Know Your Why

This post is written by Leora Ward. Leora is an aid worker and life coach who supports women in the humanitarian and caring professions through her organization, Healing in Service.


Leora Ward of Healing in Service

I was 24 when I first started working in West Africa, 25 when I moved to northern Uganda, and 26 when I took my first job in Darfur, Sudan. At the time, I got many comments from family and friends about my choice and decision to move so far away, to a war-torn country nonetheless. Some people found it idealistic, others thought it was “cute”, and then others called me a bleeding heart. I didn’t really take it personally at the time and never responded. The fact is that I didn’t have the words at that point to truly explain WHY I went into the humanitarian field. And, ever since then, I have bounced between altruistic responses about wanting to create a better world, to savior-like ones that sound something like, “well, someone’s got to do it!”

It wasn’t until much later that something clicked. I have coached women in the humanitarian and development fields for almost 2 years now. In doing so, I have gotten to know myself better and also understand the real reasons WHY we do this work. It seems appropriate to share them here – it’s still the new year – the world is falling apart – and, everyone seems to be searching for their deep WHY.

It is also important for us, as women, to own our purpose and passion more fully and explicitly. Women tend to side-step, downplay, or stay small when we talk about ourselves. We don’t claim our biggest selves in the world. We don’t tell the world how badass we are. We don’t own our unique brilliance as we should.

So, I will do that here today. I will tell the world our WHY and our VISION for the universe as I see it. Through all of my work with women, it can be summed up in the following 6 ways:

We have a desire to serve:

We enjoy helping other people and contributing to their joy. Through our support to others, we are both affirmed and become content. Our love for humanity, the planet, and people in need leads us to give, nurture, and care for those around us. It is in our nature to “mother” but we also believe that life is a complex web of interdependence and interconnectedness with others.

We long for connection:

It can be hard to find intimacy when you are constantly moving, and traveling, and transitioning from one place to another, and then another. We want to trust others, to be held, to be supported, to be encouraged. We thrive off of being in relationship and in connection to others — opening ourselves to new friends, colleagues, and strangers.

We want to exercise our voice:

This work is a way for us to be known and seen. We bear witness every day and through our voices can speak truth to power. We get to stand in our biggest and boldest selves as conduits of information, stories, and experiences. Our presence in the most difficult places gives us purpose and through showing up, we are also able to be seen for who we truly are.

We are in search of freedom:

Many people in the world are on a quest for safety, predictability, and security. Even those of us who are in the developed world often say that we desire to feel SAFE. In actuality, I think that we are searching for something much deeper, and that is freedom. We want to live in a world where we all have power and the space to do, feel, dream, and be whatever we want. We know that even beyond the confines of war or disaster, there is freedom.

We value growth and learning:

 We are people who love to live. We enjoy the search, we enjoy growing, and we enjoy absorbing all that is around us. For us, doing the work is a constant learning experience and also an opportunity to get to know ourselves better. As we discover the world, we get to find our own authenticity and truth in the process.

We crave belonging and community:

Even though many of the women with whom I’ve worked grew up in the Western world where independence and individuality is cornerstone, we know that true beauty comes from being in community. We recognize that partnership is essential and companionship feels good. Even more, we know that belonging to someone, somewhere, or someplace (even if not our own and a million miles away from home) is a spiritual and divine experience.

Ultimately, we believe in a world where everyone matters.

 We believe in a world where everyone is enough.

 We believe in a world where everyone is worthy of love.

 We believe in a world where all beings are equal.

 We also enjoy creativity, adventure, spontaneity, play, and celebration.

Sure, we have a lot of healing and other things that drive our work and zest for the job.

But, in a nutshell, we are here because we LOVE the possible. We LOVE our people. We LOVE each other.

And, are fueled by service, voice, connection, freedom, growth, learning, belonging, and community.

If you are still getting clear on your deepest WHY, looking to bring your vision more fully into your daily life, or wanting to live with more intention in your work, I have developed a weekend retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Maryland where we will be meeting April 13-16th.

This retreat is for women who are cultivating their personal vision, refining their purpose in the world, and finding the words to explain WHY you do the work. I invite you to learn more about this retreat at or email me to set up a conversation at

This is the time to know ourselves, understand what drives us, and use that to show up with more power, confidence, and balance in our work. Reach out if you want to live your vision more boldly and fully out in the world and to relentlessly live your passion every. single. day.

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