As an extension of the four-part vision of A Woman’s Business to Reveal, Restore, Release and Replicate, every month, we profile the “Heart of a Woman” who in our eyes is “About A Woman’s Business” to change the perception and restore the position of women around the world.
Brenda Dachner, wife, mother and co-founder of the Abundant Life Foundation.
This month we showcase Brenda Dachner, co-founder of the Abundant Life Foundation. Hear her roar!
Tell us who you are.
My name is Brenda Dachner and I am 52 years old. I was born in St. Charles, Missouri and call Austin, Texas home although I currently reside in Roatán, Honduras. I am a former IT manager at the Coca-Cola Company, co-founder and board member of three non-profit organizations, and actively working at two of them–the Abundant Life Foundation (ALF) in the U.S. and it’s Honduran NGO counterpart, the Honduran Abundant Life Association (HALA), However, my favorite job is being a wife and girlfriend to my husband and mother to our 11-year old daughter.
What’s your average day look like?
I am blessed to live and work on the beautiful island of Roatán, Honduras where we do the majority of our non-profit work. While here, we have chosen to home-school our daughter, so my mornings are focused primarily on teaching. My afternoons are reserved for our work here, which involves a lot of meetings, networking and collaborating with people from all walks of life, from the most deprived individuals on the island, to the president of the country, which reminds me of 1 Cor. 9:22-23:
“To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”
Most notably, I get to work with a strong, beautiful group of island women who live in what the world calls poverty, but are richer in the spirit than most people who “have it all”. This group of women lives where there aren’t any jobs, and no easy way to help provide for their families. We showed these ladies how to crochet purses and other products from plastic bags, and to-date, have sold more than $20,000 worth of their products, with 100% of the money going straight back to them.
A Woman’s Business Founder Angela M. Brown poses with women and their hand-made tote bags during a trip to Honduras to witness the work of Brenda Dachner and the Abundant Life Foundation.
I have had no greater satisfaction than the first few trips back to see them after selling some of their bags and telling them “I have a paycheck for you!” The physical difference I saw in them was inspiring! They gained the dignity of knowing they were contributing to their families’ well-being – and not from being given a handout that would make them feel inferior and stuck in their sense of hopelessness, Instead they are empowered by knowing it was the fruit of their own labor. I continue helping these beautiful women, and many others, through our non-profit endeavors.
What defining moment (good or bad) shaped the woman you believe yourself to be today?
From the time I entered my teens, I always wanted to make a difference in the world for the underdog, I’m sure because I always felt like one. I also developed an early interest in foreign cultures and languages – primarily Spanish, thanks to my dad.
In high school, I traveled to Ecuador as an exchange student and saw real poverty for the first time. In college, I took a year off from my studies to travel with the international group, Up With People, which fit so well with the ideals of my heart to make a difference in the world, and the love I had for travel and cultures. For those unfamiliar with the program, as a cast member I got to travel the world for a year, living with host families and serving communities everywhere we went, in an effort to eliminate the biases and prejudices of cultural, racial, and socio-economic differences.
Those two experiences fueled my desire to want to do more, and showed me that I could. But for all the worldly travel I had done at a young age, I was still a timid, shy young lady with no self-worth. I had a lot of personal growth to do before stepping out into the world the way I had always hoped to. Even today I struggle with confidence. It is the thorn in my flesh. But once I found Christ and He changed me from the inside out, the “fear” doesn’t control me anymore. Thankfully, I have a husband with the same burning desire to serve and give back, which we have enjoyed doing together in various ways throughout our marriage.
What do you like most about yourself? What changes are you making to be a better version of yourself?
In what is still predominantly a man’s world, a lot of women forfeit their femininity in order to compete with finding a space at the table. I see it even more clearly here in Latin America where “machismo” is still going strong. I know it’s not always easy for us as women, but I value being a strong, capable woman, without losing the feminine graces God gave me as a woman. To keep growing personally, I read self-improvement books, have accountability partners, and stay connected to God through study and Bible groups.
Who and what inspires you?
Breaking chains inspires me. We are largely a result of our upbringing, and children are the innocent victims of our brokenness. It takes a lot for someone to step outside of themselves, realize what they’re doing is wrong and hurtful, and do something to make the changes necessary to stop passing it on to the next generation.
Whether it’s the abuse of drugs and alcohol, passing on physical or sexual abuse, or passing along a lack of self-worth and fear, we all need to get right with ourselves, ask for, or accept, forgiveness where needed, accept that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and pass these truths and the confidence that comes with them on to our sons and daughters to raise ourselves and them up to be all that we can be. Our world needs it.
The world doesn’t benefit by our playing small. I admire people who go through this metamorphosis themselves, or help others do it. May we all embrace the greatness within us and share it with a hurting world to break the chains of pain and dysfunction.
What cause is close to your HEART?
Our other non-profit, called “Discovery Programs”, is a three-part program that culminates with creating a life mission statement for yourself. My mission is “to inspire people to fully live the life they were created for by helping them discover their true self-worth.” This is near and dear to my heart because I spent way too many years of my life living for others, seeking to please them and earn their approval.
By doing so, I wasted time living my life. Why? Because, I had zero self-worth. But once I found it in Christ, my life changed and I began to see just how many other people were out there living the way I had been. God has created all of us with our own uniqueness and abilities. We need to embrace them, thank Him for them, and use them to the betterment of others.
What do you see as the greatest obstacle to women around the world?
I will answer this question from our perspective in Roatán, but I believe it is true around the world. The greatest obstacle, in my opinion, is education. Here in Roatán, only about 25% of children who even enter the education system will graduate the 9th grade. With a lack of education comes a lack of jobs and opportunity, and a lack of self-worth. This is bad news for men, but it is even worse news for women. Men can go off to find jobs and do all sorts of menial labor. But women typically stay at home with little to no opportunities for work.
Poverty breeds poverty, and with it, low self-worth, and a lack of dignity. With education, girls who had no self-esteem learn that they are intelligent and they do have value. With a little confidence and self-worth, girls learn they can create a better future for themselves… and their families. They start thinking longer term. They realize they don’t need to find “acceptance” in the arms of a man, but rather in herself first and her own abilities and talents.
We work closely with a missionary couple on the island who run a school for some of the poorest of the poor here. Over the years, we have seen girls they basically took in off the street, who were otherwise destined for a life of poverty and/or prostitution. Their “parents” treated them like garbage, told them they’d never be anything but a prostitute, and some were already being treated like one. But after many years under the love and tutelage of these godly missionaries, they have grown up to now have the world at their feet.
Not only do they have a bright future ahead of them financially, but they are strong, godly, gracious young ladies who know who they are in Christ, and know that they have something of value to give back to their communities. They have already begun “paying it forward” to the next generation by teaching the younger kids in class during their time off. They are saying “no” to the rags and the lies they were told of being worthless, and “yes” to the richness of their future, a life of dignity, value and love for themselves and others. They’ll be the first to tell you that it wasn’t easy, but if they can do it, we all can. Education can break a cycle of poverty, abuse, and hopelessness and expose the greatness within you. What you do with it is up to you.
What do you see as the greatest opportunity for women and around the world?
To take control of the influence of the media and use it to serve you, not hurt you. From poor self-image, to the melodrama, to picking up rude and disrespectful language and behavior, so much of the media is verbal and visual garbage. And you know what they say, “garbage in, equals garbage out”! Women today have an opportunity no women have had in generations past: to turn off the TV and use the power of social media and communications to enhance and educate ourselves in almost any area we desire, and share what we have learned… or are learning… with others.
I’m no Generation X’er or Millenial, but being on an island for a year has made me come to learn even more, the power of technology. Everything is available on the internet these days, and largely for free. All kinds of educational programs are available at your fingertips. Instead of tuning in to watch your favorite soap opera or reality show, try logging on to learn a new language, finally learn Excel, read a great biography of an inspirational woman you admire, learn how to film and edit a movie, take online courses to pursue a degree, start a blog and share what you’re learning with others who need to hear they’re not alone.
Our daughter used to take voice lessons back home. Did you know there are online voice lessons available? And for free? The opportunities for growth are literally endless. The world is at our fingertips and can be used to advance our personal growth as well as social causes. Women need to stop hiding behind the screen and the “glamour” magazines. Most of what we find there makes us feel diminished, hopeless and judged. And worse yet, it makes us feel that way about others. Use the tools that are right in front of you to unlock the greatness within you and share that with the world. What is it that you need to share with the world?
What advice do you have for women today?
I’ve said a lot of it in other answers above. But I’ll add that as women, we need to be kind to ourselves. The world beats us up enough. We need to try our best, and when we mess up – whether it be failing a test at school, or eating that box of cookies – learn from our mistakes so we can move forward with strength, grace and dignity. Do things that make you proud of yourself.
What advice would you give to your younger self? To your daughter and future generations of women?
Don’t waste time worrying about what other people think, and don’t ever compare yourself to others. It is a self-defeating game. God made you you for a reason. Embrace who you are from the beginning, warts and all. Those people who say you’re strange, weird and different? They’re right! You are unique and like no one else. Thank goodness! Accept it! Love it! Love you!
Constantly strive to be a better “you”, not to change who you are, but to reach the full potential of who you were born to be. Every moment spent moping over why you’re not as good, pretty, smart, etc. as someone else is a wasted moment in your life, and it breeds discontent and jealousy. Humbly accept the power and beauty you were given, even if it doesn’t meet the world’s standards or definition, and move forward in your life with godly confidence and feminine strength to give back to this world and live for God’s glory.
Know of a woman who is “About A Woman’s Business” to change the perception and restore the position of women around the world by challenging the stereotypes and changing the conversation about and between women. Do you have a story to tell? Let us know! Leave a comment or email your thoughts and suggestions to email@example.com.