Be the Cause

Evening in Africa comments

To all those attended, participated or inspired the Evening in Africa on Saturday, from the ‘depths of our being’, Thank You. Michele puts the mission of our work so beautifully: “Getting more and more people inspired into service to make the world a better place. I really believe that people are essentially good. Sometimes they just need an opportunity to put their feelings into action. ”

I think the below comments speak for themselves.

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From Michele:
Hey Everyone!
Hopefully, I’ll get the chance to say this personally to each one of you, but in the meantime, I really want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your thoughtful contributions to our evening in Africa. I love doing the evenings of awareness, but I think it might be a while until I’m as emotionally invested in one as I was for this one. My focus in life was changed forever by my trip to South Africa and I wanted the people who came to this event to leave with a positive feeling about a place I really love, and I think, thanks to you all, that happened. I’ve gotten several emails since Saturday giving us glowing reviews. The tables were set beautifully, everyone interacted with the guests and the panel was thoughtful, articulate, and real. Most importantly, Joanne and Alka made a lot of new contacts that will be able to support them in their work. Again, I’m so proud of this event, and I didn’t want any more time to pass without telling you all how much you all mean to me, and how I totally recognize that this event would never have been so successful with YOU! Enough with the mushy stuff. Now that you all know how to do this, be ready for Evening in India…

To Joanne with Tias Arms:
I’m very glad that this event went well. I had a lot personally invested in it. I really wanted people to come away with a good feeling about Africa. I’m really happy that you have made some new contacts. One of my friends from school, Maureen told me she is going to be doing her internship with you and a girl from South AFrica that I talked to on the phone before the event told me she met you and was going to start volunteerig with Tias Arms. That’s what its all about. Getting more and more people inspired into service to make the world a better place. I really believe that people are essentially good. Sometimes they just need an opportunity to put their feelings into action. I feel very priviliedged through my association with BTC to be able to create those opportunities and it’s been an absolute pleasure for Ben and I to support Tias Arms in whatever way we can. If I dont see you before, I’ll definately see you on June 11th at your fundraiser. Let’s hope we have many more opportunities to work together to inspire people into service. Much Respect, Michele


From Joanne Baker with Tias Arms
Dear Sukh, Michele and Be the Cause,
What an absolutely marvelous evening you put on Sat night. It was so heartfelt and personal. Not to mention beautifully planned and executed. I was so happy to see so many people there in response to your efforts. It was also wonderful to see your faces again and it brought back so many memories for me of our time together in S.Africa. I so admire each of you.
Michele and Sukh, your presentations were very touching and thought provoking. And the panel was so appropriate in answering from a “human” stand-point, your experiences.
Especially, I feel grateful on Tias Arms behalf for your continued partnering with us and for giving me the opportunity to tell folks about our focus in S.Africa. I think we made some good new contacts and I look forward to our continued growth together.
Take good care and thanks for all the work you do. Warmly, Joanne


From Elizabeth at African Well Fund:
Michele –
I want to thank you so much for inviting the African Well Fund to participate in last Saturday’s event. It was a wonderful night and we met so many great people. I think you could definitely call that event a success! Only 50 RSVPs, yet you had a full house! I hope we are lucky enough to have that for our World Environment Day event in June.
I hope that we can work together again someday. I’ve subscribed to the Be The Cause newsletter and I’m very interested in your organization as a whole. I really love your mission and have been spreading the word about you to everyone I know.
Take care!
Elizabeth Beech


From Alka Subramanian with Power of Love:
Hi Sukh, Mahsa, and Michele: Thanks for inviting me and my daughter to be a part of “An Evening in Africa”. The event was very well coordinated and I had a great time. I met with and chatted with many wonderful people.
Would love to get together sometime again soon.
With the power of love,


From Jason
Dear Michele,
I just want to sincerely thank you from the depths of my being for the wonderful event you helped to inspire and put on. I must be completely honest when I say I was BLOWN away and riveted by the eloquence of your speech and was extremely appreciative to have you tell the story of our S. African adventure…you did a fantastic job. Its not easy speaking in public, especially when you’re sick and you pulled it off with a perfect score of 10. We recognize and bow in gratitude. Kudos.
In Heart & Mind,


From Gianna
Hi Michele and everyone,
wow…again, Michele—ya did it again and I’m so proud of u and all of us…I really loved how u spoke about the trip and all, Michele…made lots of sense and just was spoken very eloquently.
Sonali, first of all…the slideshow you put together…beyond incredible…I really wanted to cry, but maybe not in front of guests at my table :) There was lots going on, so I saw pieces here and there…if some inspiring song was playing in background along with…like even some songs we heard in SA, that would’ve been the end of me :)
Anyhoo, update!! Fantastic!!! And you were very much presenced with that slideshow. I thought of you through it.
It was a full house!!! I didn’t know if there’d be enuff tables! Panel was neat, so was Makhososana’s dance, and just felt very festive and worthwhile…I could write more to you personally about event.

Just want to include everyone in how you were missed and how your slideshow was off the hook.
Hi again Michele and everyone…along with Jason, I was blown away…Michele, u also have a sense of authenticity that comes across that is very refreshing…Sukh, I liked your speaking too…and your story, plus humor oh and game show host…and just all u and Michele and team did to put event on!!

Gianna :)


From Farshad:
… and a special thanks goes to Michele for bringing everything together for this event. Thank you for all the time and effort that you put into
this event. As you all witnessed, this event was Standing Room Only. I guess we need to get a bigger facility for the next one…

Congratulations to all for holding such a successful event…


From Sande Hart with SARAH
Hi Sukh,
Saturday night was informative, empowering, inspirational and a lot of fun.
Thank You.


Dear Great Members,
Thank you so much for such a great night! I appreciate your letting me work with you all and I look forward to doing so in the future. I still hear wonderful remarks from some of my friends about the beautiful organization of the event, eloquent speakers, the panel, great food, and the drumming. Michelle, Sukh Mary Ann, Vincent, Mahsa, Farshad and everyone, you all did a great job. The Volunteers worked with such a wonderful spirit – serving and cleaning up.
Thanks Farshad and Michelle for the CD. Love, Makhosazana

An Evening in Sudan Speeches

Below are the two speeches from An Evening in Sudan – November 20th held at St Polycarp Church in Stanton in partnership with Ann Nguyen of The Family Support Center.

Opening introducation at ‘An Evening in Sudan’ – Michele Benderra
Good evening everyone. My name is Michele Benderra and I’m a volunteer with BeTheCause. On behalf of BeTheCause and Family Support Center, we sincerely thank you for joining us tonight for “An Evening In Sudan”.

Tonight, we’re going to build a bridge. And the first step of that bridge lies within each and every one of us. It’s about whether or not we’re willing to make the connections between our own lives and the lives of people outside of our immediate circle. In this case, we don’t know the people. And even more than that, we don’t know anything about them, other than the fact that they live very, very far away from us, for the most part, they don’t look us, they don’t live like us, and it just seems like there is always some sort of violent conflict going on in that part of the world. When you look at it that way, there really aren’t any connections between us and them are there?

But, like I said, we are here to build a bridge, and the first step of that bridge is us, The next step of our bridge will be education. And to that end, we will hear from Dr. Lako Tongun. He is a professor of International and Intercultural Studies at Pitzer College. He’ll give us an overview of just what is going on in Darfur, Sudan.

The next step of our bridge will be built on compassion. Arif Shaikh from Islamic Relief and James Deharpporte from Catholic Relief Services will tell us what their organizations are doing right now on the ground in Darfur. Arif was actually in Darfur earlier this year and he will show us a slide show about his experience.

The next step of our bridge will be built on inspiration. That will be abundantly provided by Alphonisian Deng and AJ Chol. They come from a group of refugees known as the “lost boys of Sudan”. They will put a human face on what happens to people, especially children during war. They’ll share what its like to be chased from home away from family and friends and forced to live in refugee camps in foreign countries away from everything that is familiar to them. But these guys are survivors and they’ll also tell us how they are trying to rebuild their lives in spite of the horrors they have experienced. They are also musicians and they are going to play a couple of traditional songs for us.

And finally, the last step of the bridge, well, you guessed it, comes back to us. It’s where the connection is created. It’s where we let the people of Darfur, Sudan into our immediate circle.

Tonight, you’ll have the opportunity to hear from five extraordinary speakers. You’ll also have a chance to visit the information tables set up in the back. The groups represented at those tables are Doctors w/out Borders, Amnesty Intl, Save The Children, International Rescue Committee, Islamic Relief, and Catholic Relief Services, as well as Family Support Center and BeTheCause. One extra word about the International Rescue Committee. They not only help people in places like Darfur and other refugee situations, they also help refugees resettle in the U.S. It’s important to remember that just because a person has been removed from the immediate danger of war, their journey is far from over.

If I could leave you with one final thought. As the evening proceeds, take time to look around the room and know that you are in good company. If you could see what I see right now, you would know with absolute certainty that a better world is possible. And remember, we change the world as we change ourselves. As long as we continue to see the people of Darfur, Sudan, or from anywhere else for that matter, as stranger, foreign, scary, weird, we’ll continue to turn a blind eye to their suffering. But once we begin to see each other as friend, neighbor, brother, sister, it will become second nature for us to step up and do whatever we can to help each other.

– Michele Bandera

Closing Talk – Sukh Chugh
Tonight has been about many things. We have learned about how bleak the situation is for millions of people in the Darfur region of Sudan. During an event like this, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and hopeless about the size of the situation. It is natural to wonder what the 130 of us could do to fix this, and ultimately to even question what you as one person can do. The statistics are that overwhelming… 80,000 people killed in the last two years. Over 1.2 million people displaced from their homes.

… and if we begin to look at the problems of the world beyond Sudan, it becomes even more overwhelming. If we think about other areas of violent conflict, about the degredation of the envinronment… about world famine, it becomes easier to feel small in the face of these ailments. These problems of the world seem too big and feel beyond our control. They seem to exist somewhere out there… beyond our reach, and beyond our scope. Our day-to-day problems, on the other hand, are controlable by us. For example, a conflict with a dry-cleaner seems fixable because it is within our immediate reach. The problems of the world, however, feel just too big tackle.

But, for me, tonight, I have learned exactly the opposite. I have learned about the “power of one”… and the power of us.

This entire evening was put together by individuals like you and me that decided to take the problems of the world into their own hands. These individuals that put up these tables, set up these chairs, created these centerpieces, made these wall decorations and put this amazing event together were not paid employees, instead they participated because the problem of Sudan became their own problem.

As one individual we may not be able to solely cure AIDS, we may not be able to resolve international conflict… but we can act, we can participate… and, most importantly, we can make examples of our very own lives.

There are people in this room that have been referred to as Mother Teresa, as Mahatma Gandhi and as Martin Luther King Jr. And those three, Teresa, Gandhi and King, were every day people like you and me. They just found themselves in circumstances where the problems of the world began to feel like their own. … and by taking on the world’s problems, their own lives became great. I believe that is what they wanted to teach us, as Martin Luther King Jr said, “Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve”.

So tonight, I want to thank all the Teresas, Gandhis and Kings in the room… and that is each one of you… for taking steps to your own greatness, and for making the problem of Sudan, your own problem.

If the world has to change, it has to begin with us.

– Sukh

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