Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Different Set of Wheeels

"Giving opens the way for receiving."
 -Florence Scovel Shinn

Last November, we launched a campaign on IndieGoGo to buy a car to use for safe transport of the children supported through House of Loveness in Zimbabwe.  Over a forty day period, we raised enough money from many small donations to buy a car (just over $6,000) that would be used to help transport the children to and from school and appointments.  We looked at cars for several months, but the conditions of the used cars were less than ideal and there were concerns about the costs for ongoing maintenance.

We have decided to turn the car money into a large donation to buy bikes ($80 per bike) in a rural area for children to ride to school. It is a much better use of the funds and the bikes don't require expensive upkeep like the car (yes, we still need a car!).

The children receive the bikes on Monday and return the bikes on Friday. They are responsible for keeping the bikes in good condition to maintain bike privileges. The Bike Project is a way for the children to get to and from school in areas where they may walk to school up to 25km one way. It keeps them in school and safe.

The remainder of the money is set aside to cover private school fees ($1,250 a year) for several deserving children (abandoned or orphaned) in Zimbabwe.

Please let me know if you have any questions. I appreciate your ongoing support of House of Loveness.

There are still some places open on the Service & Safari Retreat in Zimbabwe November 29 - December 6, 2014.  Our group will be staying at a Wildlife Conservation Park in the area serving the Bike project.  Please join us and see the difference the bikes make in the lives of the children in that area.

Betsy Blankenbaker
Founder, House of Loveness

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Catalyst to Choose Love

Qoya class during the 2013 Service & Safari Retreat

Earlier this year, I was invited to give a speech during Catalyst Week in Downtown Las Vegas. The speech was about a catalyst moment in my life. I chose to speak about going to Zimbabwe to adopt a baby in 2008, only to discover she died just before I arrived.

Betsy in Zimbabwe, 2008
Losing the baby was a catalyst moment because I had the choice to leave immediately and never return to Zimbabwe (which was my first instinct) or to stay in Zimbabwe and spend eight days grieving a baby in a country I'd never been to, among people I didn't know.

I stayed.

I spent most of the next eight days taking care of a crew of abandoned children that lived at a local hospital. They reminded me to go beyond the wounds and sadness and Choose Love.

December 2013
Some of the children supported by House of Loveness since 2009
By the end of the following year, I had returned to Zimbabwe seven times, and founded House of Loveness (HOL), an organization to care and educate abandoned and orphaned children.

Now, HOL has 501(c)3 status through the loving support of our fiscal sponsor From The Heart Productions. You can make a tax-deductible donation to any of the projects we support through the From The Heart Productions website.

Moyo, Photo courtesy Wild Is Life
This year, we are expanding our efforts to help with the animals which are the soul of the culture in Zimbabwe.

Our first project is to assist with the care and support of Moyo, a baby elephant that was found abandoned earlier this year.

Moyo was transferred to Wild is Life animal sanctuary where he has been being nursed back to life by Roxy Danckwerts and her team of animal handlers.

You can follow Moyo's story on the Wild is Life facebook page or donate towards Moyo's care on the Wild is Life website.

Or, you can meet Moyo in person and join us on the Second Annual Service & Safari Retreat with House of Loveness founder Betsy Blankenbaker.

Second Annual Service & Safari Retreat
Nov. 29-Dec. 6, 2014 Zimbabwe

“Thank you so much for the adventure of a lifetime . It was an amazing, heart opening, inspirational journey.  I can't wait to come back!” -2013 retreat guest

The retreat includes service at local schools, seven magical nights and gourmet meals at a safari park with game drives, an elephant ride, rhino walk and horseback riding. 

Daily movement and meditation classes led by Qoya teacher Betsy Blankenbaker. 

Afternoon tea, champagne and a chance to meet Moyo at the Wild is Life Animal Sanctuary. 

A portion of the cost of the trip will be donated to towards The Bike Project (buying bikes for children in rural areas to get to school) and for Moyo's ongoing care.
Cost is $2,750 per person and includes 7 nights of shared accommodations in Zimbabwe, airport transfers, all meals and transportation within Zimbabwe, game drives, elephant ride, rhino walk, horseback ride. Daily Qoya classes. Price excludes air travel to and from Zimbabwe (flights to Harare HRE are about $1,500 from NYC). 

SPECIAL RATE before September 10, 2014 is $2,500 per person. A $500 non-refundable deposit holds your place. 

Balance of trip due October 10, 2014.  
Only 7 spots still available.

For more information or to pay by check contact:

“This experience has left an indelible mark in my heart, mind and soul.”
-2013 retreat guest

House of Loveness was founded in 2008 by filmmaker Betsy 
Blankenbaker to care and educate at-risk children in Zimbabwe
Follow our story on Facebook!

Monday, December 30, 2013

This is What Love Looks Like

Cheepo 2013
Cheepo, abandoned 2008
Thanks to your support and love Cheepo is well-fed, well-loved and starting second grade in January. Here are some other accomplishments of House of Loveness over the past year.

With your support:
-Provided  6,000 meals for children
-Provided salaries for one caregiver, two teachers and two assistants
-Supported pre-school for 20+children
-Provided primary school fees for 5 children
-Provided 8 bikes for children in rural area who otherwise would walk 25-50km a day to school
-Provided new shoes, clothes and backpacks for 30 children
-Launched The Gratitude House project in Zimbabwe
-Raised funds to buy car for safe transport of the children 
-Graduated 20 children from pre-school
-Hosted the first Service and Safari Retreat in Zimbabwe (next retreat is Nov. 29-Dec. 6, 2014, please join us!)

Together We are dreaming Bigger Dreams for the children of Zimbabwe in 2014.  

Thank you for your support!

The Bike Project launched by Imirie Wildlife Conservation

In 2013, the owners of Imirie raised enough money to provide 45 bikes for children in rural areas to ride to school (a 25-40km walk every day).  House of Loveness donated an additional 8 bikes but we would love to give more (the school has 350 children). Each bike is $80. You can support this project through a donation of $80 or more through our fiscal sponsor From The Heart Production (a 501c3).

We will email you a photo of the Bike Project in Zimbabwe to thank you for your support. 


2014 Service & Safari Retreat

Join us in Zimbabwe Nov. 29-Dec. 6, 2014 for our Second annual Service and Safari Retreat with daily Qoya classes by Qoya founder Rochelle Schieck. Only 11 spaces available. 


Friday, December 6, 2013

Making A Difference

Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.   -Nelson Mandela

Last week at a small one room school in Zimbabwe, thirteen women from the US and UK cheered as twenty-two children graduated from the school House of Loveness supports in Zimbabwe.  The women and two of their daughters were spending a week in Zimbabwe with House of Loveness founder Betsy Blankenbaker for a Giving Thanks Service and Safari Retreat.  The retreat group gave their time and their money to make a difference in the lives of these children.  

If you would like to join us in Zimbabwe in 2014, you can hold two spaces for 2014 retreat through a donation as a House of Loveness Hero on the current IndieGoGo campaign.  

We Need A Ride Campaign on IndieGoGo

Thanks to everyone who has supported the We Need A Ride campaign for House of Loveness. We are so close to our goal!

There is still time to receive some great perks for your donation towards a new car for safe transport of the children in Zimbabwe.  All money raised over the goal goes towards the continued care and education of children in Zimbabwe.  We are so grateful for your support!

Here is the link to donate or to share.

Gifts Ideas To Benefit House of Loveness

Portland-based jewelry designer Lauren Harkness creates unique, sensual pieces of jewelry handmade with love. Harkness is donating a portion of sales through December 15 to several amazing organizations including House of Loveness.  Visit her store in Portland or the website Use the code GENEROUS to save 40% and support great causes.

House of Loveness Celebrates the Life and Legacy of Nelson Mandela

Friday, November 22, 2013

Following My Heart

"It is the heart that gives; the fingers just let go." -Ibo tribe, Nigeria

In the next 48 hours, ten women and two of their children are joining me for a week long retreat in Zimbabwe.  I am filled with gratitude for the sacrifice they are making to leave their families during the Thanksgiving holiday, pack bags full of supplies to bring to the children and fly 20 plus hours to Zimbabwe. I have to believe the decision to come to Zimbabwe was made from their heart.  Their head might have given them another answer.

On my first trip to Zimbabwe in 2008, I arrived to the news the baby I was to adopt had died.  I spent eight days in Zimbabwe to get her buried and in my head I knew I never wanted to go back.  But my heart led me to return again six weeks later with a wheelchair for Kuda, one of the abandoned children I met whose legs were so atrophied that he scooted on his hands across the dirty hospital floor.  No one ever thought he would walk but I wanted him off that hospital floor so I brought him a wheelchair donated by Susan and Nick Noyes and

It's now five years later and I've returned to Zimbabwe nearly twenty times. Kuda doesn't need the wheelchair anymore, he is walking. Actually he is running.

I'm glad I listened to my heart.

Kuda, November 2008

House of Loveness has a current campaign on IndieGoGo to raise funds to buy a car in Zimbabwe for safe transport for the children.  One of the perks for a $60 donation is a heart stone hand made by a sculptor in Zim.  We would love your support!  Other perks include a week long all expenses paid trip for two in Zimbabwe in 2014 (air fare not included) to visit the children, work at the school and spend time on safari.

All $10 donations receive a postcard from our holiday party in Zimbabwe. We would love to send out hundreds of postcards!

Sending love from Zimbabwe,

Betsy Blankenbaker

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Turning Rocks Into An Education

House of Loveness founder Betsy Blankenbaker meeting Primrose (November 2008)

When I first met Primrose, she stared me down. She was only three years old but her gaze pierced my soul. She didn’t smile.

Primrose was ‘living’ in the children’s ward of a hospital in Zimbabwe but she wasn’t sick. She was abandoned, or a dumped baby, as they call them in Zim.  There was no room in the nearby orphanages so Prim lived with six other dumbed babies in two cribs at the hospital.  The week before there had been ten babies sharing the cribs but four of them died.  I had arrived in Zimbabwe to adopt one of those babies, a five week old infant named Loveness. I buried her instead.

In a country where a child under the age of five has about the same chance of living as dying, I didn’t want to see Primrose and the other dumped babies left at the hospital.  What kind of childhood is this?

With the help of friends and family, I founded House of Loveness, an NGO to provide emergency and longterm care for at-risk children in Zimbabwe.  The children now live in a private home and are looked after by a wonderful GoGo (grandmother).

In 2010 we gave the seed money to open a local school that educates thirty-six children.  

This Thanksgiving, House of Loveness is hosting a Service and Safari Retreat.  The trip is sold-out but there are more opportunities to join us in Zimbabwe in 2014 with a tax-deductible donation to our current fundraiser on IndieGoGo.
Primrose 2013

It’s been five years since my first trip to Zimbabwe. I am so grateful to all the wonderful helpers along the way who support House of Loveness.  Please come visit us!

The future of Zimbabwe looks brighter through the eyes of these children.

Tariro and Primrose (Jan. 2013)

                               Turning Stones Into Hearts 

Sculptor Leofold Ndemera

Local Zimbabwean sculptor Leofold Ndemera crafts beautiful hearts out of local stones.  Your purchase of a stone heart made with love in Zimbabwe will fund the education and dreams of these remarkable children.  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Expanding Our Borders

Coming Home

This past week I arrived from the US into the airport at Shannon, Ireland.  I was excited to be coming home.  I've only been to Ireland a few times but each time I connected strongly with my Irish roots.  My mother is a Murphy and her family immigrated to the US during the Irish potato famine in the 1850s along with two million other Irish people who left their homeland to start new lives in the US, Canada and Great Britain.

When I passed my passport through the hole in the glass to the customs agent at the airport, he thumbed through my passport at the pages and pages of stamps, including one from being in Ireland just a month ago.  Then he glanced at my customs form.

"You're a teacher?"

"I teach a movement class for women," I responded, not going into the explanation of Qoya, the class I would be teaching in Ireland this week.

He scanned my passport.

"You travel for fun?" he asked.  "Why are you going to all these places?"

I didn't know how to answer his questions. I travel to discover, to connect and to follow my curiosity. I travel to be of service.  I travel for stories and for inspiration.

"Why are you back in Ireland so soon?" he continued.

How do I explain how clean the energy feels in Ireland?  Or that I'm teaching a class that is helping women to connect to their sacred source of wisdom on an island the ancient Greek considered to be the Body of the Goddess?  And, I want to finish writing my book on the land that has nurtured many writers.
Costa Rica 2013 photo by Lori Berkowitz

"I'm visiting friends," I said.

The customs agent slowly inspected the pages of my passport: Zimbabwe, South Africa, Greece, Turkey, Italy, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Norway, Ireland, England.  And those were just the stamps from the past year.  It felt odd to be questioned about wanting to come back into a country where I have roots.  Why do we have borders stopping us from going anywhere in the world?

It made me wonder what borders we put on ourselves and how we live every day?  Who do we need to give us permission?

He finally pressed his stamp firmly down on one of the few open spaces on my passport and slid my passport back to me and without another word, waved me through.  I think my Irish ancestors must have been smiling.

Next month, I will be returning to Zimbabwe to host the Giving Thanks Service and Safari retreat with Qoya founder Rochelle Schieck.  Women from the US and UK will be joining us for a week of service at the school supported by House of Loveness, a visit to Wild is Life Animal Sanctuary, games drives at a safari park and daily Qoya classes.

There are a few spots still open for the retreat.

If the soul of Africa is calling you (and you would like to wake up and go for a walk with a rhino), please consider joining us for a magical week in Zimbabwe.

House of Loveness founder Betsy Blankenbaker at home in Zimbabwe