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Meet DaAnne Smith of Single Mothers Outreach

| SC Women, Spotlight News | May 29, 2012

By Martha Michael

As director for approximately four years and previous member of the board of directors, DaAnne is the face of Single Mothers Outreach. She is a recognizable redhead, seen around the SCV working on the administration, fundraising and morale of the non-profit group.

When asked about her role, it is the people – the members of SMO – who come to DaAnne’s mind. “I am passionately committed to the idea that we can help ease the burden of single parenting,” she explains. “I love seeing our parents transform from near hopelessness to obtaining confidence that comes from realizing they are stronger than they thought, that there are those who truly care about them and their children, and there exists a safety net when they are teetering on the brink of giving up. I receive immense satisfaction in knowing we are truly making a difference for these families.”
Single Mothers Outreach:
Future Plans?
We have a dream to expand chapters into other communities. Every week parents from all over the country ask if there is a Single Mothers Outreach in their community. There is a great need for the kinds of programs and services we offer. We believe that strengthening families strengthens communities, and strong communities make this nation strong.
Why She Does It
Director DaAnne Smith: “Why I Help Single Mothers”
Heroes come in the most unexpected packaging. Their backgrounds may vary, but they all posses a common thread of self-sacrifice.
My best friend is my mother-in-law, Dorothy. We enjoy a deep friendship, and over the years Dorothy has shared a lot of stories about her childhood in Denver. She has had an unusual life…
The oldest daughter in an affluent family, they lived a grand life. But after the stock market crashed, Dorothy’s father began self-medicating with alcohol to escape his financial troubles. Because he was a mean drunk, Dottie would often flee the dinner table and climb up a tree with a book to escape the daily fights.
When Dottie was 10, her mother, Annabelle, made the difficult decision to pack up their four children and move outside Denver. This was a highly courageous thing for a woman to do in 1933, and she was ostracized by many. All four children worked the land and Annabelle did everything in her power to keep her children fed and warm, but Dorothy remembers many nights going to

bed hungry. Annabelle sold food and birth control to her neighbors, anything to bring in money. She sometimes asked Dorothy to go into town to beg “Dad” for money when they were desperate.
Though a hard life, it produced good fruit in the development of Dorothy’s character. Even at 85, Dorothy rarely complains and will always do the dutiful thing – self-sacrifice is ingrained into her character. Annabelle gave her a great gift: they rose above their circumstances and became victors instead of victims.
After I married Dorothy’s son and we began having children ourselves, these stories took on a special meaning for me. Child rearing is bone-wearying work and I know how much I relied on my husband to give me a break from the daily demands of children. I could not imagine doing this alone, day after day, without a break. That is when I became an advocate for the often voiceless single mother.
Single mothers are some of our community’s silent heroes. I have never been a single mother, but I was changed by the power of a single mother’s story. Today I am compelled to bring resources, hope and support to single mothers so that they can serve their families well.
Just for the Record
A Few Facts Debunking Myths about SMO
First, we serve both single dads and single moms and their children. Our primary outreach is to women, however, because they generally fall to the bottom of the economic barrel.

Most people are surprised to learn that we serve primarily middle-aged divorcees with grade school and teenage children. Most are not victims of domestic violence, and over 60 percent report incomes under $15,000 per year. Many come to us as a result of worst-case divorce scenarios where the other parent has abandoned the family.

We rarely give out financial assistance; instead, we empower parents with financial literacy and technology training and offer resources to help them keep their costs down, such as our free organic produce and clothing distribution programs.

Another thing people in general don’t understand is that single parents often feel very isolated in Santa Clarita. They don’t connect with marrieds with children, or with singles. They are a unique group: single parents understand single parents and they long for connection.

Financial Education
Members of SMO have opportunities that go beyond socializing with other parents. The organization hosts a number of educational courses, perhaps most importantly, those fostering economic independence, such as the Lifeforward Workshops. Sponsored by Zonta of Santa Clarita, instructors teach goal-setting, financial skills, communication, job search techniques, etc. SMO also holds a course for its members called “Financial Peace University,” a video series by Dave Ramsey.

Sarah Darabi, a Life Uncovered

| SC Women, Spotlight News | April 3, 2012

by Martha Michael

Sarah Darabi has been a Santa Clarita resident since 1988. She brought to our community an unusual background, one that few of us could fully understand. For Darabi, a rug on a cement floor served as a bed, shared with her immediate family. She suffered beatings, harassment, and went into hiding. Her reality offers a glimpse of life in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

A Full House
Born in Karachi, Pakistan to a Muslim family, Darabi was the oldest of eight children. Her father was a well-educated, moderately religious man, with western values. He dressed in western clothes and stressed that the children should learn English. Though he worked for the Pakistan government, his salary often fell short of feeding the growing family. Darabi’s mother had an elementary school education, and was timid and very religious. She always covered herself with a black robe and huge head scarf (called a burqa). Of the other adults in her house, which included grandparents, two uncles, an aunt and cousin, all of the women wore burqas. Then it was Darabi’s turn.

“When I was about 12 years old, my mother, grandmother, uncles and aunts held a meeting and informed me that since I had grown up, I must start wearing burqa as well,” explained Darabi. “I refused to wear it and was beaten up severely. Still I refused to obey them, got more beating and verbal abuse from every adult in the household except for my father, who remained a neutral party. Frustrated, I went on hunger strike and told my mother she could have my dead body to put burqa on, not my obedience.”

After three days, Darabi was left alone. Quite alone.  “The relatives tried social boycott and I was banned from going to their homes,” she said. “I told them if you don’t love me the way I am, so be it. The boycott lasted three years and they gave up when my father was transferred to Islamabad, a city about 1,000 miles north of Karachi. I was moving there without saying goodbye to them.”

Life in Iran
In 1976, after three years in Islamabad, the family moved to Tehran, Iran. Despite Darabi working to contribute to the support of the family, her mother and six of the children had to move back to Islamabad. Darabi, one sister and her father lived in Tehran.
“Father sent his full salary to Pakistan for mother and children, while my salary was running the household in Tehran. I worked really hard, learned Farsi and English,” said Darabi.

Her skills paid off and, after working at an Iranian company and then the Nigerian embassy, Darabi landed a good job at American Bell, which was a subsidiary of AT&T. She lost her job due to the Iranian Revolution, then started working at the United Nations.

“While demonstrations and chaos were at their peak, I always managed to go to work. After three months, United Nations closed their office in Tehran and I found a position at East German Embassy,” she said.
In 1980, while working for the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, the Iran/Iraq war was in full swing. One day, Darabi’s father went to work at the Pakistan Embassy and didn’t return home. “

Three painful days and four nights were spent in his search,” she said. “Finally he returned the fourth day, but he was not mentally stable. I took him to the hospital where he was admitted for two weeks. After two weeks he came home and set fire to the house.”

He took retirement, returned to Pakistan, and Darabi remained with her sister in Iran. “Now I became the sole breadwinner for the family of ten,” she said.

When her resident permit expired, she was instructed to go to the Iranian Foreign Residential Bureau for an interview. “That happened to be the most horrible interview of my life,” said Darabi. “Iranian Government issued me the resident permit for one year, but told me to spy for them and keep everything very secretive. Upon my refusal, they got very angry. I was harassed, followed, threatened for the whole year.”

Darabi’s situation worsened. “I was threatened again and was warned of severe consequences if I don’t cooperate, and upon my disclosure that I had already told Swiss embassy everything about them, they got furious,” she said. “The next day my sister was arrested by Iranian Revolutionary Guards and I was ordered to surrender. I lived in hiding for a few weeks with the help of a nice Iranian couple while the government seized my house.”

East Meets West
“I escaped to Switzerland and came to America on November 14, 1981,” said Darabi. The new immigrant had no idea what her future held.

She spent three months in Louisville, Kentucky with a former boss and his family. When she relocated to Los Angeles, Darabi was on her own, learning things “the hard way,” she said.

She was married and lived in Northridge, where she had two sons. They moved to Canyon Country in December of 1988. “Unfortunately the marriage didn’t work out, but I have two handsome sons,” said Darabi.

But her family in Pakistan was not forgotten by Darabi. “I was really devastated the way they treat women in those countries, and knew that my other sisters were not strong enough to find their own ways,” she said. “I was able to bring my whole family here.”

She also put her thoughts and experiences on paper for posterity. She has 365 pages written about her life, she said – enough for a book.

Darabi became a real estate broker here in Santa Clarita, first working for Century 21, then Remax, and in 1992 opening Superstar Realty. She is also a notary public.

“I have been in love with Santa Clarita since I moved here,” she said. “In comparison with San Fernando Valley, the air is fresh, traffic and schools are better. Most importantly, people are warm and friendly. My boys grew up here and they love this town.”

cardiogirl – cardioCHAOS

| SC Women | March 28, 2012

Once upon a time there was a girl. A girl who took fitness very seriously…a girl who was looking for the right fitness routine, the right workout class, the RIGHT gym. Working out at the larger gyms seemed too crowded, classes were too full, she felt like a number rather than a person. Working out at home was lonely, no one to push her, no one to motivate her, no one to take her to the next level. THEN she found cardiogirl and cardioCHAOS, the most unique group fitness class offered anywhere. With its certified and energetic staff, immaculate facility, state-of-the art equipment and ideal class sizes, the girl knew she had found the perfect gym and the perfect class.

cardiogirl and cardioCHAOS were “JUST RIGHT.”
Finally, Santa Clarita Valley ladies looking for their “just right” class have something to be excited about!  cardiogirl and its cardioCHAOS class have re-invented GROUP fitness for women!  cardioCHAOS utilizes a revolutionary approach to interval-based group fitness and features a unique fusion of FIVE different pieces of cardiovascular equipment with strength and plyometric movements.

Each hour long class consists of one-minute cardiovascular intervals combined with a variety of equipment on the floor.  Burning between 700-800 calories per class, cardioCHAOS workouts are designed to strengthen and tone muscles while boosting cardiovascular stamina.  Each class has a maximum of 36 clients and the workouts are individualized for ALL fitness levels: beginner, intermediate, advanced and elite.

The girl decided to give cardioCHAOS a try.  The class was everything she needed to reach her fitness goals.  cardioCHAOS was a motivating, energetic, challenging, heart-pumping experience. She received individual attention in a fun and enthusiastic group environment. Her cardioCHAOS experience was a unique and incredible one.  She was challenged and motivated safely to push herself to levels that she has not been pushed to before. A few weeks of cardioCHAOS brought results and body and mind transformations she never thought possible!  With cardiogirl and cardioCHAOS the girl lived HEALTHY and FIT “Happily Ever After.”

cardiogirl:  24003 Newhall Ranch Road in the new Bridgeport Marketplace.  661-255-8800

Never Say Never

| SC Women, Spotlight News | March 26, 2012

By Rene Crawford

In the spring of 2006, I was attending a seminar when I heard a man speak on the desperate needs in Swaziland, Africa.  He was inviting people to come plant vegetable gardens in Swaziland.  Until that moment, I had always said that the last place you’d ever find me would be Africa:  big bugs; bigger snakes; wild animals.  Me go? No way.  Never.  What I learned was you never say never to God.

I suddenly had a burning desire to go, even though I had never met anyone from Africa.  So I signed up our entire family, except our oldest son.  Originally we were going for 10 days to plant gardens, but that changed to spending an entire summer teaching and training teachers at an orphanage school.

We really didn’t know what to expect since the inquiries I made were answered with a “we’ll ‘sort’ everything out when you arrive.”

It took 30 hours to get there!  NOTHING could have prepared us for what we would experience. Rural Africa.  No hot water, no refrigeration, no heat (it was their winter and really cold), no lights, no phone, no TV.  The trip was a learning experience that we’ll never forget…and we’d go back in a heartbeat.

While there, my daughter fell in love with a little girl named Maria.  She begged us to pray about adopting her. I had been told that it was impossible to adopt from this country, so said, “Sure, we’ll pray.” Then, we found out that it’s pretty easy to adopt!  Oh boy.  When my daughter found that out, she BEGGED us to consider adopting the little girl. Well, our oldest son had just graduated from UCLA, one son had just completed high school, and my daughter had just finished junior high. And, here we are in Africa considering whether to adopt a two-year-old! Every excuse I could think of – I’m too old; it’s too hard; I don’t have the energy  – was met with a single word from God: Selfish. I was being selfish.  I had enough room in my heart and in my home.  I could make enough time, and I knew that God would help me.  My husband and I prayed and talked A LOT.  We decided that it would be better to adopt two toddlers so they would have a sibling close to their age. Once we were back home, we started the paperwork.

In late September, I learned that one of the little girls was no longer available for adoption. Saddened, but still hopeful, I returned to Swaziland by myself in October for what I thought would be a six-week trip.

Upon arriving, I heard that there were abandoned babies at the government hospital, being housed in the laundry room with the washers and dryers. I went to see, and discovered about 16 children. No toddler girls, however.  One little tiny baby girl stole my heart when she smiled at me. I called my husband halfway around the world and told him the news. He told me to do what I thought was best. She was about five months old, but only seven pounds!  Her little belly was all distended and her eyes all cloudy. The social welfare officer wrote a note on a piece of paper giving me permission to take her out of that place.

My world crashed around me when I discovered that Maria had a father and he wouldn’t give his permission for adoption because I wouldn’t give him money. To say I was heartbroken would be an understatement.  I cried till there were no more tears to cry, but I knew that we were meant to have two children, so I went back to the laundry room.  There had been a little boy there that had captured my heart, but at that time I didn’t think we would adopt him.  He was a very serious little boy, only 11 lbs at two years old.  We decided he was “the one.”

What should have taken six weeks to accomplish took four months!  Yes, I lived in Africa with these two little ones for four months before we got to come home.  There is much more to the story but, rest assured, I have been cured from ever saying “never.”

My two youngest children are the biggest blessings to us.  Yes, there will probably be no retirement for my husband and we’ll probably always be strapped for money.  Yes I am tired, but there is always just enough energy for the day.  There is no amount of money or time or energy that can replace a little person saying to you, “Mommy, did you know that I loved you the first time I saw you?”

Never say never.

ZOE International

| SC Women | March 7, 2012

Carol Hart grew up in Santa Clarita and has spent much of her adult life in Thailand, where she and her husband, Michael, fight human trafficking through the efforts of the organization they founded,  ZOE InternationalWhat is ZOE’s main focus?

“ZOE” is the Greek word for “Life.”  Our passion is to take the love of God to the nations, which in part translates into caring for orphans and rescuing children from human trafficking.

We recognize that trafficking has numerous root causes and our approach addresses each in turn.  ZOE International is unique in that we are one of the few organizations whose scope of services provides a comprehensive and holistic anti-trafficking approach, incorporating proven prevention, intervention, and aftercare strategies and programs.

Since 2002, ZOE’s aftercare program has had a 0% recidivism rate and no runaways. Our care is based on a “family” model utilizing a caretaker-to-child ratio of 1:4.

When did you launch ZOE and how did it come about?

ZOE International has been combating human trafficking in Thailand since 2002.  We started ZOE when our hearts were utterly broken upon learning of the plight of trafficked children. We vowed to God that we would do anything – whatever it took – to help end child slavery globally, specifically for little ones who have no one to fight for them.

We sold our Santa Clarita custom home, our cars, and our successful business – everything we had – to start ZOE and move to Thailand.  We have not regretted our decision for one second; the rewards have been indescribably wonderful!

How has it changed since you started?

A decade ago human trafficking was third in global revenue for organized crime. Drugs and weapons were first and second.  Today, human trafficking is second and on the way to soon becoming the #1 moneymaker for organized crime.  It is a multi-BILLION dollar industry that stems from greed, corruption and immorality and feeds off of the buying and selling of human beings.

There is definitely more awareness about this atrocity now than when we started, as more and more people are getting educated on the facts and reality of human trafficking – today’s modern day slavery.

ZOE has grown tremendously over the past 10 years.  We have purchased land in Thailand and built the first phase of facilities in our master plan. Last year we completed a 40,000-square-foot facility that is home to our rescued children.

ZOE also operates safe houses in multiple undisclosed locations for short-term specialized care to facilitate the trial process, witness protection, and initial rehab/counseling, pursuant to integration in our main aftercare facility.

We also operate ZOE Ministry School which is a two-year program that trains young adults in leadership, business, English, vocational skills, and biblical studies.

Last year we started our work here in the Los Angeles area to combat domestic human trafficking and international “sex tourism.”

Who does ZOE serve?

We rescue and care for children ages 0-17 who have no one to care for them. These are children who have been orphaned and are in danger, children who are at risk of being trafficked, or children who have already been trafficked.

How do you raise funds?

Through the mercy, love and generosity of individuals, families, groups, businesses, churches and ministries.

We have never and will never get used to the amazing and selfless people who help us do what we do!  It has been said, “You have not lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you…” Many of our donors will never personally hear “thank you” from the ones they helped rescue, and most of our partners-donors will never have the opportunity to look into the eyes of the orphans to whom they have given a future and a hope. For all of our precious partners-donors we will be forever grateful.

There is a local Southern California business that is currently raising money for us so that we can build a boys’ home. Boys make up 50 percent of the children we rescue.

In November of 2012 we will have a walk-a-thon in Santa Clarita to raise funds and awareness for the work we are doing at ZOE. You can learn more about this by visiting our website at gozoe.org or zoerescuewalk.com.

ZOE is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in the USA so all donations are tax deductible.  ZOE International Foundation, a subsidiary of ZOE, was granted foundation status by the government of Thailand, which enables us to buy and own property in Thailand.

What are the different roles the staff performs?

We employ 54 full-time Thais and we have 23 adult American volunteers and two Australian volunteers (who among them have 21 children who live in Thailand).

The staff help with self-sustaining efforts, including agriculture and animal husbandry. They teach English, life skills, various vocations, leadership and business, and they oversee construction and IT projects. Many work in our child rescue department, some serve as house parents, counselors and advocates for our rescued children, while others tend to the kitchen, or work in our security department.

ZOE also has four full-time employees and two part-time employees working in our USA office here in Santa Clarita. They do a terrific job handling our finances, donor relations, and fundraising-marketing efforts. Working in partnership with Federal law enforcement, they also serve international and domestic child survivors of human trafficking, and do research-development for our work in the USA.

We have an amazing team of people and families all working tirelessly to fight for these children.

Which members live in the SCV?

Four of our six USA staff live in Santa Clarita.  I grew up here and several of our overseas volunteers are also from the Santa Clarita area
How does the SCV support ZOE?

There are many individuals, businesses and churches who lend their time, talent and treasure to ZOE and the fight against human trafficking. We love our community and the wonderful people who make up our “home base.”

What is the future plan for ZOE? Will you launch the program in any other country?

We are currently active in Thailand, USA, and Australia. Our long-term goal is to duplicate the very effective work we are accomplishing in Thailand in other parts of the world where there are children who are waiting to be free.  According to UNICEF, as many as two million children are subjected to prostitution in the global commercial sex trade.  Millions more are in forced labor. In 2005, Unicef estimated there were 132 million orphans in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean alone. So you can see that the need is great, but we know that our God is greater!

What would be on ZOE’s wish list, if you had one?

We do have a wish list that is pages long! You can call or email our USA office for a copy (661-255-7963 or info@gozoe.org).  Everything on that list lends itself to our ultimate desire to see every child restored physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. And if we had one wish it would be the same one we had when we started ZOE 10 years ago: to end child trafficking worldwide.

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