For today’s Charity Saturday blog hop, I’m supporting a new (for Charity Sunday) organization, the Harpswell Foundation. Harpswell focuses on providing housing, educational opportunities and mentorship to young women in Cambodia, especially women from impoverished rural backgrounds. For more than fifteen years, Harpswell has been working to create positive social change in Southeast Asia through the action and equal participation of women. They provide scholarships for qualified girls to attend university. Equally important, they’ve created safe, female-only dormitories in the capital city of Phnom Penh, so that their scholarship recipients will have a place to live while pursuing their studies. In addition, Harpswell fosters the development of community, with program alumnae serving as “older sisters” and mentors for younger women entering the program.
You can read more details about the principles underlying Harpswell, as well as their success metrics, here: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/62c5ded52135395c294b66ae/t/6323340d850fc0474763a10f/1663251473823/Sept+%2722+Theory+Of+Change.pdf
I learned about Harpswell from some friends of ours who have been active in its work for years. Since I live in Southeast Asia, I have some personal experience with the gender inequality that is prevalent here. Furthermore, as a university professor, I know firsthand that education, coupled with financial and emotional/social support, can change lives.
Anyway, for this month’s Charity Saturday event, I will donate two dollars to Harpswell for every comment I receive on this post.
In addition, I have a New Year’s gift for everyone reading this post. Grab yourself a copy of my new holiday romance Once upon a Blizzard, absolutely free.
Click on the Buy link, then enter the following coupon code: EA98H
The price will drop to zero and you can download in your favorite ebook format.
Although it has nothing to do with women’s education, I’ll give you an excerpt from the book, to whet your appetite.
No electricity. No water. Plenty of heat.
and Gino have a history going back to high school, but for more than
a decade the workaholic CEO has been thousands of miles from her New
England home town.
A mistletoe kiss at a Christmas party rekindles the old spark and Suzanne finds some things do indeed get better with age. When Gino rescues her from a blizzard, though, she discovers that she's not the only love in his life. Gino shares his bed and his colonial-era farm house with taciturn painter Harris Steele.
Snowed in with two lusty men who truly seem to care, she wonders why she’s so determined to return to her lonely West Coast life. Is there really a chance for a holiday happy ending?
Jack had obviously taken a shovel to the path not long before. Nevertheless, Suzanne’s fancy heels sank into two inches of new snow. By the time she reached her car, her toes were numb. How stupid of her! Why hadn’t she brought boots? She should have remembered December in New England. You might get a balmy sixty degrees or a blizzard.
Her breath hung in pale clouds in front of her. At least she had gloves. Fumbling with the key, she finally managed to unlock the door of the rented Chevy and slide inside. She murmured a little prayer of thanks as the engine kicked over on the first try. She turned the heat to high, then sat waiting for the windshield and her toes to defrost.
Her thoughts wandered back to Gino. A pang of regret sliced through her. If only things were different… But she had to be back for work on Monday. VPs from two Swiss pharmaceutical companies were coming to tour the CompuGenix facility at nine AM sharp.
She hadn’t even told her parents she was in Boston, since she knew she wouldn’t have time to visit them. She’d see them in a few weeks, at Christmas.
Blasts of hot air thawed her chilled feet. The windshield cleared. She switched on the headlights. Watching the fat flakes swirl in the beams made her dizzy. Good thing the hotel was so close. She took a deep breath, engaged the transmission and crept out of the driveway. She’d just take it slow and easy. She’d be okay.
Judging by the fresh piles heaped up along the margins, Helena’s street had probably been ploughed within the last hour. Still, the surface was completely white. Snow-burdened tree boughs swooped low on either side. Suzanne shifted into low gear and inched along, peering into the flurrying crystals in front of her. It had been years since she’d driven in winter weather. She only hoped the rental had snow tires.
The car crawled along. Suzanne swallowed her impatience and pushed her worry away. She could do this. Fifty feet ahead, a streetlight illumined the intersection with Amherst Road, the main route into town. More traffic would likely mean a clearer surface. Once she reached the larger road, she could probably make better progress.
All at once she lost traction. There was a sickening disconnect between the wheels and the road. She struggled for control as the car swerved to the left. Don’t brake, she remembered. Steer into the skid. The technique didn’t seem to help. A wall of white loomed in front of her, an instant before the sedan plunged into the snow bank.
Her head snapped forward with the impact. Black spots danced in front of her eyes. The seat belt bit into her chest, even through her bulky coat. The engine revved as the wheels spun, then died.
Suzanne’s brief vertigo faded. She was still shaky, but other than some bruises she figured that she wasn’t hurt. The car was another matter. Football-sized clods of packed snow lay piled on the hood, blocking the windshield. She turned the key in the ignition. The grating screech of metal on metal raised goose bumps. She didn’t remember hearing a crunch but maybe she had smashed into a tree and damaged the engine.
She’d have to walk back to Helena’s for help. A half mile? A mile? Suzanne didn’t recall seeing any other houses along the rural lane. Maybe it would be better to head for the intersection and try to flag a passing vehicle.
She turned the door handle and pushed. Nothing happened. The side window was frosted with her breath. When she cleared it with her sleeve, she could see out into the snow-starred darkness, so she wasn’t completely buried. Still, the door wouldn’t budge.
Damn, damn, damn. What was she going to do? She shivered inside her down parka. Her feet were already blocks of ice. Someone would come along eventually, but Helena’s parties tended to run late. Would a semi-drunken party-goer even notice her car, smothered in the fast-falling snow?
She flicked the switch on the dome light, hoping it might make her predicament more visible to passers-by. In the weak glow, Suzanne saw that the back window was already obscured. She was trapped, cocooned in metal, wrapped in a chilly blanket of blinding white.
Don’t panic, she told herself. You just have to wait. Slipping off her shoes, she tucked her feet under her butt to keep them warm. She dug her hands into her pockets; her leather gloves were more fashionable then practical.
Her eyelids drooped. Suzanne fought against the grogginess, recalling that it was dangerous to sleep under these circumstances. It felt so good to relax, though, to let go. The chills wracking her body faded away. She drifted back to that sultry kiss under the mistletoe, Gino’s body warm and welcoming as a summer day…
A knocking close to her ear brought her back to consciousness. “Suzanne! Wake up, Suzanne!” The familiar voice was muffled, as though coming from far away. She forced her eyes to open.
Gino’s pale, worried face peered in the driver side window. “Gino!” she cried. “The door’s stuck. I can’t get out.”
“Wait a sec. I’ve got a shovel in the truck.”
Her shivers returned. Her teeth chattered like old bones. It seemed like hours before she heard the scrape of his shovel against the hull of the car.
It didn’t take him long to clear the snow away. He yanked at the door hard enough to make the whole car rock, but it wouldn’t open. “I think the lock’s frozen,” he yelled. “Try it from your side.”
Turning the latch, she pushed with all her strength as Gino pulled. “Harder!” he urged. “I felt it move a bit.” She threw the weight of her body against the stubborn panel. All at once the resistance gave way. Suzanne tumbled out of the car, into the snow at Gino’s feet.
She didn’t have time to feel the cold seeping into her. Her rescuer crouched and swept her into his strong arms. “Are you all right?” he asked, lifting her as though she weighed no more than one of the snowflakes tumbling around them. Without waiting for an answer, he carried her to his truck.
Suzanne snuggled against his jacket. Even through the layers of fabric and insulation, she felt his heat. “I’m fine,” she murmured, exhausted and a bit giddy. “Perfectly fine.”Don’t forget to leave a comment! And I hope you’ll use the links below to visit the other blogs participating in today’s hop.