Ruby’s World – An Interview with Karen Baldwin
Normally, I wouldn’t post twice in two days, but today I’m excited to be part of the Blog Tour for Karen Baldwin’s powerful book, Ruby’s World.
Baldwin’s extraordinary story reads like a suspense thriller as this resolute American woman of “a certain age” journeys alone to South Africa to teach Zulu children. There she encounters a stunning post-Apartheid culture complete with witch doctors, Zulu chiefs and brutal tribal traditions. Baldwin’s account of her adventure in Africa is honest, moving, frequently funny, and always compelling. Her writing is candid, taut and relentless, as waves of cultural tension build to an unforeseen crisis that tests her courage and strength.
Karen and I had the chance to connect over Skype and I knew right away that she is a kindred spirit and a fellow big dreamer. When I asked her what prompted her to travel to Africa to volunteer in a small village, she said that breast cancer was the catalyst for pushing her beyond old perceived limitations.
“If I didn’t have limitations, what could I do?” she asked herself only to learn she could do much more than she ever thought possible.
I sent Karen a few questions to see if her story might inspire you to think about starting A Fresh Chapter in your life.
1) What made you decide to take a leap of faith and travel to Africa to volunteer?
I don’t know that it was really a leap of faith … at least I didn’t think of it that way. I was eager to find a way to “give back” after surviving a heart attack and breast cancer. And my dreams – always my biggest, loudest source of inspiration – delivered some pretty clear messages about me going to Africa. It felt like a great opportunity to test my newly found strength, to see what I could really do on my own, to see if I could let myself “out of the box” of thinking small that had defined so much of my life.
2) What scared you the most about the trip?
Snakes … and failure. I had read Barbara Kingsolver’s book The Poisonwood Bible (a fabulous story) and it increased my phobia about snakes. While I was in Africa I got down on my hands and knees every night with my flashlight and checked for snakes under my bed.
And failure … if I was going to do something as enormous as go work with kids in Africa … I wanted to do a really good job.
Hugely so. By the time I returned home, I couldn’t even imagine fitting back into that box I mentioned in the last answer. Africa expanded my life in ways I never imagined. I left my relationship and moved to Taos, where I had always longed to live. Then I wrote my book – something I had no intention of doing when I went to Africa … something that had never even crossed my mind … something I had no previous experience with.
That would all seem like enough … except the story keeps unfolding. In July, this year, my story came full circle when the Rural Women’s Movement of South Africa appointed me as their first American Ambassador. Next spring, along with the RWM executive director, I’ll be attending the United Nations hearings for the Commission on the Status of Women. I’m thrilled that my original intention to be of service to women and children is showing up in this way … something that didn’t seem possible after the devastating way my trip to Africa ended.
And at the time of this blog tour, I’m in the process of expanding my work even further … I’ll be making the announcement about it at the end of the tour.
4) What advice would you give to someone who is ready for A Fresh Chapter in his or her life but isn’t quite sure where to start?
Don’t rule anything out. Ask for what you really want, not what you think you deserve or what you believe is possible. Say it out loud, as often as you can and to as many people who will listen. Take one step at a time … keep following the opening doors. And of course, because I’ve been working with my dreams for over 30 years, I suggest turning to your nighttime dreams as a source of wisdom … they’ll always tell you your biggest truth.
To be an influential player in the international arena of women and children’s issues!
6) What are your favourite words to live by?
Following a successful career in civil engineering, Karen Baldwin turned her focus to her lifelong desire to serve the needs of women and children. She graduated from the Chaplaincy Institute for Arts and Interfaith Ministry and earned a certificate in Spiritual Psychology from the West Coast Kabbalah School. After serving as a hospital chaplain specializing in neo-natal intensive care, today she is an author, public speaker, and American Ambassador to the Rural Women’s Movement of South Africa. Karen is a mother, auntie, daughter, sister, and grandma, always searching for a way to make a difference in the world. She can be reached at www.RevKarenBaldwin.com.