Have you ever wondered what happened to the clothes that you may have donated to many of the non-profit organizations in the Hampton Roads area? Where do they find another home and who is the person who wears them?
Jacqueline Novogratz in her book, The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World (Rodale Books, 2009, 304 pages, ISBN#978-1594869150) shares what happened to the blue sweater she parted with in high school when she was a young teenager living in northern Virginia with her military family.
The book, however, is not about the blue sweater, but rather about how Novogratz, through a somewhat accidental interview with Chase Manhattan Bank, became an effective change agent through grass-roots business development for women in the third world.
Novogratz provides an honest account of an admittedly naive young woman who, having left a lucrative career in finance thought she could change the world, without having the slightest hint of what that really meant. Her personal journey involved challenges, politics, cruel realities, and realizations about paternalistic aid from the U.S. and Europe. She had to find her place amongst people who rightfully felt that her help was neither wanted nor needed when there was so much untapped talent in Africa. She also had to assert her place as someone who had valuable contributions within that context nonetheless.
Eventually, her path enabled her to use her abilities to develop genuine relationships based on collaboration. To Novogratz's credit a successful model of microfinance developed in Rwanda and later in India and other places. Novogratz weaves in the stories of her personal relationships developed through this work, especially focusing on Rwanda where she witnessed the genocide and its effects firsthand.
What struck me as I read this book was how one young woman could see a need in the world and develop a plan to meet this need and not let her lack of experience and limited knowledge stop her from trying. Others might have been deterred by seemingly overwhelming odds, but this was not the case with Novogratz. Readers of this book will find inspiration in her story. And, if you want to find out who finally wore her blue sweater from Virginia, you will have to read the book!
Diane Burke recently retired from a 30 year career in education and moved to Hampton Roads from upstate New York. One of her life long passions has been reading books about real women. A retirement goal was to find a way to share this passion with others. She created a website www.booksaboutrealwomen.com in which she has organized and reviewed over 100 books about women. She lives in Chesapeake with her husband and is the mother of three and the grandmother of eight.