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Denise Harshbarger

PARTNER DEVELOPMENT | SERVANT

Denise Harshbarger

I grew up in a small town in Indiana, in a Mennonite home. I went to Goshen College, where I met my husband. We moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana where we worked, started a family and were active in our church and community. We were a typical American family going about the business of living and raising our children. A few years ago, we were given an opportunity through my husband's employer to relocate to India. We took the risk, and embraced the chance to learn about a new culture, and a new way of living and thinking. Our three young sons taught us to look at our surroundings through their innocent perspectives. At the same time, we guided them through the confusion of socioeconomic disparity, where extreme wealth is side-by-side with extreme poverty.

While in India, I worked with 3 NGO's on a volunteer basis.  I worked amongst the slums of India, with groups of children born into a status that didn’t allow them to go to school. I worked with an organization that aimed to educate young men how to deal with their anger and emotions without beating the women in their lives—women, who would never stand up for themselves, for fear of shaming their own family. Even more heartbreaking, were the HIV positive children who had been given up by their mothers. These mothers were red-light workers, and feared that if their children stayed with them to age 12, they too would be forced into the sex industry. Meeting and working with these people face-to-face is something I will never forget.

In addition, I saw poverty—poverty like I had never seen before, even among those who worked.

Poverty, where paying one’s employees too much brought the wrath of neighbors who didn’t want to pay their employees the same.

Poverty that made the fact that in many homes non-potable water ran for only an hour, every other morning, seem fully acceptable to most people.

Poverty that forced people to stand in dumpsters, beside goats and dogs, picking through the garbage left outside from the day before, and that this too, seemed acceptable.

Through all of it however, I saw happy people. I saw people who didn’t complain. I complained for them, and my family and friends complained for them. My American background made me weep for the injustices that I saw, and wonder how I could help them in a bigger way.

I went into a bit of mourning when I left my volunteering in India to return to the hustle and bustle of life in the U.S. I returned to a world of plenty, but full of selfishness. I hurt as I saw all the stuff that we Americans fill our homes and lives with and yet still feel empty and long for more.  I don't have all the answers, but I found myself longing to be able to help the Indian poor and the poor around the world. I believe that God put a passion in me to serve them. I had been looking for how fulfill that longing since my return to the U.S., and then I learned about CAUSEGEAR. Finally, there was a path to connect my American reality to my Indian experience, and my longing turned to hope.

I joined the CAUSEGEAR team in June of 2016, and I am so excited to be able to serve in this way. CAUSEGEAR is setting the path for how we can purchase and help the world’s poorest at the same time. A way to provide Life’s Essentials through our purchases. I now get to work For Human Justice everyday!

View Denise Harshbarger on LinkedIn.