When I first began my conversation with Rachel, I noticed she was losing her voice, so I of course inquired about it. Rachel began to explain that she had just returned from her involvement as a ‘Young Life Leader,’ which is an International Christian Organization that specializes in relational ministry. She visits a school before, after and during lunches to meet kids, build relationships and, ‘love on them.’ The school is in a remote area and is incredibly impoverished and underprivileged. She shares, ‘I often walk away feeling more blessed by them than they are by me.’
Meet Rachel Bondi, creator of Leaf & Letter, who is currently selling her paintings and calligraphy work to fund a trip to Nepal this summer to work with sex trafficking victims. Her passion, commitment and drive will surely ignite the same fire under you, as it has me.
Enjoy our conversation below and visit her gallery at the end of this article to see her beautiful talent and support her mission.
Be You and Thrive (BY&T):
I am so touched that you launched your business, Leaf & Letter, to fund your upcoming Summer trip to Nepal to work with sex trafficking victims and that 100% of every purchase of your artwork supports these efforts. You have a heart to give to others—and it’s beautiful. You recently hand-lettered a quote by Martin Luther King, Jr. that said, ‘Our lives begin to end when we become silent about things that matter.’ This quote certainly relates to your passion to educate others about ‘having a voice.’ Can you share your thoughts on the importance of not becoming silent?
Rachel Bondi (RB):
I am an upper middle-class white girl, going to a fairly prestigious university— demographically, I am very privileged. There are those in the world that are profoundly underprivileged and so I feel it is my job to use the privilege that really only came to me because of my birthplace. I desire to use the resources that are available to me, to fight for those who don’t have a voice and to become an advocate for them. I really didn’t do anything to deserve the opportunities that I am presented with, and so I think it is my duty to use this opportunity for the sake of other people.
You know Rachel, there is a big percentage of people that don’t think this way. What has caused you to have this passion and desire to essentially believe, ‘My life is good and so I need to give back to the less fortunate’?
It started with a pretty deep realization of the reason that I am privileged—which has nothing to do with who I am at all. I think that we, as a people of privilege, can get really confused and think that somehow we have earned the opportunities that we were given. In reality, for the most part, we haven’t. I think realizing this is essential. I am no more deserving of it, than a sex-trafficked girl in Nepal. It’s my job to fight for her.
I mentioned that you share your art and calligraphy on social media to fund your upcoming trip to Nepal, and one piece that you recently posted was a painting of leaves of a plant. You explained, ‘Plants have a unique ability to provide life for other things. They literally produce the oxygen that fill our lungs with breath! I believe that we too have this ability. We were made for relationships, created to require community. The words we say are so important, and can quite literally bring life to other people. Walk in the truth that your voice is profoundly powerful!’
How do you desire to impact others with your voice?
For me that looks like being radically loving. And in a more practical sense, I think that means walking in a different way and in a way that says,
which is not something that we think. We default to loving ourselves more. And so I want to speak things that I see in people to encourage and affirm who they are—share the things that I see in them that are unique. I want to try to build their dream, to encourage them in their abilities to carry their dreams out.
You’ve shared on social media, ‘I want my voice to be one that screams from the rooftops, ‘You are enough!’ Will you share some of your encouragement with those who are reading this article and explain to them why they are enough?
I want you to know that your story is important and it is 100% unique and handcrafted intentionally, to change something about this world. I want you to hear that you have power in the words that you say and the things that you do. Both can change people and change who you are (for better or for worse). You have the ability to create a culture of people around you that is changing the world of cynicism.
You asked a pointed question via a beautiful hand-lettered piece that stated, ‘Perhaps this is the moment for which you were created.’ And then asked,
That’s crazy powerful and yet hard to grasp when in the midst of difficulty! What does that statement mean to you?
For me that question is everything. If I’m looking at the hardest parts of my life as the most important parts, and as the parts that make my story the most powerful—everything changes, because then I am willing and able to walk through them in a different way. In a way that says, ‘I will not be shaken by this. I will not be moved because I know my purpose is significant and I know I have the opportunity to change this.’ So often it doesn’t matter what we are facing, but it matters how we react to it.
Okay, this IS powerful! It’s true that when I’ve gone through some of my most difficult and devastating times in my life, when I begin to ‘sit with it’ (vs. put on my armor to avoid it), I eventually see the growth. So now I try to practice pausing, as if to say, ‘Okay, what can I learn from this?’
I will share, that right now is the most devastating part of my life, thus far. And I think it’s important for the readers to know this, because I’m not stating it from a place of desiring deliverance from it, but from a place of sitting in it right now. And I think that changes everything! I have faith in Jesus and I think that these situations that are so heartbreaking for me, are not seen as ‘His wrath or neglect,’ but His grace. He knows my hearts desire deeper than I do and He knows what I need to get there.
God refines us. And it hurts sometimes, because it stretches us beyond anything we could imagine, really.
But it takes us to a place that we would also never be able to go.
And I think it’s important to say, that I would never be strong enough to choose this pain for myself. But, knowing where I am today and what I am continuing to grow into—I would never change it.
Tell us about Nepal this Summer. What is your mission and how can we help?!
I’ve never been to Nepal before. This will be my first time in Asia. I will be working with an organization called ‘Beauty for Ashes Nepal,’ which is an organization that trains sex-trafficked women and children how to create artisan crafts, so they can sell what they make in order to get out of the trafficking cycle and learn how to support themselves.
And so my job when I’m there, will be to write the stories of the women and will also be starting an art therapy program with them. It will be very intentional and very hands on—showing them that they matter, in changeable ways.
Here are the ways that others can partner with me:
• Follow my journey via Leaf & Letter on Instagram and my website and blog. I will be posting on them all while in Nepal.
• By purchasing a Leaf & Letter piece, you literally are sending me to Nepal. And so with that, you get to be a part of something that is truly bigger than a piece of art.
Such beautiful ‘value’ behind your art! As we begin to close our conversation, will you share who has mentored you and helped you become the woman you are today?
My Mom is the most formative person that there is in my life. She has obviously spent the most time with me thus far and has always taken a stance of belief in who I am and the reach that my voice has. I have always been encouraged to run as hard after that as I can. She has really poured into me a ton and has really changed the course of my life.
Pretty awesome to have a mom that leads and gives of her love at the same time! Is there anything that we didn’t talk about that you would like to share with the community of women who are reading this?
It is really easy when you read a piece like this, to think that speaking out is something for only select individuals or for people who already have a platform. I am a 21-year-old college student, who makes her art from a tiny little room in a cramped house.
I would like to encourage all those that are reading this article and remind you that your story matters. Your passions and your compassion matter. And I would love to see more women embrace the idea that what they have to say actually matters and will make a difference.
Rachel Bondi is the artist and writer behind Leaf & Letter, a company she founded with the vision of encouraging people to use their voices. Leaf & Letter’s entire financial purpose is to fund-raise for her mission trip to Nepal this upcoming summer.
Rachel is a Junior student at Virginia Tech, double majoring in Psychology and Criminology. She dreams of attending law school and dedicating her life to advocating for the voiceless. She has a deep passion for those members of society who are rejected and not fought for, specifically victims of human sex trafficking.
Rachel is a Young Life leader in Montgomery County, VA, dedicating 15-20 hours weekly to loving high school girls. She is also an aide for special needs children in the Blacksburg, VA area.
Leaf & Letter
Hand Lettered Signs & Art. Wedding Decor & Home Decor.
Request a custom order by contacting Rachel at firstname.lastname@example.org or purchase art in her shop.
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