The director of Angela House, Sr. Maureen O'Connell, and I arrived at Thistle Farms on a Monday morning and immediately felt welcome and at home. And oh, the scent when we walked in! That set the tone for the entire day. We spent some time getting to know the other workshop attendees and then we "circled up". The circle is a time of prayer and welcome where everyone - happy Thistle Farmers, workshop attendees, women who have just started the Magdalene program - are introduced and warmly welcomed.
Becca Stevens then joined us for a very informative and engaging talk on starting your own social enterprise, followed by a tour of the facilities and a presentation by an incredible woman who shared her story of how Thistle Farms helped her literally transform her life. Then we headed to tour the Magdalene residences and upon return, had a lovely lunch. The afternoon featured Cary Rayson, the Executive Director of Magdalene who gave an incredibly helpful talk and Q and A session. The day ended with a chance to shop the wonderful products we had been learning about all day.
What was remarkable about the day, in addition to the incredible amount of information that they were able to convey in a short period of time, was that the experience was really wonderful for anyone interested in this area - from people who were just starting to explore the idea of ministering to these women, all the way to organizations with established programs who just need fine-tuning kind of advice. Sr. Maureen and I left just so energized and excited about starting our program.
And the help didn't end there. I have had many follow up questions about different aspects of the program, and volunteer and staff alike at Thistle Farms have been incredibly generous with their time and talent. Now when I am at my desk at home, working on different aspects of launching our program, I light one of the candles I bought from Thistle Farms. I do this because it brings me back to a day where I was surrounded by a community of love and acceptance that sees and values the beauty, strength and resilience of these women. Their success and their passion is inspiring and motivating - it makes you think, who wouldn't want to learn how to be a Thistle Farmer?
By Andrea Link, MD
Healthcare for the Homeless Houston