“Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.”
― Rumi, The Essential Rumi
If there is one thing that I am a stickler on, it is class attendance. A few years ago, a former student, signed up to take a second class with me. When she missed the first two weeks, I was surprised. A good student, Veronika, knew about my “skipping class” pet peeve. Toward the end of the second week of the semester, I received a rather breathless apology email from a very obviously busy young woman. Veronika, it seems, had been otherwise occupied. She had been invited to speak at the UN regarding her burgeoning non-profit “The Empowerment Plan”.
The Empowerment Plan is a Detroit based organization dedicated to serving the homeless community. They hire homeless women from local shelters to become full time seamstresses making coats that transform into sleeping bags. Veronika designed the sleeping bag coat while a student at College for Creative Studies. Her coats are distributed free of cost to homeless individuals.
Prior to founding the Empowerment Plan, Veronika was enrolled in a freshman seminar I taught. In her final paper, she wrote about her own metamorphosis and her awakening to the many realities of life. I remember the assignment specifically because she bound her paper between two pieces of wood. There was a hand drawn vine running between the front and back cover of the “book”. On it were a series of illustrated butterflies. It was beautiful.
I have occasionally thought about that paper while watching Veronika’s meteoritic success from the sidelines. I believe that for every situation in our lives, there is a thought pattern that fuels our actions and maintains our focus. It’s as if that final paper served as a blueprint for her future success. As a young woman just breaking free from a challenging childhood, she had a strong desire to be seen as “worthy”. By giving worth to others, she ultimately imposed worth back upon herself.
In 2011, Veronika won an IDEA Gold Award from the Industrial Design Society of America. She is also the youngest recipient to be awarded the prestigious JFK New Frontier Award from the John F. Kennedy Foundation. In addition, she has spoken at various conferences and colleges, has a Ted talk circulating and has been featured in numerous magazines, new shows and newspapers around the world.
While it may seem like individuals have very little ability to shift cultural patterns, Veronika’s success proves that individuals are the only ones who can do the work. It is through transforming our own lives that we create and construct new realities for both ourselves and others whose lives we touch. “We” are creativity in action and where our personal action meets social issues we are able to produce new ways of seeing the world.
It has been a joy to watch Veronika’s journey unfold. Having recently enjoyed a coffee date with Veronika, I can attest to the fact that she remains grounded, sincere and committed to meaningful social change. She is a powerful game changer.
Please visit: www.empowermentplan.org