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Health

Common STIs and How To Avoid Contracting Them

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Every year, an estimated 20 million adults in the USA contract some type of STI. While some STIs exhibit distinct symptoms, others might be completely unnoticeable. Whether they’re asymptomatic or not, any sexually active person will still need to be vigilant and informed when it comes to preventing the spread of STIs. With convenient, discreet, and affordable STD testing much more commonplace today, there’s no excuse for anyone to avoid taking charge of their own health and protecting others as well. Here are some of the most common diseases and how you can avoid contracting them.

HPV – Genital Human Papillomavirus

In the United States, about 14 million people get HPV every year, making it the most common STI. It’s so common that almost every sexually active person will contract it in their lifetime. There are over 40 different strains of HPV. Some strains can cause warts, while others can lead to cancer if left untreated.

HPV is spread by having oral, vaginal, or anal sex with someone who has the virus. With most strains of this virus, you may not experience any symptoms and it may go away on its own. However, if it doesn’t go away, then it can cause problems.

Sometimes, HPV can cause genital warts. These warts can vary in size or shape. So, it’s recommended that you consult your doctor examine you if you notice anything that could be a genital wart. Some strains of HPV can cause cancer. It can take years, even decades, to contract cancer after getting the virus. You could get vaginal, anal, throat, tongue, penis, vulva, or tonsil cancer.

The CDC recommends that you get the HPV vaccine. Many people get this vaccine around 12 years old, but you can get it up until you’re 26 years old.

Chlamydia

This STI is a bacterial infection. You can contract chlamydia by oral, vaginal, or anal sex with someone who has it. Additionally, a pregnant person could pass the infection onto their newborn. Symptoms of this STI include:

  • Unusual discharge from a penis or vagina
  • Burning sensation during urination

Your doctor can provide tests to determine if you have chlamydia. If you do, you can treat it using antibiotics. It’s recommended that you get treatment as soon as possible as chlamydia can cause fertility problems in both genders.

Gonorrhea

An estimated 800,000 people deal with this STI every year. Gonorrhea occurs when bacteria infects the lining of a woman’s reproductive tract. It can also manifest in the mouth, throat, eyes, and anus. You can contract this infection by having oral, vaginal, or anal sex with an infected person.

With this infection, you may face no symptoms at all. If you do have symptoms, you may experience unusual discharge from your genitals and pain while urinating. Men may experience pain in their testicles, while women may experience vaginal bleeding in between periods.

After diagnosis, you may be treated with two, different strains of antibiotics. Like Chlamydia, if it’s left untreated you may experience fertility issues in the future.

Genital Herpes

Unlike most STIs, there is no cure for genital herpes. Each year, around 800,000 adults contract the disease nationwide. This infection is caused by the herpes simplex virus or HSV. There are two strains of this virus – type 1 and type 2 and you can be infected by having any type of sexual contact with someone who carries the disease.

While some people experience mild symptoms, others are completely asymptomatic. Symptoms include having blisters around the mouth, anus, or genitals. These blisters will break open, causing pain and discomfort. The fluid inside of the blisters carry the herpes virus.

While it cannot be cured, your doctor can prescribe medicine to ease your pain.

How To Avoid STIs

There are multiple things you can do to prevent getting STIs. First and foremost, you need to ask your sexual partners to disclose their sexual history before you have sex with them. This lets you know if they’ve had any STIs and how many partners they’ve had intercourse with. Additionally, you can ask your partners to get tested for any STIs before you have sex with them.

Whenever you have sex, you should be using latex condoms. Using a condom every time you have sex can vastly reduce your chance of contracting an STI. The CDC has many tips on preventing STIs.

I Have an STI – What Now?

If you do contract an STI, go to your doctor’s office as soon as possible. If you can’t afford to go to the doctor’s, there are many places that offer STD testing.  It’s important to get tested so that you can protect yourself from having health problems down the road.

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Chester Abernathy is a freelance writer who specializes in health and wellness in the LGBTQIA community. When he’s not writing, he enjoys training for marathons and volunteering at a local STD testing clinic.

          
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Aging

Loneliness Found to Be High in Public Senior Housing Communities

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Older adults living in public senior housing communities experience a large degree of loneliness, finds a new study from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

Nevertheless, senior housing communities may be ideal locations for reducing that loneliness, the study finds.

“There are many studies on loneliness among community-dwelling older adults; however, there is limited research examining the extent and correlates of loneliness among older adults who reside in senior housing communities,” wrote Harry Chatters Taylor, doctoral student at the Brown School and lead author of “Loneliness in Senior Housing Communities,” published in the Journal of Gerontological Social Work.

The study was co-authored by Yi Wang, doctoral student at the Brown School, and Nancy Morrow-Howell, the Bettie Bofinger Brown Distinguished Professor of Social Policy and the director of the Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging.

The study examines the extent of loneliness in three public senior housing communities in the St. Louis area. Two of the three complexes were in urban neighborhoods, and the last was located in a suburban neighborhood. All were publicly funded under Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly Program. Data for the project was collected with survey questionnaires with a total sample size of 148 respondents. Loneliness was measured using the Hughes 3-item loneliness scale. Additionally, the questionnaire contained measures on socio-demographics, health/mental health, social engagement and social support.

‘We believe that senior housing communities could become ideal locations for reducing loneliness among older adults.’

Results showed approximately 30.8 percent of the sample was not lonely; 42.7 percent was moderately lonely, and 26.6 percent was severely lonely. In analyzing the data, researchers found loneliness was primarily associated with depressive symptoms.

“We speculate that loneliness may be higher in senior housing communities for a few important reasons,” Taylor said. “The first is older adults residing in senior housing communities often have greater risk for loneliness. In order to qualify to live in these senior housing communities, older adults must have a low income, and having a lower income is a risk factor for loneliness.

“Additionally, most of the residents we interviewed identified their marital status as single, which is another risk factor for greater loneliness. Many older adults living in senior housing communities also have greater health and mental health vulnerabilities, which increases the likelihood that an older adult will experience loneliness.”

Despite all that, the study finds, senior housing communities may be better suited to combat loneliness than traditional residential homes.

“We believe that senior housing communities could become ideal locations for reducing loneliness among older adults,” Taylor said. “Senior housing communities are embedded in communities with peers who may have similar age and life experiences. There are occasional activities and support from senior housing management to encourage the building of friendships, bonds and social support among senior housing residents.

“Most senior housing communities also have a common space or multipurpose room available for use, which can also help facilitate building bonds between residents. Senior housing communities are frequently located close to public transportation, which provides access to transportation for residents without automobiles.”

Still, loneliness is frequently a stigmatized condition, he said.

“We often do not like to talk about our feelings of loneliness,” Taylor said. “For practitioners, it is important to be patient when working with older adults, and it could take a while for an older adult, regardless if they reside in a senior housing facility, to admit they are feeling lonely.

“Whether you are a child, relative or family member to an older adult, or provide services to older adults, be patient when discussing issues of loneliness and mental health with older adults.”

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Mental Health

Intimate Partner Violence Doesn’t End With the Relationship

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The violence that occurs between intimate partners does not end with the relationship’s conclusion, yet few resources exist to help survivors move beyond the betrayal of abusive relationships in order to begin new, healthy relationships.

The effects of intimate partner violence (IPV) are profound, painfully enduring and should command as much attention as providing victims with the help necessary to leave violent relationships, according to a new study by a University at Buffalo social work researcher.

“Once a victim leaves an abusive relationship we have to begin addressing the issues that stem from having been in that relationship,” says Noelle St. Vil, an assistant professor in UB’s School of Social Work. “You can carry the scars from IPV for a long time and those scars can create barriers to forming new relationships.”

St. Vil calls IPV a pervasive public health issue.

Nearly one in three women in the U.S. have experienced IPV.  One in 10 women have been raped by an intimate partner.

IPV is a subtype of domestic violence.  While domestic violence can include violence occurring among any individuals living in a single household, IPV is at the level of an intimate relationship.

It’s one partner trying to gain power and control over another partner. IPV can involve many types of violent behavior, including physical, verbal, emotional and financial.

Looking at IPV from the perspective of betrayal trauma theory, a concept that explores when trusted individuals or institutions betray those they’re expected to protect and support, St. Vil’s research, published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, explores how the long-lasting implications of IPV and the consequences of being in such a relationship should be addressed.

“We often use betrayal trauma theory to describe children who have experienced child abuse,” says St. Vil.  “But the same betrayal occurs with IPV: a partner who you trust, can be vulnerable with, who should be building you up, is in fact inflicting abuse. It’s a betrayal of what’s supposed to be a trusting relationship.”

With most help and support centered on keeping women safe in a relationship or providing them with the means to get out of an abusive relationship, St. Vil began thinking about the effects of the trauma.

“How do you move forward after leaving?” she asked. “What does that look like?”

Her interviews with nine survivors of IPV represent the initial steps to answer those questions and revealed four barriers to establishing new relationships.

  • Vulnerability/Fear: Women emerging from IPV often set up an emotional wall, hesitant to begin new relationships. Some victims said they entered into a physical relationship, but avoided becoming emotionally attached.
  • Relationship Expectations: Some women in the study opened themselves emotionally, but expected even what appeared to be a healthy relationship to decay into violence.
  • Shame/Low Self-Esteem: Participants in the study expressed how low self-esteem sabotaged new relationships. Part of gaining power and control in violent relationships involves breaking down self-esteem.  When things aren’t going well in new relationships, victims can return to the feelings experienced during IPV, asking, “Why would anyone love me?”
  • Communication Issues: St. Vil says communication is a major issue in new relationships as victims struggle to understand and explain to new partners what they experienced during IPV and its effects on their current behavior.  Women who were unable to communicate their experiences felt disconnected from their new relationships.

St. Vil says her one-on-one interviews capture critical aspects of IPV survivors’ experiences.

“This is a starting point,” she says. “We’re trying to understand the depth of the issue and can use the data from this research for a potentially larger study.”

For the time being, St. Vil is emphatic.

“The effects don’t end once a woman is out of the relationship.  We need to understand that and know there’s more work to be done.”

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Health

5 Trends Indicating a More Nature Loving Millennial Culture

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Every generation has certain hallmarks. For example, many people probably associate millennials with technology. Millennials always seem to be checking social media sites and trying to purchase the latest gadget. This may true, but you can find convincing evidence millennials may not be so into technology after all. However, did you know there is evidence to suggest that millennials are on track to be one of the most nature loving generations ever? It’s true! Check out the trends indicating this surprising finding below.

Sharing

Millennials are big on sharing. For example, millennials essentially created the social media landscape we know and use today. Millennials are also the drive behind companies that promote the sharing of vehicles and apartments through smartphone apps. Part of this obsession with sharing stems from economic necessity.

For example, millennials stuck paying off a bunch of student loans feel compelled to share mortgage payments, cars, and grocery bills. However, nature also provides an opportunity to share. Nature is also one of life’s least expensive pleasures. A group of millennials can take a hike or watch a sunset without even needing to even buy a ticket. Everybody can share the trail or sunset, and everybody can share the memory of it afterward.

Climate Change

The evidence shows that millennials are concerned about climate change. As a result, many millennials support environmentally conscious political candidates and strive to be environmentally aware. This awareness often translates into a greater love of nature. This makes sense. Why would millennials want to save the planet and not take the time to enjoy it? This means that millennials are all about being close to nature and the object of their generation’s political affection.

Communal Thinking

Millennials are understood to be a collective generation. This means that millennials often value the needs of a group over the needs of an individual. This helps explain why millennials love social media and sharing resources. However, this collective viewpoint translates well into nature.

Nature is the one thing we all share, and, depending on how we treat nature, it is the one thing that can either help or harm everybody. This collective thinking makes millennials feel attracted to nature more than other generations. Millennials see and understand how nature and humankind interact in a type of feedback loop. Millennials see themselves as a part of nature, and they enjoy doing the best they can to take care of nature.

Millennial Health

Millennials are one of the healthiest generations ever. For example, millennials are less likely to smoke than any previous generation. Millennials are also more likely to shun sugary drinks and embrace healthier diets. All of this focus on health often translates into physical activity. Interestingly, much of this physical activity takes place in the outdoors. Millennials love hiking, biking, and backpacking through nature. This also means that when things go wrong, millennials are also more likely to seek healing through wilderness therapy and other healthy lifestyle choices. Many millennials would rather hit the trails to feel better instead of laying on a therapist’s couch.

Being One

It’s true that millennials are often viewed as a somewhat self-centered and narcissistic generation. However, this intense focus on the self also drives millennials to nature. While outdoors, millennials feel the majesty of nature. For better or for worse, it can make some millennials feel the feelings of insignificance for the first time.

Massive mountains, ancient forests, and mighty waterfalls can trigger powerful emotions in millennials. After feeling these emotions, millennials often enjoy the feelings and decide to seek out more. Nature can then be seen as an escape route for millennials wishing to escape the stereotypes of their generation.

All of the above items demonstrate how millennials are on track to value nature more than any other generation. This is great news for the planet, and it is great news for people interested in capitalizing on these millennial trends.

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Aging

Medicare For All – Protection for Your Retirement Plans

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An unexpected medical emergency, a life-changing diagnosis, or a car accident are a number of countless situations that can land us in the emergency room, setting off a chain reaction of diagnostic tests, follow-up appointments, prescriptions, treatments, and more. Of course, this all has a significant implication on your pocketbook, and even if you have insurance, the bills can still be staggering.

Health insurance is supposed to be an investment, a sort of safety net to minimize your financial obligations in the event of a significant health illness or injury. But rising premiums, high deductible plans, and coverage exclusions have rendered comprehensive, quality, affordable insurance plans a thing of the past.

This can have significant implications for older adults nearing or at retirement age. A car accident, a cancer diagnosis, or any number of other health issues can quickly drain away savings, including retirement plans.

Health Care Costs Threaten Retirement Plans

Amassing a retirement savings large enough to provide a comfortable living for decades is no small feat. Because seniors tend to see increased health issues and health care costs in their latter years of life, a significant portion of their retirement plan needs to be able to cover those increased costs.

According to a study performed by Fidelity, a 65-year-old couple retiring in 2017 will need to cover approximately $275,000 in health care costs throughout their retirement. That amount reflects a 6% increase over the 2016 figure of $260,000. However, that estimate has increased more than 70% when compared with the initial estimate ever performed by Fidelity back in 2002.

Simply saving up enough money to be able to retire can be a challenge, especially when you encounter unexpected health issues and emergencies earlier on in life. According to a survey by Bankrate, only 41% of adults say that they have enough money in savings to be able to pay off an unexpected cost. However, 45% of survey respondents indicated that they’d had a major unexpected expense in the past 12 months.

And if a family has a high-deductible insurance plan, a single visit to the ER can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Families without adequate savings may feel pressured to reach into retirement savings to fund the emergency, leaving them with even less savings than they’d had initially.

A Compounding Problem

The issue of health care costs depleting retirement savings becomes even more urgent when you consider the seniors who can’t afford to retire at all. The U.S. Jobs Report indicated that the retirement age is increasing, with almost 19% of United States seniors aged 65 or older were working at least part time during the second quarter of 2017. Additionally, 19% of 70- to 74-year-olds were still working.

Working later into life leads to increased retirement savings, but this isn’t a practical option for many seniors. Health issues force many seniors to quit their jobs even if their retirement savings aren’t yet large enough to provide them with long-term security.

Simply finding a job can be a challenge, since employers may be more reluctant to hire seniors (despite age discrimination laws). Seniors may find themselves with fewer job options and may have to settle for lower-paying jobs with poor health insurance policy offerings.

Medicare for All: Protecting Retirement Savings

Medicare for All could be a solution to this growing problem. With single-payer health care, all Americans could enjoy protection against unexpected large medical bills. Americans wouldn’t need to dip into their retirement savings for health-related emergencies. And with reduced health care costs, they could put more earnings into their retirement plans.

If more Americans were able to put aside more retirement savings, they could retire at age 65 without having to worry about extending their employment into their senior years. They could enjoy reduced stress and could focus on healing after a health crisis, rather than worrying about the massive bills that would follow.

With access to the medications and treatments that they need, Americans could enjoy better health, happiness, and an improved quality of life. Isn’t that what we want for our seniors, our retirees, and all American citizens?

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Food

A Growing Interest in Food and How Our Food Culture is Changing

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People have always loved food. It’s tasty, it’s an enjoyable thing to share with friends and family, and of course, we simply need it to survive. However, in the past couple of decades, our love affair with food seems to have grown quite a bit. Gone are the days when meat and potatoes were considered a square meal, at least in many social circles. People are finally beginning to examine the effects diet has on health and well-being, and this change can’t happen quickly enough.

Some states are beginning to see a decline in obesity rates, but there is still plenty of work to do if we want a healthy, thriving society. People are also getting more interested in food in general. Not everyone is on a mission to get healthy. Some simply want to capitalize on a growing demand for chefs. Culinary schools are expanding to meet with rising enrollment numbers as people choose food-based careers or simply decide to educate themselves so they can prepare food at home.

1. A Healthier Lifestyle

Research from the Organic Trade Association found that Americans are buying more organic products than ever before. Concerns about health and the environment have led to more people choosing organic. The economy is all about supply and demand, so this rising call for more organic items has led to a number of new businesses, including Thrive Market, an online resource offering hundreds of organic and all-natural items at an affordable price.

Aside from the organic factor, there are other reasons Americans are becoming more interested in bettering their health through food. To put it simply, many people are growing sick and tired of being sick and tired. In recent years, alternative diets and lifestyles have begun rising in popularity, including veganism, paleo and gluten-free.

As buzz surrounding these diets grows, people find reasons to believe that they can empower themselves through an alternative lifestyle. In turn, this leads to more alternative products appearing on store shelves, which leads to a greater awareness and so on. Therefore, by making smart choices with the foods they buy, people are actually having a positive influence on society as a whole.

2. Food-based Media

Cooking shows have been around for decades, but in the past twenty years, they’ve really begun growing in popularity. From televised contests for home cooks to lavish competitions featuring some of America’s finest professional chefs, there’s no shortage of food-related entertainment to enjoy. Perhaps this factor has contributed to America’s growing foodie culture.

3. A Difficult Economy Means More People are Cooking at Home

As people struggle in a difficult economy, they are beginning to look for ways to save money. Therefore, cooking meals at home rather than eating out is becoming increasingly more popular. Research from Peapod and ORC International shows that 72 percent of Americans cook from home four or more nights each week, and more than a third made a resolution to cook more in 2017. It was also found that millennials were more than twice as likely to make this resolution than older folks. But, it’s no secret that millennials are struggling financially and eating out can be really expensive.

However, the world has changed since the baby boomers were young, and these changes are likely to stick around. Therefore, it can be assumed that cooking skills will be important for today’s young people as well as future generations to come.

If you’re developing an interest in food, you’re on the right track to a healthier life. Even if nutrition isn’t your main motivation, you’ll still have a deeper connection to what’s on your plate if you go through the process of cooking it yourself. That connection can make every meal a more mindful experience, which is precisely what the act of eating should be. You’ll also be able to track your caloric intake much easier if you’re aware of every ingredient, giving you a better chance of staying at a healthy weight.

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Mental Health

Conscious Service and The Role of Intuition

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I love talking about intuition and even more than that, I love connecting to my intuition. I find intuitive moments to be highly energizing and uniquely interesting ~ sometimes, even entertaining.

What do you think about intuition? Is it a function or our physiological brain? Is it a function of our spirit ~ our hearts? Maybe, it’s a combination of both?

I have always felt that intuitive guidance was spiritual in nature ~ that it involved my heart and soul and would express itself to me through feelings and sensations that I would experience in my body. Intuition would come to me through ideas and messages that I would think and hear. If the answer was no, it feels a certain way in my body. Yes, has it’s own vibration as well.

The Sixth Sense

They call intuition the “sixth sense” for a reason. We receive information from and about the world in us and around us through our senses. We see, hear, feel, taste, and smell ~ and we intuit. It is through our senses that we interpret our experiences.

Intuition works in much the same way as our other senses and also communicates to us through our senses. We all have the capacity to access intuitive guidance. Some of us are more naturally inclined intuitively and everyone can strengthen intuitive abilities. In that way, intuition is much like a muscle ~ the more we use it, the stronger it gets. The more we tune into it, the greater the likelihood is that we will receive its communication more readily. As you grow to trust your intuitive messages and follow your inner guidance more frequently, you will notice that there are greater stores of information available to you. It will become second nature to simply tune into to what you are picking up on through your intuition.

Intuitive Messages

I often experience my intuition through messages in the outer world. I have found myself asking questions or pondering a challenge in my life and suddenly I’ll drive past a billboard and the message is loud and clear. I’ll turn on the radio to receive my guidance through the lyrics of a song. I open a book and my eyes land on a passage that illuminates a deeper insight or affirms what my heart already knows.

Your intuition will communicate with you through symbols and images, thoughts and feelings that are familiar to you ~ that already have meaning for you. Your intuition is there to enlighten you ~ not to trick you.

Setting the intention to hear your intuitive guidance is a simple and yet powerful way to open yourself and set the stage to receive. You can engage in centering practices in the morning to do this and you can also simply take any moment in time to extend the invitation and indicate your readiness and willingness to listen.

I find that it is also imperative to detach ~ to let go ~ of the outcome, my hoped for message, and the way that the intuitive information comes through. And, of course, the timing of the message. If I stay attached to a particular response, I will likely misinterpret the voice of my ego for the wisdom of my intuition and this is potentially dangerous or at the very least painful in some way. If I cannot find the patience to sit quietly within until the answer arrives, I will likely jump the gun and attempt to control situations in my life just to make something happen.

The reality is that our intuitive guidance is always there and available to us and quite often speaks to us very quickly. When it feels like it’s taking too long, it is usually because we don’t want to hear what we already know. And we always know. Part of the beauty of our humanity is that we are wired to survive and some aspect of ourselves will protect us from truths we aren’t quite ready to acknowledge.

Enter courage and curiosity. Enter trust and faith. When you can become courageous enough to get really curious about the mysterious nature of your existence, you can come face to face with the unknown and know that you are safe and that you will be led and protected when you listen closely to your internal guidance system.

Quiet your mind. Still your heart. Take a deep breath. And listen.

You have everything you need.

Interview with Lucca Hallex

In an interview with Lucca Hallex, I explore this topic of Intuition and the role it has in Conscious Service for the Consciously Serving podcast.

Lucca Hallex

Lucca Hallex works with the process of empowerment and remembering who you are – what you came to our little blue planet to passionately experience, share and create.

She coaches clients to find the source of their power at the very deepest level by using her intuition and encouraging them to use theirs, including running a unique Intuition Incubator to help people learn how to ‘speak intuition’.

Her work is not about ‘business as usual’. She engages at the edge of the current wisdom about ‘work’, where the present and future leaders of the emerging new paradigm are exploring what ‘new’ means for their professional lives and the communities in which they thrive.

Lucca co-creates with change-makers who are pushing boundaries and challenging themselves, who foster change by ‘working at the edge’ of what they know about themselves, how they want to move through the world and what impact they want to have. She builds on their experience and passion, to create a future that is inspiring to get up to each day.

Her clients say that the work truly changes their lives:

  • ‘Working with Lucca has softened my doubt and shored up my courage’
  • ‘Working with her has definitely strengthened my ‘intuitive muscles’. It’s putting a spotlight on a specific situation and gradually pulling it further away to light up the bigger picture’
  • ‘She has a deep respect for her client’s free will without pushing one to do anything’
  • ‘…most precious to me is a deeper listening to what I know to be true’
  • ‘I finally feel like my chess pieces are all on the board aligned properly and the game is ready to commence’

Lucca calls herself a Power Sourcerer – pun intended! This has evolved out her career in both business and personal development, as a facilitator, coach, counselor and psychic. In her free time, she co-hosts a weekly community radio program called Essencetial Conversations – conversations with change-makers about their essence and passion. She believes we are all one and that our differences are what unite and empower us and not what divides or diminish us.

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