Women helping women – it's not a novel concept, but it's a department of its own at World Vision, headquartered in Federal Way.
Women of Vision was born about 20 years ago, when the humanitarian non-profit was based in Southern California. A group of women, volunteers and donors, traveled to see the work World Vision was doing overseas and came home inspired to help the organization continue to provide for women and children across the world.
“Our goal is to connect women who are passionate about issues affecting women and children that lead to global poverty and oppression and changing those things-doing something about that. The focus has really always been on women helping women,” said Cynthia Breilh, national director of Women of Vision, who joined the department after it was moved to area about six years ago.
Women of Vision wasn't intended to be a women-only segment of the organization, but that's how it's evolved.
Between Federal Way and Southern California, Breilh has a small team of five, who oversee the work of about 50 Women of Vision volunteer chapters across the country, the largest all-volunteer program within World Vision U.S.
Men have joined these groups, but World Vision has yet to have a man join the Women of Vision team as a paid employee.
“We certainly invite men into the equation and we have men who join Women of Vision, so we don't exclude men,” Breilh said, noting the group's purpose may be what attracts more women than men.
“It's just that we know that there are often times issues that are very near and dear to women's hearts, and, in some respects, women see the issues a little differently. They are more willing to accept some of the soft costs that accompany changing global poverty than some of our male friends, who like more of the hard costs and the capital things,” Breihl said. “The issues really attract women.”
The women behind Women of Vision spend their time supporting the volunteer groups, which educate and fundraise in their communities, so they spend their day primarily working with other women, although there are frequently men at their interdepartmental meetings.
A room of women, though, operates a little differently than a group of men or of men and women, Breihl said.
“There's a level of personal sharing and closeness that you can get to,” she said. “And sometimes that's a detriment. It's good to have meetings with male colleagues, so that we are sure we stay on task, so we don't have too much social and relational time. But, I think that in general, as a team, it's highly relational. We're close as a team.
“They (women) like to do things in groups rather than independently. Many women, they do things together, and in relationships, and that is what draws them often to Women of Vision. The relationship piece is really important, and then the fact that women have a real heart to make sure what they're doing impacts their community and their family.”
Knowing what's going on in each other's lives and supporting each other, allows them to move forward in their work more efficiently, she said.
“Even though you take the time to do that, it can actually help you move a meeting along faster because it has a sense of trust,” she explained.
It's also just a fun environment, Breihl said, noting, “We certainly have more chocolate than probably most other teams.”
But, beyond the pleasantries, there are real pros and cons, she said. However, those qualities might be different than what others experience given the nature of the organization as a whole.
“I wouldn't say we would be anti-man; in fact, I think it would be a great asset to include a man, because I know there are men who care about these issues,” Breihl said. “Because we live in that faith of working in a global world – where gender equity is not a commodity – we are very careful about that here, in the way we relate to each other. I think that this organization in general strives to include men and women equally.”