The new year always brings hope, change, and promise. It's a chance to recreate yourself and to take strides towards improving who you are and to commit to where you're going. Whether that's expanding your wardrobe or deciding to sweat a little more, 2016 is a chance to recharge, restart and refocus.
At Michael Stars, we're welcoming the new year by choosing to empower and support others -- something that resonates deeply with me. I devote my time, energy and resources towards organizations that empower women and girls to build a better world, not only for themselves and their peers, but for their children and for future generations. To get this movement going, I've rounded up a list of causes that are near and dear to me, and I'm hopeful that you'll find one -- or a few -- that resonates with you.
Choose your cause, and go for it. You'll realize the happiness you receive through giving; there's nothing quite like it.
Six Head-Turning (and Worthy) Causes
Women Thrive strengthens women's capacity to advocate local, national and global policies that help women to break free from poverty, violence and inequality.
By connecting members from more than 200 women's rights organizations in 50 countries, Women Thrive Worldwide has advanced women's economic empowerment. For 17+ years, Women's Thrive has worked with grassroots women, proving through their successes that local women are, in fact, best positioned to identify solutions to prominent development challenges.
The Ms. Foundation has been an incredibly prominent and influential part of my life. The foundation is a forceful, effective voice and champion for women's progressive causes that work towards empowering females -- especially those in marginalized communities. I am both honored and proud to support this group, that funds over 100 U.S. organizations.
Prosperity Catalyst is an organization that provides vital tools for women in Iraq and Haiti. The hope is that these women are empowered to become skilled entrepreneurs and leaders. I've served on their board for two years, and I've seen the importance of training women not just to act, but to lead. They launched candle-making enterprises, structured to allow women to create paths to entrepreneurship and independence.
We Advance is a non-profit that was co-founded by my dear friend, Maria Bello. We Advance has a mission to advance the health and well-being of Haitian women. I fell in love with We Advance and their dedication to the women Haiti, and I chose to partner with Maria in founding We Advance University. The University is an online, educational library with specific playlists that are both intellectual and entertaining.
Good friends Maryse Pénette-Kedar and Caroline Sada, founded PRODEV that provides free education to Haitian children. I've been invested since the beginning -- taking trips to Haiti, visiting these schools and their children. It's been incredible to see how far they have come, and how their advancements are truly changing the lives of these kids. I can remember being at the school site with nothing but bare ground, handmade desks and only a tarp covering it in the poorest slum of Haiti, Cité Soleil. I am continually amazed by PRODEV's dedication to proving accessible free education to these underserved communities.
Upon meeting Lysa Heslov, founder of Children Mending Hearts, I was instantly drawn to her cause. Fast forward a few years, and I'm currently an advisory board member. It's a powerful organization that positively impacts disadvantaged youth through education and the arts. Change starts at the root; it's identifying the problem and creating a lasting, sustainable solution to that problem. By empowering disadvantaged youth -- the youngest members of the community -- we'll ultimately affect change in both their lives and communities.
So as you start 2016 and work towards those new year resolutions, keep these organizations in mind. Let them inspire you to start off this year -- and finish it -- by getting involved in a cause that you're passionate about. You may be one, but you're one of the many, and together change is inevitable.
Suzanne Lerner is the Co-Founder and President of Michael Stars, and a philanthropist and women's rights activist. Learn more about her at www.suzannelerner.com.