Readers Who Care: Jeri Rice for Jenin

Volunteer Jeri Rice works with aid organization CARE to help women in Jenin, West Bank/Gaza.

By Dara Pettinelli
Jeri Rice

Jeri Rice | 54 | Entrepreneur | Seattle, Washington CARE site: Jenin, West Bank/Gaza Why did you get involved with CARE? The thing I love about CARE is that they include local citizens in the programs they’re working on in each location. How can I, as a U.S. citizen, tell someone from the Middle East how to live? CARE actually works with the community to reach a common goal. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Democrat, a Republican, a Muslim or a Jew — there is a place for you at the table through CARE. How did you get involved? In 2005, I met the program director of CARE Jenin (a small town outside of Jerusalem) while I was working at a global initiatives conference in Washington. He invited me to come visit CARE’s work in the West Bank/Gaza. The area has always been important to me because my father was an Orthodox Jew and he passed away when I was 28. I don’t think Israel today is what he envisioned it would be, and I don’t want to pass that future on to my son. What did you do in Jenin? I visited over a dozen women who had benefited from a microfinance program CARE started in the mid ’90s, which is now run in conjunction with the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee, a local nongovernmental organization.The women get a loan of approximately $100 to bottle food such as olive oil and make crafts like embroidered fabrics. Then they sell these products to the local market and make an income for their families. How did the experience inspire you? The oldest woman I met was 45, but she has eight children (the typical size of a Jenin family). The way she looks at 45 is different from the way I look at 54. Our lives in the U.S. are so much easier in comparison to the everyday rough and toughness of Jenin. Despite our differences, we share the desire to make a better future for our children. The women I met are actively working with CARE to reach out to their community and improve the lives of their families. Even though bullet holes are visible in the buildings and rifles go off in the air, these women still have smiles on their faces. They’re hopeful and receptive to new ways of doing things. I couldn’t walk away without a plan of action. What do you do for CARE now? In October, I’ll be organizing a panel with the University of Washington that includes International policy makers and business people who are experts in their fields. Our goal is to create a system beyond micro lending that can improve the economy in the West Bank/Gaza, which we can present to the president of CARE, Helene Gayle. When you reach 50 you’re too old to die young. I decided it was time to take off my white gloves and get in there and help.What Your Dollars Can Do in JeninFarming is Jenin’s main source of revenue. CARE works with local women to diversify their crops and help them make a profit on their produce. You, too, can help. $25: Buys five hens that produce eggs throughout the year $50: Buys vegetables that can feed an entire family $100: Allows a woman to purchase one beehive that produces honey she can sell $200: Enables a woman to buy vegetable seeds and grains to harvest and sell $300: Helps a woman start her own small business $500: Can be used to raise and rehabilitate livestock $1,800: Can be used to build a cistern that provides clean water to multiple familiesLearn more about CARE Join the CARE MORE Giving Circle Challenge Originally published on MORE.com, September 2007.

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