Hello, I’m Terry Gifford Founder of Serving Women Across Nations (SWAN) and owner and caretaker of Willowbrook Manor English Tea House and Chamomile Farm.
The story of SWAN started when the Twin Towers came crashing down September 11, 2001 and our country began the war on terrorism. The information from the news painted a dark view of Afghanistan, where the Taliban had taken over. My mother, sister and I decided to offer a view of the Afghan people as painted through the wonderfully descriptive letters written by my grandmother during her 5-year stay in Afghanistan, before the Russian invasion, and before the Taliban occupation.
The publishing of Lucy Shook’s Letters from Afghanistan was a family project and labor of love. Her letters shine a light on the plight of the poor, and we decided to use the proceeds from book sales to carry on her charitable spirit.
We began by sending proceeds from our self-published book to Kenya to educate children and we sponsored over 200 students..
To augment fundraising, I used the concession trailer my kids and I ran for the local football league, and served lunch downtown Sedro Woolley one day a week. I also baked bread fresh-ground whole wheat bread and sold it at the local farmers market to raise funds for micro loans for women in Bolivia. I had served as a missionary in Bolivia when I was in my 20s where I saw abject poverty first hand. SWAN allowed me to return and provide a means for women to begin small businesses and gain personal earning power.
SWAN established a sister non-profit in Bolivia and had funded its 100th loan when my personal world came crashing down. I found myself a single mom with 5 of my 6 children still at home. and SWAN had to be put on hold.
Over the course of ten years, I gradually turned my home and 9-acre farm into Willowbrook Manor. English Tea house and Chamomile Farm, a place where people gather to enjoy the serenity of the country and the gentle tradition of English tea. My yearnings for humanitarian work brought me to realize that Willowbrook could become what my grandmother’s letters were; a fundraising tool for humanitarian outreach. The pandemic of 2020, afforded me the time to begin SWAN again to serve the needs of women locally as well as globally.
My grandmother Lucy Shook accompanied my grandfather to the far away country of Afghanistan in the mid '60s. In a country where women are thought of a second class citizens, she became 'boss lady' to fourteen Afghan men. She wrote wonderfully descriptive letters home detailing her adventures, and misadventures with her Afghan crew.
My mother and sister and I compiled my grandmother's letters into the book Lucy Shook's Letters from Afghanistan in 2003. Proceeds from this publication funded SWAN's initial outreach efforts.
We worked hard to get impoverished children into schools and to issue mosquito nets for malaria prevention. Micro loans were provided to women along with business classes to help them set up small businesses.
My chamomile field is a focal point for fund raising with events that bring people together to work along side each other planting, weeding and harvesting chamomile. The team-building projects are always accompanied with delicious sweet cream scones and Willowbrook Manor tea.
Summer tea fundraising events are hosted under the tea tent at Willowbrook.
English Tea makes a for a delightful fund raising event that supports SWAN's outreach efforts. Sign up for our newsletter to find out when we will host our next English tea fundraiser. Or schedule your own group of 20 or more to join SWAN in raising funds to help women across nations! (see below)
Are you too far away to join us at Willowbrook? Host your own fundraiser with our SWAN Tea Party package that includes Willowbrook scone mix, an assortment of Willowbrook teas, and simple recipes and instructions to help you put on a wonderful tea fundraiser event. Click HERE to order your SWAN Tea Party kit.