Boca youngster raises money by selling Brightness of Life bracelets

By Lisa Goddard
Special Correspondent for Sun Sentinel

Leah shows off the beautiful 'Brightness of Life' bracelets that she's been selling.

Leah shows off the beautiful 'Brightness of Life' bracelets that she's been selling.

While preparing for her bat mitzvah this past year, 12-year-old Leah Wiser of Boca Raton decided she wanted to get involved in a program that would benefit others.

Her twin sister Rebecca was also planning a service-related project, but Leah wanted her endeavor to be her own.

Through her mother, Corin Wiser, Leah learned about Give a Girl a Chance, a program of Feminenza International that got its start in 2006 and has since raised more than $1,000 to help women in Africa become educated and escape devastating circumstances.

“I knew that I wanted to help girls in Africa, and when I heard about this, I knew it was the perfect way,” Leah said. “The girls there don’t have the privileges we have; they’re abused and neglected by their parents and sold off to strangers to be married in exchange for cows. I couldn’t sit in America not helping these girls.”

To raise funds, Leah has sold Brightness of Life bracelets, brightly colored bangles made of natural resources by African women.

She has also sold belts and scarves, and the organization brings in support through the sale of various other items as well as donations.

“I’ve raised about $1,000 so far by selling things at my school and to family and friends,” said Leah, who will enter seventh grade at Donna Klein Jewish Academy west of Boca Raton this month. “My friends love the bracelets and other jewelry and want to learn more about the organization.

“A lot of people came up to me after my bat mitzvah and asked me questions about it.”

The bracelets, which run $10 each, two for $18 or three for $25, have been featured in national publications Lucky Magazine and Teen Vogue and also sold through a jewelry wholesaler in New York and in some small boutiques.

North American Feminenza license holder Lisa Marcus, also a Give a Girl a Chance board member, said she’s thrilled with Leah’s enthusiasm.

“Leah became so committed to supporting the program, she kept calling me to ask how she could do more. It’s wonderful to see a young girl so lit up about improving the lives of others,” said Marcus, of Boca Raton.

“We’re going to be working with girls, [ages] 14-18, in the local community in the future and planning to go out to schools in the area to bring awareness of the program to more people.”

Supporters of Feminenza, with representatives in 24 countries, go to Africa every three months to mentor girls, Marcus said.

“The program sprang up from a response to a need in Africa for these girls,” Marcus said. “We focus on the issues of gender respect and forgiveness and work to get these girls to school and educate them.”

Corin Wiser says Leah’s bat mitzvah took place this summer, but she’ll continue working to increase awareness about the organization.

“I had met one of the girls who was saved through the organization and told Leah about her. [The girl] had survived the Rwandan war which killed her family members, and Leah and I were really moved by her story,” Wiser said. “Leah made a speech at her bat mitzvah encouraging everyone to do something for others.”

Leah and Rebecca also created their own program, which they dubbed One World, One Dream.

“We had business cards made that give little ideas for random acts of kindness. It’s kind of a pay it forward type of thing, something we hope people will follow and help make the world a better place,” Leah said.

Corin Wiser said she has always stressed to her twins and younger daughter Hannah, 8, the importance of serving others.

“Leah loves being involved in this. Her dream is to go to Africa and meet some of the girls who are benefiting,” she said.

Leah said she’s anxious to make the trip.

“I don’t know when, but I hope very soon I can go to Africa with this organization and meet the girls I’m helping,” she said.

....