Here's exerpts from the Des Moines Register Staff Writer, Mike Kilen's article in the Thanksgiving Day issue of The Des Moines Register -
Nancy Leigh Harless wears a necklace with a turtle medallion."It reminds me that only when you stick your neck out do you move forward. That's my motto," Harless said.She stuck her neck out in 1997. Living in a tiny southeast Iowa town of Wever, the nurse joined a group sponsored by the Rotary International that performed service work in Belize.
"That month in Belize changed my life," she said.It sparked several years of international travel to Mexico, the Kingdom of Tonga and the Balkans. Her experiences became her debut book, "Womankind: Connection & Wisdom Around the World" Courageous women are the focus.
."Women are pretty amazing creatures. They have the ability to stay positive, even when there is nothing to be positive about," she said. Harless saw it often in women from every country she visited while volunteering to help with women's health issues in poor countries. The pride and nurturing of a Mayan woman who could make the perfect corn tortilla for her family. The determination of a nurse in Mexico facing long odds trying to help poverty-stricken women and their children. The mental toughness and grace of a Guatemalan woman with a philandering husband.
"If it sounds a little like the popular "Chicken Soup" series of inspirational books, it is. Harless has stories published in those collections, although not focused exclusively on women."Women are considered the weaker sex, but I continually saw strong women who did what needed to be done," she said. "That is worldwide. We are going to do what is necessary to take care of our children, like a mama bear."
The trips awakened her to the world beyond rural southeast Iowa, which she hopes to continue someday in Africa.The book was formed from journals.."It helps clarify. When I'm traveling the world and seeing so many things that are shocking and appalling, it's a way of processing it," she said. "Without the journal in Kosovo I might have had a breakdown." It also helped her clarify the bond of women everywhere."There is this connection that women have," Harless said. "We 'get' each other."