Thursday, April 30, 2015

Choosing to Create Change

Creating Change is not easy.  For Sandra, it certainly hasn't been - but she has been fortunate.  She has met Miriam Enyaga - Destiny Women’s Co-Founder and has had the opportunity to turn her life around

Sandra, loves to sew and work with fabric.  She is working toward a Diploma in Interior and Fashion Design. She is changing her circumstances - borrowing sewing machines and creating beautiful handmade totes and purses, which Amilia's Light will be selling to help her earn money for daily living.  

Sandra dreams big. She hopes to one day have own her studio, and if given a leg up - she just might.  Sandra is smart, sweet and fun to be with. She is also dedicated and hard-working.  It’s not easy, and during our short time together she diligently redesigned samples - until she got them right.  Her philosophy is to create products of stellar quality and to create a customer following, so that one day, she will have that studio.  

We hope to help Sandra continue to make those changes by raising funds for Destiny Women's Empowerment Project.  This program will give Sandra the opportunity to participate in a group savings and loan program, get business training, work with a mentor, and work together with other girls, and continue to create changes that will illuminate her world with a path to make those dreams to come true. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Empowerment Process - a path to make dreams come true.

Investing in women’s economic empowerment sets a direct path towards gender equality, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth. Women make enormous contributions to economies, whether in businesses, on farms, as entrepreneurs or employees, or by doing unpaid care work at home.”  
United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women (See more at:

Destiny Women has worked with over 50 girls, and they are each in various stages in their journeys.  Some are in university - studying law, psychology, social work, communications, education. Some have gone into retail and trade- working in retail, some of the younger ones are still in school. 

These girls have been fortunate to know Miriam, co-founder, and to have been brought into the fold of loving care by Destiny Women.  They have had an opportunity to bond, form a sisterhood and turn their lives around. Though they are healing from the trauma of abuse, some are still struggling. Many of the girls found themselves involved in trafficking because of the lack of employment opportunities. Full time employment will allow the girls to gain empowerment and stabilization.

Destiny Women and Amilia’s Light are partnering to provide an opportunity for these young women, by creating an Empowerment Program. The program has been informally started; many of the girls have been earning money by handcrafting paper- beaded jewelry, sewing and hair styling.  Amilia’s Light retails the jewelry, which helps the girls earn extra money as well as supplements Destiny Women’s programs. We are expanding the retail program here in Medfield, MA, adding totes and purses, which have been handmade with colorful African cottons.  In doing so, we are enabling a few more girls to have the opportunity to earn a little extra.

But this is not enough.  The girls who are not pursuing formal education, or those that have received certificates in the trades need full time work. We are carefully planning a multi-phase program, which will include a one-stop center for the girls to run businesses. The program will include business development training, mentoring, as well as fellowship in a clean and safe haven to work.  

Phase one will start in a rented facility, where the girls can manage their own retail shops.   We will start with what has already been successful - jewelry, tailoring, and a hair saloon. As other girls move through their training, and begin to find their passion, more businesses will be added.  Possibilities include food carts/ restaurant, egg distribution/ retail, laundry, day care, spa and car washing (very popular, since the roads are so dusty!)

The program, will also provide a place for the girls who are graduating with University degrees to work as mentors, social workers, and in business development. Together, with their sisters who are running retail businesses, they can support each other as well as the new girls who will come through the Destiny Women Rehabilitation Program.

Amilia’s Light Annual Garden Party  Fundraiser- May 30 is dedicated to raise funds to spearhead the realization of the program - which is planned to open by December of this year. We hope you will considering partnering with us to make this a reality.  

Thursday, April 16, 2015

It takes Courage to step out

It takes courage to step out….

Having spent two weeks in Uganda last month, I've never been more affected by the sheer number of people stepping up outside their comfort zone, putting aside their own fears and needs, having courage to trust that God will open a path and willing to work toward making life better for others and as a result, themselves.

Perhaps, it was just the circles that I traveled in.  The trip was focused on empowering others. Yet, in grocery stores, markets, guest houses, hotels, restaurants, and certainly in the children, families and businesses that have been influenced by World Vision and in the precious young girls that have been lifted by Destiny Women, I experienced the trans-formative power of God’s grace and his abundant love. This trans-formative love, gives hope, which leads to courage; to walk the extra mile, prepare the extra food, make way for the stranger who is more in need than you, mentor young people to use their God given talents, take action and lead people on the right path.  
It was a living bible lesson for Joshua 1:9. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."

Never, had I been exposed to more evidence of this - everywhere – every day.

Dreams Do Come True!
Esther, A Destiny Girl
 Graduates with a Diploma in Social Wo

  • Evidence that trusting where God will lead you, can make an Impact on so many.
  • Evidence of how trust transforms to hope.
  • Evidence that hope transformed creates excitement for big dreams.
  • Evidence where dreams give rise to clear vision.
  • Evidence that vision is transformed into leadership, by putting aside fear, and having courage to step up and step out.
  • Evidence that leadership, sanctioned in love, creates a space for dreams to come true.

Last week, in my first blog, I wrote how Amilia’s Light’s  intends to “Illuminate Our World.” Our vision is to create a world where women are safe, valued, loved, educated and have opportunity.  Destiny Women –Uganda is evidence of how this can be done.

They got their start, when God’s voice was heard in the plight of a young girl, standing outside the university gates, where Fulukas and Miriam attended.  Her name was Sheila, and she was only 13. She hoped that Fulukas would take up her offer “for a good time”.  Instead, worried that she would be kidnapped or get HIV, he offered the only money he had ($1000 UGX – about 30 cents) and some advice. With tears rolling down her face, she responded, “I’d rather die of HIV than suffer at the hands of my auntie and die from no food.”

Fulukas told Miriam about Sheila, and they continued to pray about it. . After they were married, they took in some girls, helped them to heal and to create new healthy lives.  A local NGO (now closed) heard about Miriam’s work and was able to refer some of the girls to local programs, which Miriam organized. Still, most of the girls were on their own. During that time, they continued to foster the dream, that one day they would build a center that would rescue and restore hope, identity, dignity and destiny of young girls rescued from commercial sex exploitation and trafficking. A program that would provide the necessary psycho-social work needed, alongside empowerment, where they could learn about God’s grace and how the past can be just that  - the past.

Visiting the Board of Destiny Women

Fast forward. This dream has begun to be realized.  Destiny Women has successfully helped over fifty young women who are working toward creating lives filled with hope and promise.

While it is still their goal to build that center (and it is our’s too!  The future Amilia Rehabilitation Center), the current focus is to create opportunities for these young women to find a safe haven to live and work, and to pursue their God given talents.

I am so honored to announce, that Amilia’s Light is partnering with Destiny Women to create this opportunity, for an Empowerment Project, and we have committed to raising $25,000 to bring this program to light. You’ll be hearing more about this in the months to come, as we roll out the project.  Please consider donating, as we work hard to reach this goal.

Michelle Mannarino Luhrmann
Founder,  Amilia’s Light


Thursday, April 9, 2015

A Spark Of Light

Charlie Michelle and Destiny Girls
Well, here it is, my first blog post,  I admit, it’s a little daunting, (as one realizes that you’ve been journaling and formulating thoughts for - well, hmmm - 50 plus years…)  So how to start? What to write?  What not to write?    So let’s start at today, how I’ve landed, and how and why Amilia’s Light began.  

How I’ve “landed...”  How I want to live my life, and who I want to be in relationship with.  Philosophically, I want to hold myself and others to a high standard.  “For God, myself and others, I want to be a woman of integrity, a beacon of light and a vessel of love.”  Great Idea!  Not so easy to accomplish, every minute of every day;  but we all need dreams to propel us forward, to guide us through life, and to help us determine when we need to trim the sails.   


I don’t know about you, but 55 years of living, has offered me a plethora of decisions on what sails to put up, and when to take them down. There have been times when there has been no wind to sail by so I’ve drifted, letting God do the work. There have been stormy times, when the winds were so strong, the sails were torn to shreds.  Others, calm and steady, when the ride was smooth and the destination clear.  But always, the journey continued, calm seas or not, and while for many years I thought I was the captain of my own ship,  
I realize now - I am just the first mate. 

The metaphor of the wind, to me, has been the influence of the Holy Spirit in my life.  One of the “gifts” given to me, is the ability to connect to spirit, and one of the struggles has been learning to listen and trust that spirit, and just lean into God. Amilia’s Light, has come to be, as a result of listening and trusting, and getting comfortable, being “uncomfortable”  in both calm and stormy seas. 

amilia rose lurhmann
In 2003, my family and I were in an explosion at our vacation home in Lake Winnipesaukee, NH.  My five year old daughter,  Amilia was killed.  The home was engulfed in minutes, and it was surely a miracle that six of us survived.  I’m not going to debate, the human factor vs God’s plan here (as I frankly am still on the fence with this one).  But I do know that God, can make good from all things, and he has led me to do the same.  

  Our family received donations in her name, and we gave them out to different local organizations helping children.   In 2009/2010, Pastor Phil, who regularly traveled to Uganda, connected us to Destiny Women, a NGO in Uganda, that runs a program for rehabilitation of trafficked young women.  We supported them with funds to work with 5 young women, in a new program, named after Amilia. 

Destiny Women’s vision is to build a Center that would rescue, rehabiliate, and re-empower trafficked women.  This future center will also be named after Amilia. 

Meanwhile, the storms at home were beginning to rage again.  I was in the middle of a divorce, trying to hold together our family and figure out what my next phase in life was going to be. 

As the 10th anniversary of Amilia’s death was approaching, and I faced commemorating it alone, I heard God’s voice, telling me it was time to honor this child of light and to be strong and courageous, to step out of my comfort zone and do something.  I complied.  On March 9, 2013, some friends and I gathered for Amilia’s birthday, and together, we began to plan a fundraiser,  reflective of her bright light.

The name we chose, is meant to reflect Amilia’s personality, which is aptly captured in Matthew 5:14 -16.  “This Little Light of Mine” was Amilia's favorite song and she embodied the message of this song.  Our pastor, Phil Bauman, described her as "10,000 watts of light”.  She had a God given gift to touch people, and brighten a room.


world vision sponsor child michelle amillias light
That winter, UCC Medfield was arranging for it’s annual World Vision/Mission trip to Uganda.  It was perfect timing for me to meet our sponsored children and to extend the trip to evaluate opportunities at  Destiny Women for Amilia's Light. 

It was a blessing to meet Stella and her mom.  We chose Stella in 2008, as her birthday was close to Mil's and her name reminded us of the stars, and light. 

amillias light world vision chicken
We also had a new child, called Namie, and I was thrilled to have a chance to get to know him and his family. Namie and his family were so welcoming, they even gave me a chicken!  I was humbled, a very special gift!

charlie destiny girls amilias light
The UCC Medfield April Mission trip was life changing for many of us.  Charlie Peck, former President of Brookline Bank, “happened” to be on that trip, and agreed to stay on with me, to evaluate Destiny Women’s business proposals.  As my good friend,  writer, CathyChung,, often says, “there are no coincidences, only God-incidences”.  By the plane ride home, Charlie, was committed to helping Amilia’s Light illuminate our world, by changing lives affected by Human Trafficking, with our plans to support Destiny Women’s Programs and the future Amilia Rehabilitation Center .

On May 24, 2013, over 140 people came to my home, to help celebrate Amilia’s life, and together we raised over $10,000 and Amilia’s Light was born.   As we are advised in Matthew 15:1-17:  The old branches were thrown into the fire, and new growth has begun.

Michelle Mannarino Luhrmann, 
Founder,  Amilia’s Light

Next Post:
Inspirations from Destiny Women

Monday, April 6, 2015

Welcome to Amilia's Light!

At Amilia's Light, we are lighting up our world by raising awareness of the global epidemic of human trafficking.  We raise money to provide support, guidance, and financial assistance to organizations that work to rehabilitate, heal, and empower at-risk women and children.  We carefully evaluate and monitor our partners around the world that provide help on a day to day basis.

The overarching goal is to create an opportunity for the organizations to become self sustaining and the girls rescued to ultimately become beacons in their own right.

You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill... Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven” 
Matthew 5:14- 16 MSG