giving birth entails, faces a future of female circumcision; where some countries see females as a financial burden because of the continued dowry practice. She addresses the horrors of human trafficking head-on.

It's for these and other reasons why the Northeast Grand Rapids-based SowHope stretches its arms of support specifically to poor women via three essential programs Dailey Brown believes promotes the most change:

• Wellness. Includes programs that serve the physical and emotional needs of women, including clean water, AIDS care and prevention, healthcare and safe places for those who have been abused or traumatized.

• Education, specifically literacy, vocational and technical training.

• Economic, in particular, micro-loans and small business training.

While not expressly a Christian outreach, SowHope's founding is in the mission work Dailey Brown accomplished earlier in her life. Over the past 35 years, she traveled abroad to 60 countries to help the poor. That includes leading volunteer teams that built homes in Northern Mexico through Amour Ministries and director of missions at Bella Vista Church in Rockford. She is also the founding executive director of Love Inc of Lake County, Ill.

In that span of time, Dailey Brown observed the plight of women who live, breathe and work in abject poverty.

Women doing all the work

"I would get to villages and town squares and see the men loafing around, playing games, smoking the hookah (water pipes) and drinking tea," said Dailey Brown, who as SowHope's president and CEO who oversees the administration, fund development and programs. Her husband, Doug, is SowHope's other co-founder who handles the nonprofit's IT needs.

"I'd see the women working in the fields, carrying wood, carrying water, doing the wash by the river," said Dailey Brown. "Women were doing all the work. The poorer they were, the more work the women would do."

Her personal observations came to a head in 2004.

Most oppressed in the world

"I said to my husband, 'I feel like these women are the most oppressed group in the whole world," she said. "These women typically do the majority of the labor and they're the last one to eat. They're considered 2nd class citizens. In the Muslim world, the husband can say, 'I divorce you' three times and divorce his wife. If a husband gets AIDS, he's taken care of. If women/wives do, they're banished."

SowHope accomplishes its mission by partnering with local leaders who possess the knack to solve local problems with local solutions. This is the most effective method, said Dailey Brown, because they understand the ins and outs of their own society and culture.

"They have a reputation for helping women and they have a personal relationship with us or have a trusted relationship," said Dailey Brown. "We partner with those leaders to inspire as many women as possible, to advance their own culture which they do incrementally in culturally accepted ways."

Helping impoverished women produces residual, ongoing benefits.

Inspired to live their lives

They become women who provide value to their communities and earn respect they didn't previously enjoy, which improves their lot in life, the lives of their children and, quite often, the esteem of their husbands.

"We're trying to help women to be inspired to live their lives," said Dailey Brown.

A presidential view

As for her work years ago as a presidential photographer before she decided to enroll in Bible school to become a missionary, said her front-row seat photographing Presidents Carter and Reagan were memorable.

"I got an inside view of what was troubling the president and I could pray for him," she said. "That seemed more of a higher calling."

Author Information
Paul R. Kopenkoskey
Author: Paul R. KopenkoskeyWebsite:
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a full-time freelance writer and editor for an assortment of publications including Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Business Journal, and Faith Grand Rapids magazine. He has completed his first novel with the working title, Karl Beguiled. He and his wife, Barb, live in Wyoming, Michigan. They have three children and five grandchildren.

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