Canadian Women Making a Difference: Bethany Nolson
In celebration of International Women’s Day, we are sharing a series of interviews with incredible women who #PressForProgress and are making a difference in Canada and around the world. Check our blog throughout the month of March for fresh inspiration!
Name: Bethany Nolson
Occupation: Student, Skating Instructor, Fundraiser, Founder of Prom With A Purpose
How she’s making a difference: Inspiring youth to go beyond themselves and make a difference for the world's most vulnerable.
1) Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am 21 and currently working on finishing up my degree in Children’s Studies and Human Rights at York University as I hope to pursue a career in advocacy and justice work. Outside of school I work as a skating instructor teaching little ones how to skate and play hockey - I love every moment of it! Beyond that, I love painting, traveling, playing hockey, camping, and going on crazy adventures with good friends.
2) What unique gifts do you bring to the world?
If you had asked me this a few years ago I think I would have really struggled with answering - I know God has given me gifts in leadership, creativity, and compassion. But I feel that in the past few years God has really been nudging me into situations that are scary and hard and teaching me more about who I am in Him and the gifts that He has given me. It is both exciting and scary to begin to understand these gifts and see how God is going to have me use them. I believe He has given me gifts in speaking, leadership, administration, listening, and loving people with His love in all situations we may find ourselves in. I can also unicycle and am really good at card games - so those are super useful talents!
3) How are you making a difference right now?
By trying my best to love the people God puts in front of me and making a difference in the little ways that I can. I am so thankful that I have been to start a few campaigns that raise money and awareness for some incredible organizations that are loving God’s people both at home in my community and around the world.
When I was eight I started selling handmade bracelets door to door in my neighbourhood to "raise money for people in need”.
Over the past 12 years it has been amazing to see how God has grown Tenje Crafts and allowed me to come alongside an organization called Love a Village Mission that works in an impoverished community in Northern Malawi. I have been so blessed to be able to fundraise for their projects, focusing primarily on clean water and the girls sewing program. Through this connect I have been able to visit Malawi twice and am so incredibly exciting to be returning this April.
Another way that I have been able to become involved with some incredible organizations is through my campaign, Prom with a Purpose (PWAP) that hosts charity gala events to raise money for organizations working with victims of sex trafficking both in Ontario and around the world. It has been so incredible to be able to connect and support IJM through this campaign as well as Rahab Ministries and U R Home.
I am always amazed to stand where I am and look back at all the ways that God has orchestrated my life to be able to have these opportunities to love and support His people. The doors that He has opened, the ideas He has given me, the people He has put around me, and the ways that He has encouraged me and kept me going even when things were really hard.
The things that I am doing to make a difference are not big, but I know that they are part of a bigger movement- they are a way for me to use the gifts God has given me to come alongside people and organizations and partner in the work that God has for them. And, wow, it has been a wild ride!
4) What motivates you to do what you do?
It’s a crazy thing when you know without question that you are doing what God has called you to do. It is a sense of peace and joy that I don’t feel often. It’s about taking a step back and praying that God would break my heart for what breaks His. That broken heart is what really becomes my motivation and keeps me going when things become really hard. I am also so blessed to have seen parts of this beautiful world and met a lot of amazing people.
When I think about the fundraising I do for Love a Village, it is easy to see my motivation - I know these people by name, I love them deeply, they are my friends, and I have seen firsthand the pain and hardship that they have experienced. So, I do it for them; for those that I know and love and those that I have not yet met. For PWAP it is slightly different as I have not met these people personally, but I know the IJM staff, I have read countless stories of their rescues and aftercare, I have seen these lives that God has restored sharing their stories on video, and I am constantly amazed.
I love fundraising for IJM because I believe so strongly in what they do and how they do it. And the more I get to know them both as a staff team and organization I become more excited and hopeful about the work that they do. These organizations are doing such incredibly important work and I am so thankful that God has allowed me to step into it, even in the small ways that I do.
5) Why are you passionate about the work of IJM? How do you show your support?
Where do I even begin. I love IJM. I love their work. I love their staff. I love how they love people. I love how God is central to absolutely everything they do. I love how they align with and celebrate God’s heart for justice in a real and meaningful way. They take God’s call to justice literally and fight for those who are facing all different types of injustice. They have a different way of thinking than many other organizations I know - they see the correlation between poverty and violence and they enter into those painful, scary, and difficult situations to stand beside those who have been abused and trusting that God will be faithful.
I love being able to support IJM through PWAP, both by raising funds and awareness. For each of our events all of the funds raised go directly to IJM and another local organization. We also invite a representative from IJM to come and speak at our event. It is always powerful to all of us at the event to hear these first hand stories of IJM’s work and learn more about what we as a generation can do to see justice and really take to heart what God has called us to.
6) What would you like to see happen for women in the future?
I want to live in a world where women are respected, loved, and valued by all those in our society and for us all, as women, to respect, love, and value ourselves. I want to see a world where women do not have to live with the fear of abuse, assault, harassment, and inequality; where women are celebrated for their skills and their voices are seen as equally powerful as anyone else. I want to see a world that is ready to support them the same way women have worked so hard to support this world. I want to live in a society that values all people equally.
7) If you could have a coffee chat with any woman, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
There are far too many, how about we all just have a dinner party! Okay, if I had to pick just one, I would pick Katie Davis Majors, the founder and director of Amazima Ministries. I have been following Katie’s work in Uganda since it’s very early stages and have always been amazed by her heart for God and how He has guided her to love His people - to literally be His hands and feet. I would love to sit down with her and chat about Amazima, her experiences founding and running an organization, her heart for adoption, the amazing things God has done in our lives, and just be able to share stories about our experiences in Africa.
Katie has always been a role model for me and has really challenged me in my understanding of missions, obedience, faith, and joy. As I have followed her work and read her books, I have always been blown away by how genuinely she loves and her incredible obedience and faith. I would love to sit with her and just chat, share stories, and ask questions. I believe we would become fast friends!
8) What’s your favourite inspiring quote?
Just one? They’re short, so we can count them as one!
"Throw kindness around like confetti!”
"We can do no great thing, only small things with great love.” - Mother Teresa.
"Do not forget in the darkness what you have been promised in the light.” - Katie Davis Majors
9) What advice do you have for the women in our audience who want to make a difference in the world?
If you have an idea, make it happen. Do it. Just do it. Find out what God has put on your heart, think about what’s in your hands (talents, materials, time, etc), and start going. You will always be able to find an excuse not to do it, it will never be the perfect time - but just step out and make something happen.
It doesn’t have to be big, but if everyone does something small, huge things are going to change. And once you get going always remember why you started. Remember that initial frustration, those people who you are fighting for, that will be what keeps you going when things get tough. Just keep your feet moving forward and let God be God.