Eight years ago, Preston Hollow resident Anne Miller took a trip that changed her life.

She journeyed to California to attend a Women of Vision conference. WOV is a subgroup of World Vision, a Christian humanitarian relief and development organization. WOV members go into areas of the world where World Vision has relief projects in place, focusing on the needs of the women and children in those areas.

The women she met there were, she says, “kindred spirits.”

“Here was a group of women, many of whom were my age, who had reached a point in life where they had raised their children and could afford to travel, play tennis and bridge, whatever they wanted,” she says. “But what they really wanted to do was make a difference.”

Doing things to make a difference was nothing new for Miller and her husband, Norm. They’ve long been involved in missions and relief projects, traveling around the world to help people in need.

But the women she met in California and the things she learned caused her to want to take more of a leadership role.

“On the plane home, I was frantically writing my thoughts,” she says, “I came back totally inspired.”

So inspired that she decided to found a Dallas chapter of WOV. She got started by inviting 16 friends to participate in a six-week study at her home. During that time, she says, “we learned about things we had no idea existed. Things like: How do you live without water, or without any skills when your husband’s been killed by war? How do you live amongst the rubble of an earthquake, and what do you do if you have five children but can only support three of them?”

The study had the same effect on Miller’s friends that it did on her.

“We came away totally changed,” she says.

Since that first meeting eight years ago, Dallas WOV has grown to include more than 50 members, or partners, as they call themselves. And it has raised more than $700,000 to aid impoverished women and children around the world.

One of the group’s international projects is a village in Zambia, a country with one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in Africa. There they provide wells, medical facilities and a school, as well as host a sponsorship program for its children.

Another is a children’s homeless shelter in Mexico City, which they say has more than 14,000 street children. Miller has traveled to the center many times, doing everything from painting rooms to preparing meals to playing street soccer with homeless kids.

Despite her previous travels, her experiences with WOV have given her a different view of the world.

“It absolutely expands your vision of the world and your understanding of the poor,” she says. “It’s so easy to judge the poor and say they’re that way because they won’t work or something like that. But then you go out to a third world country and see that many, many times their life is out of their control.”

Preston Hollow resident Robin Dance also has traveled to Mexico with WOV, saying the trip made her all the more passionate about helping the poor.

“You hear about people living without water and electricity, but you don’t really grasp it until you see it,” she says.

She joined the group two years ago, after hearing a WOV radio ad. And though she had never been active in volunteer work before, she says, “it just hit me. I knew that’s what I wanted to be involved in.”

Within a year after joining, Dance began serving on the board, wasting no time in helping lead the organization.

“To me it has a lot more meaning than anything else I’ve been involved in,” she says, “So I just jumped in.”

She notes that while the women travel to their projects to remind themselves of what they’re working for, they also go to monitor the process being made. Of their trips to the Mexico City shelter, she says, “We go down there and check on how it’s being run, and make sure it’s something we want to continue supporting. And you see the difference it makes. These kids are graduating from school and getting jobs, thanks to the center.”

In addition to their international efforts, Dallas WOV volunteers at local projects, such as the West Dallas Community School. There they help with the children and host special holiday programs such as a Thanksgiving feast and a Christmas party, things the kids might not otherwise have.

“Many of them don’t have mothers who can participate, so we’re like room mothers for them,” Dance says. They also work with Center of Hope, a local homeless shelter for women and children.

“The whole point is mostly to show God’s love through helping,” Dance says. “We’re not trying to pound anything down their throats.”

Though the group has seen a decent amount of growth over the years, they’re eager for more women to join. Miller offers a description of the type of women they look for: “A woman who loves to nurture and help people,” she says. “And a woman who’s willing to let her heart be broken. Because it’s a heartbreaking job.”

Perhaps not the best way to go about recruiting new members, given most people’s desire to avoid that sort of thing. Miller acknowledges this, candidly adding that she often wants to escape the harsh realities WOV face.

“Every time I go, I have that feeling,” she says. “You just want to get away, put your head under a pillow and cry. It’s very difficult.”

But she continues to make the trips for one simple reason.

“It’s a command,” she says. “We don’t really have an option. We were not commanded to make money so we could be richer. We were commanded to help the poor, to give and to share.”


WANT MORE?
Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Preston Hollow.