One of my many ongoing projects, the Be the Change series highlights fascinating who people I meet during my travels. These are folks who are doing the hard work of changing the world for the better by living our their passions and sharing their gifts. Subjects are chosen by me with no committee or proposal process, so if you know of a person or project that you think is doing something that is making the world a more just, compassionate and peaceful place feel free to let me know.
Tell me a little about yourself . . . who is Nikole Lim?
It’s been hard to describe myself since I’ve been learning more about my own humanity recently, but I’d like to describe myself as a photographer/filmmaker transitioning into the world international development and learning what love looks like tangibly, holistically and sustainably.
Tell me a little about Freely in Hope and how did you get involved in it?
From documenting a widow with leprosy in the jungles of Vietnam to seeing the plight of the homeless in the backyards of Los Angeles, I have been privileged to be a part of the lives of those who, in the midst of brokenness, can regain their sense of dignity. I wanted to highlight similar stories by producing a documentary film and portrait book series, While Women Weep. The first in the series was filmed in Kenya.
After filming for a month, I was challenged by these extraordinary women’s stories of empowerment. I learned how they have risen above circumstances and, despite adversity, are impacting others.
During the film editing process, I came across repulsing research: The majority of women who live in extreme poverty lack essential resources and the critical education needed to survive. Young girls struggle to feed their families, afford rent and pay for their education. Given such limited opportunities, many young girls feel they have no other option but to enter prostitution to pay for daily living expenses. Rape is too common—especially among Kenya’s poor and vulnerable schoolgirls. The Nairobi Women’s Hospital estimates a woman is raped every 30 minutes.
As I was learning more about the plight of women in Africa, my good friend in Kenya sent me a message about her classmate, Eunice, who was the same age as me. As a young, unemployed single mother living in abject poverty, Eunice’s primary goal was to continue her education at Kenya Polytechnic University.
Despite the turmoil Eunice was facing as a rape victim, she was still striving to better herself through education. Eunice needed an opportunity to continue her studies to pursue her goal of becoming a psychological counselor for girls who have been victims of rape. I was so moved by her story that I immediately sent her $350 to pay for her term’s school fees. Through this single opportunity of a scholarship, she rose to the very top of her class and is an example for other women who have been sexually abused. Her success was so compelling that I thought about the millions of other girls worldwide who are also in need of the same opportunities.
In Kenya, I witnessed the pain and agony of countless people living in poverty. As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t walk away. God was tugging at my heart, challenging me to be a voice for those who are silenced by oppression. I then heard the voice of God asking me, “Nikole, now that you have seen the brokenness of women in Africa, what are you going to do about it?”
Through Eunice’s story, I was liberated from my own selfishness.
As God was challenging my heart, I felt called to start an organization to provide spiritual, educational and economic empowerment for girls worldwide.
Then, Freely in Hope developed with the mission of restoring justice, dignity and hope by liberating women and their families from the bondages of poverty. We focus on education and entrepreneurship programs for women in Kenya by providing scholarships for girls who are survivors of or vulnerable to sexual abuse, and micro-business programs for mothers living in slum communities.
In 10 years, what do you hope people will be saying about Freely in Hope?
I hope that people will say that Freely in Hope is an organization that restores hope in global communities and leverages dignity in the people they serve worldwide.
How can people get connected to and support Freely in Hope?
You can spread the word about our mission by screening our short documentary film, While Women Weep, at your church, organization or conference! Contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org to book a screening. You can also partner with us in restoring hope to women in Kenya by becoming a monthly or annual donor. [DONATE HERE]
Pay it forward a bit . . . what are 2-3 projects, companies or people who you think are doing some good work in the world these days?
Much thanks to Nikole for sharing her story and the Freely in Hope story. Here is a quick video introducing you, a little more, to Freely in Hope . . .