Friday, April 5, 2013

Giving Back: Peace From the Inside Out

I have always had a heart for giving back. To me, the phrase "blessed to be a blessing" is not just a cliche of warm fuzzies, it's a calling and an extension of my character (or perhaps better stated, what I hope for my character to be). I very strongly believe that staying connected with the community, and stepping out with a servant heart, should be the keystone to any small business, but especially when your business is some form of art and creative expression. It's my job to connect with the deep emotional threads of life in my images, and to me, the very best way to fundamentally dial in to the lifeblood of what I'm trying to achieve is to invest time and energy into offering myself to others in service. It inspires me, it motivates me, it compels and challenges me. The time I've spent in service has blessed me far beyond anything I could have ever expected or imagined. The people I have met have so encouraged and rejuvenated my soul, that I can honestly say I'm a different person because of them. You can read up on some of my other projects, like Homeless 2 Housing, by catching up with other "giving back" posts on the blog HERE.

Most recently, I had the great honor of creating some super quick, last minute basic portrait shots for our own Hampton Roads native, Miss Bianca Neff. She's been an active global humanitarian for 20 years, with a primary focus in anthropology and international conflict resolution, dedicating herself to grassroots peace-building efforts from the inside out. She works with local leaders in the developing world, more specifically, in regions of violent conflict, to empower them to effectively communicate the needs of their communities to international aid programs and other area leaders. Her program is called Baaham Peacebuilders. Baaham means "together" in Farsi/Dari, dovetailing perfectly with her vision to bring aid workers and local leaders together to restore peace and hope effectively and courageously.

I'll let Bianca speak for herself and the ambitions she has for healing the broken parts of our world, but I'll lead into her passion by saying she is by far one of the most motivated, self-sacrificing people I have ever met. She communicates in a way that makes you feel important and valued, and it's clear she's been called to make big waves in this world. She is fearless and focused and I find her outlook on peace to be fascinating and beyond tremendous. Without further ado, here is the lady of the hour in her own words...

After years of cross-cultural experience in countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America and also at United Nations headquarters in Geneva, I’ve witnessed a worldwide peacebuilding behemoth that has become more and more programmatized with time. My mission in life is to help “rehumanize” the field of reconciliation and global conflict resolution by caring personally for the courageous leaders who face incredible odds. Baaham rehumanizes the field of international peacebuilding by meeting the very real and often neglected needs of leaders of global peace movements. We exist not just to support their “programs” but for them as people, as individuals, as leaders. Alongside them, together we face the good, the bad, and the ugly. Theirs is an extremely tough and complicated reality of working for peace in war and conflict zones. As the founder and CEO of Baaham, I am committed to providing them the support they need for success. No issue is too messy for us—peace leaders need someone to walk with them through all kinds of thorny personal and professional issues. The world cannot afford to lose these valuable leaders to burnout and emotional exhaustion! By caring for their mental health and by providing personal counseling and coaching under a wider umbrella of leadership development, we do what others fail to do, which is to keep peace leaders healthy in their fields of violent conflict.

One of Baaham’s recent clients is a fabulous Syrian human rights lawyer with an amazing commitment to his country. As Syria is embroiled in the planet’s most violent war at this moment, Baaham staff have been able to infuse this Syrian brother with hope, encouragement and mental and emotional health tools to keep going in his mission of teaching and training Syria’s next generation of human rights lawyers. His is but one life that we are strategically strengthening and undergirding.

Our current clients work in such wide-spread areas as the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, and Far East Asia. We also serve US-based personnel working in the fields of global peacebuilding and international human rights.

If you'd like to support Bianca's program and join in her efforts to bring peace to the hurt and broken areas of our world, beyond keeping her safety and needs in your prayers, you are also able to contribute directly towards her vital programming costs via PayPal, through her email address:

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