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Category: Global Sisterhood

Holding Hands Here and Around the World

February 29, 2024

When we no longer see the humanity of those we interact with–when we don’t see that their needs are as great as our needs–when we start putting our identity above their humanity, put our needs and our wants and our desires and our truth and our perspective above theirs, that’s where we get our wars.

Naomi Pedersen

As I began pondering one of the Big Ocean Woman tenets, “We work in partnership with our global sisters to create generative solutions,” I knew I needed to ask one of my good friends, Naomi Pedersen, some questions.

I grew up all of my life in Alberta, Canada, only leaving the country for the first time as a 23-year-old to California for one week. I felt very inexperienced to be able to speak on global sisterhood. However, I felt privileged to learn from the experience and hard-earned compassion that one of my good friends, Naomi, has had among her global sisters. I know that I make more humanity-based choices today because of what I have learned from her lived experiences. I had just recently connected with Naomi about her latest service trip to the Philippines in February 2024 with the organization she founded with her children 15 years ago: “Kids Can Change the World.” I was deeply impressed with her and her 16- and 18-year-old daughters’ tenacity and determination to gather and purchase 115 dresses along with hygiene supplies, pajamas, and pantry items to bring to an orphanage and home for abused women and children. Naomi shared how touched she was when she invited some local Filipino young adults to join Kids Can Change the World in gifting and playing with the children in the orphanage and the abused home. One young adult then remarked after her experience with Naomi, “I’ve always had a dream to travel. But now, my dream is to travel and do good wherever I go.”

Since the moment I met Naomi, I had the striking sense that she understood love on a deeper level. I knew that she had traveled the world as a youth with her family, and I wanted to know more about where her deep well of love and light came from and how her experiences being raised on different continents and islands amongst different cultures impacted her.

Naomi lives near Waterton, Alberta, Canada, with her husband and 9 out of 11 children still at home. As an 11-year-old, she began her first world-traveling adventure with her family on a boat. (Naomi was the middle child of 11 siblings.) They traveled down the North American west coast, along Mexico, Oceania, the Marcasian islands, Tahiti, and American Samoa.

During this trip, young Naomi came to know “how beautiful the whole world is . . . how beautiful people are and how important it is to reach out to people around us.”

“The people we interacted with were so kind. It didn’t matter who they were, what they had, or how little they had. They just opened their hearts to our family every time–every place we went–when we went to Mexico . . . they invited us into their homes, they laughed with us, they joked with us when we landed in the Marcasian islands . . . they would bring fruit for our family every morning. I was just so amazed at everything the people did for us. . . . I saw that they danced differently than me, they spoke differently–they ate different food. But everything was so fun and so joyous and so amazing.”

These experiences helped Naomi form her view of the world around her. She came to know her connection with the world was that she “belonged everywhere.”

It was on her journey with her family that she found her heart and mind expanding to make extra room for other cultures.

 “Travelling broadens your family, your network, your community. Exposing yourself to other cultures helps you see the world differently. It changes you. For instance, at first, I only liked the type of music I was used to hearing. Other cultures had unfamiliar beats and tones that didn’t resonate with me. The more familiar I became with music from other places and connected to the people, the more I found myself loving what I heard. Now, when I hear music from India, I start to remember all the fun I had with my Indian friends and all the yummy food and fun games they introduced me to.”

However, their journey across the world didn’t come without resistance and rough currents.

Along Naomi’s journey by boat, her family survived two hurricanes. She shared her Dad’s ingenious idea to put down 5 anchors in the harbor, which saved their boat from the first hurricane in Samoa. By the time the second hurricane came a year later, he had 13 anchors, which saved it again.

Naomi shared her perspective that a global sisterhood is like her Dad’s anchors for their boat. 

“Having solid anchors is essential for women to make the most significant impact in this world. Like those anchors my Dad set for our boat, we need many anchors to help us survive the hurricanes of life. I think of those anchors as our global sisterhood because women, in particular, have a gift of connecting and bonding with each other. Without fail, when I am experiencing troubled waters, I reach out to the women in my life to keep me from sinking.”

She continued to share with me her deep feelings about women’s power to lift one another no matter our culture or background.

“When women use their experience and strengths to support one another, it provides a safe place for them to be their best selves. So often, movies portray women as being catty and competitive. Our natural womanly inclination is not to be competitive with each other but rather to connect and collaborate. We feel happiest when we connect to other women we feel safe sharing our stories with. There’s a different focus and connection to activities when the women are there. Worldwide sisterhood is when women care for each other, regardless of who they are, where they live, and their faith. It is when they care about each other and help each other become the best they can be.”

At the age of 17, after 6 years of world traveling, she came back to Canada and was shocked by the perspectives of many around her. Her friends thought it was strange that people from other cultures ate different foods, raised their families differently, and had to adjust to different climates. Because of this, when Naomi had her children, she wanted them to have the experience of traveling.

“When traveling is positive, it allows you to experience other cultures and worldviews, and you realize how limited the previous lens you viewed the world through was. Traveling helps enlarge your world and gives you other ways to experience your life. For me, traveling is about connecting with people. When I travel, I am more interested in forming friendships than climbing a mountain for a view. Luckily, both those activities often go hand-in-hand.”

In 2022, Naomi brought her husband and children to Hawaii to experience a new way of seeing the world. They lived in Hawaii for two and a half years and formed friendships that would last a lifetime. When Naomi was not traveling but raising her young family, they were very involved in serving her community. Along with a few other families, Naomi’s children formed a kids humanitarian group called “Kids Can Change the World.” Their mission was “making the world a better place, one project at a time, because part of changing the world is starting in your community.”

The organization’s first project was a garage sale to raise funds to stop human trafficking. The group continued serving in the community by gifting a renovated kitchen, bathroom, mud room, windows, and furniture to a neighbor who lost their baby. Later, they raised money for another neighbor in a wheelchair to build an addition to their home to have room to enjoy family time. When the Ukrainian war started, the group continued their fundraising efforts to donate $800 to Ukrainian refugees.

Naomi’s wish is that every woman could know how loved they are and how much God loves them. She believes that this world needs each one of their special talents and special unique skills. “There is no one else with the same perspectives, same understandings, same lessons, same experiences as you. The world is worse off if we do not share our stories with those around us. Each woman is such a light to this world, and we need to share that light.”

As I reflected on my friend Naomi’s experiences, I felt honored to learn from an expert on inclusivity. I have pondered on my impact on the circle of sisters that ripples, expands, and holds hands with each other around the world. I am seeking more ways to find forgiveness, to assume integrity, and to see others for their best self (their inner child that needs love and a good friend). I am sincerely reaching out to be others’ best bets. I genuinely want to do good by them because I am learning to be an instrument for cultivating love and shining light on hearts that need warmth more than anything else.