We find so much inspiration through learning about women who are leaving their mark on the world in a profoundly impactful way. From entrepreneurs and non-profit founders to artists and writers and musicians, women are paving the way in so many different fields as they pursue their passions and develop creative ways to make the world a better place.
Read on to learn about some of the women who are inspiring us lately, and leave us a note in the comments section to let us know whose life path has encouraged you.
1. Brittany Merrill Underwood, CEO & Founder of The Akola Project
When Brittany was a student at Southern Methodist University, she spent a summer volunteering as a teacher in Uganda. Though Brittany embraced her experience wholeheartedly, she had a difficult time transitioning into life into Uganda. That is until she met Sarah, a woman just three years older than Brittany who was sacrificing her own basic comforts to provide for street children. Brittany recalls that moment as the one that awoke her to her calling of serving the people in Uganda. Brittany began working with an American missionary to raise funds to build a desperately needed orphanage, and through her incredible efforts, she raised one million dollars for the structure that would become home to 200 children.
But Sarah’s story continued to tug on Brittany’s heartstrings. While the orphanage was being built, Brittany and other volunteers helped drill water wells in impoverished areas throughout Uganda. As they did this work, Brittany observed so many women like Sarah who were working extraordinarily hard to care for their families, for street children, for anyone who needed help. Brittany wanted to provide sustainable methods that would allow them to continue doing this life changing work while also earning a good income. As Brittany said in an interview with Conscious Magazine, “We discovered by training and employing 200 women and guaranteeing them a monthly income, we could care for 2,000 children—without building an orphanage.” Thus, the idea of the Akola Project was born. Akola “empowers women to become agents of transformation in their families and communities through economic development.” The women progress through a set of holistic courses and classes at Akola Academy, and they simultaneously create gorgeous jewelry that provides them with the wages they need to not only survive but to thrive. Akola sets them up to pursue their own dreams of launching businesses once they complete the Academy’s programs. Through the Akola Project, Brittany has created a model that provides women in Uganda with opportunities to provide for and protect their families while also pursuing their dreams of becoming entrepreneurs. We think Sarah would be proud.
2. Eryn Eddy, Founder of So Worth Loving
Eryn started a Tumblr blog several years ago as a way to carve out a space in the World Wide Web that was devoted to providing inspiration and encouragement to young women. As a part of the visually compelling images she added to the blog, Eryn started stenciling the phrase “so worth loving” on pieces of clothing that she cherished, serving as a tangible reminder that she (and women everywhere!) was so worth loving. People related so much to the sentiments that Eryn was sharing on the blog that they began inundating her posts with beautiful comments and honest testimonies about their own stories. “So worth loving” suddenly became more than a phrase; it became a movement.
As an homage to the creative project that started it all, Eryn launched a clothing line dedicated to the powerful phrase that launched a social revolution. She sums up the mission of the clothing line on So Worth Loving’s website: “We exist to embrace your past and empower your future. We believe no matter your history, past mistakes, religion, career choice, or relationship status, you are worthy of love. We focus on living life through the lens of knowing you have value and you have worth.”
3. Lizzie Velasquez, Motivational Speaker
Lizzie’s story entered the forefront of the media in 2013 when the 26-year-old gave a powerful TED Talk called “How Do You Define Yourself?” She shared about the pain she felt as she and her family dealt with doctor after doctor who could not provide a diagnosis for her condition, one that made it impossible for her to gain weight (Lizzie has never weighed more than 64 pounds and she has to eat constantly in order to function). She shared about the heartache she experienced as a result of being bullied by her peers both in person and online, citing examples of anonymous sources repeatedly calling her “the world’s ugliest woman.” It wasn’t until just last year that doctors finally diagnosed Lizzie with Neonatal Progeroid Syndrome, a condition that provided some explanation for the issues she had experienced physically for her whole life.
But living without a diagnosis never stopped Lizzie from sharing her powerful story and encouraging others to be brave in the face of whatever obstacles they faced. Last year she released an incredible documentary called A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story, a piece that chronicles her journey “from cyber-bullying victim to anti-bullying activist.” Her message, passion, and bravery have served to inspire so many people, especially us. For more on Lizzie, read her feature appearing in Darling Issue No. 14.
Do you know a woman who is changing the world? Who?
Image via Stephanie Velez