By Barbara Polan, Contributing Writer
Northborough – As chair of International Outreach for the General Federation of Women's Clubs (GFWC) of Massachusetts for a two-year term starting June 2010, Northborough resident Fran Warren stresses the group's focus on helping women and children throughout the world.
“We'se mostly trying to develop the skills, the knowledge and opportunity for children and women to better themselves and to help raise them from the dire poverty they live in in their community,” she said.
The charitable organizations that the GFWC supports fall into the category of those that help women and children in a variety of ways, providing: medical care, hunger relief, and education and economic opportunity. The agencies supported by GFWC include Heifer Project, CARE, Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children, World Food Plans and Operation Smile.
Warren explained that the Northborough chapter of GFWC focuses particularly on Operation Smile, which, according to the organization's website at www.operationsmile.org/, provides life-changing surgery for the correction of cleft lip and cleft palate in children throughout the world. Support takes the form of providing both hospital johnnies and “smile dolls” for the children in need of operations and small bags of helpful items as they depart.
“Right now, I have 125 johnnies sitting in my living room,” Warren said.
And on March 13, the group got together at the Northborough Senior Center to participate in a workshop to sew even more.
Smile dolls are simple dolls made of muslin; the dolls have blank faces when they are given to the children, with the hope that the patients themselves will drawn the faces on.
“They are made with blank faces so that [the children] can express how they feel,” Warren explained.
In addition, many of the programs supported by GFWC are intended to help women and their families into the future. Heifer Project, for example, distributes animals to women to “empower them,” according to Warren.
“They receive cows or bees so that women can work, and sometimes they support their whole village,” she said.
Through CARE, women learn how to start small businesses to support themselves and their families.
Overall, the programs supported by GFWC try to teach that women can work, and work well, together, something that is perhaps not common-place in their societies. That changed attitude results in significant quality-of-life improvements for them, their families and even their communities.
“CARE shows women that they are powerful when they band together and work together,” Warren explained.