Growing up amid the beautiful green hills of North Carolina, Sarah Anderson appreciates the natural beauty of her hometown of Durham. Although she has lived in Utah, Georgia, and Florida for brief periods of time, she always returns to North Carolina. “I love it! It is beautiful, green, but most of all there is not a lot of snow, which is great!” she said. She went on to talk about her time at Brigham Young University as a new college student. “I was homesick. Living here in North Carolina, we are 90 minutes from the beach, 2 hours from the mountains. There is nowhere better!” Ironically, it took moving back to North Carolina, and enrolling in the University of North Carolina to meet her husband, who was raised in Utah.
Sarah is animated and passionate about providing opportunities for people, especially women, to get involved in their communities. “Right now I’m thinking a lot about my impact in the world. I spend a lot of time thinking about people who are marginalized in our society and around the world.”
She brings this passion for advocacy to Big Ocean where she serves on the cottage committee, helping train new cottage leaders and participants about the tenets and purpose of Big Ocean, showing them the power and possibilities in getting involved in their communities.
“I want to see more women learn about BOW and get involved with local cottages. The potential to change the world is contained in the cottages, where women can gather and feel empowered to serve their communities. It truly is important for everyone to give a little—we are all really busy, but if we get involved and integrate our work in cottages, we will be able to serve and advocate for others and help our lives to be more balanced. We all need to give where we are able.”
Sarah continued to talk about her work with Big Ocean, saying, “Some women are more passionate about some things, and others about different things—together we are balanced. If we shoulder the burdens in our communities together with our sisters in our cottages, we can create real change.” One of the things she says she loves about Big Ocean is the community roots that help cottages be successful. “In Big Ocean, it is not top down; it is on the ground, moment to moment work. It is a global sisterhood, but focused on our own sphere of influence. If we worry about our own communities and grow and develop together, our efforts are multiplied.”
Sarah is married, and has four children: two daughters ages 7 and 5, and two sons ages 3 and 1. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of North Carolina and has had a variety of work experience from restaurant manager, loan processor, and public school teacher, teaching lower elementary and kindergarten and then switching to middle school special education. She spent three years teaching in the Teach for America program, one year in Florida, and two in North Carolina. But of all her experiences she says she most enjoys being home with her children. “Since the birth of our second daughter five years ago I’ve been home full time with my kids. I recently began providing childcare for another little boy, so I spend most of my time caring for three little boys. Starting off working and then coming home full time can be a challenge,” she said. “In a lot of ways it is more difficult than working. For instance, there are no bathroom breaks when you are home with young children! But our family was strained when both my husband and I were working, and I love taking care of the family and being able to enjoy more time together. I love spending quality time with my husband and kids.”
“I am reading Harry Potter with my daughters, a little bit every day. And we try to find other time to connect, which looks different for every child. Sometimes it is Legos or other ordinary things that let me have a connection with them. I love to have meaningful conversations, and I especially want to raise my four children to be empathetic and feel empowered to stand up for marginalized people.”
It is no surprise to those who know her that Sarah’s favorite tenet is ‘We recognize and follow our intuitive internal compass to speak and act with integrity.’ “I love the idea of women learning to follow our internal compasses! Recently this tenet led me to serve someone in our neighborhood. The opportunity pushed me beyond my comfort zone and turned out well.”
She talked about how, as she was leaving the house one day she saw a woman and her young son walking on the side of the road, carrying bags of groceries. Initially she kept going, but felt prompted to turn around and offer them a ride. “I thought about it because we had a discussion in our virtual cottage about small acts of service, and as a result I was more cognizant and aware of the ability to create change and offer help.” They accepted the ride, and Sarah found that the woman was a single mother who had recently lost her car. “It wasn’t a long way, but I felt like at that moment, on that day, they needed the kindness of a stranger.”
In her spare time Sarah says she loves to bake and read. When she is baking you can usually find her making cookies, which she says, laughing, is because they are her favorite things to eat. “I did, however, win a blue ribbon in a state fair for a chocolate cake—but I have never entered since, because, isn’t it all downhill from there?”
Staying home with her family and having a little bit of extra time was one thing that led to her involvement with Big Ocean. “I knew Carolina when she lived in North Carolina, and we’ve remained connected on social media. When an opening to serve on the cottage committee came up, I was at a good place in my life to get more involved with BOW. I had recently had a baby, and was at a point where I felt like I could get more involved.”
Sarah is a co-leader of the cottage committee with Mara Holloman. “We work on training, getting new cottage leaders up to speed, trying to get all women to complete the training. We teach key things about Big Ocean, show how the program works, and try to get cottages involved in local issues.” Those issues are as diverse and varied as the women who get involved in Big Ocean, and span a wide variety of issues. “One of our newest cottages, in Houston, became concerned about the problem of sex trafficking in their area. They are getting involved in efforts to educate others about the dangers and warning signs, helping those in their community see the need for action. It is so easy to fill the gaps in our own communities, and it takes away the feeling of helplessness we can sometimes feel when we are faced with heavy and serious problems. We can be really empowering.”
Sarah is a great example of lifting where you stand and having an influence on your community by getting involved in the small and simple things. When asked what important truth she would want everyone to know, she said, “All of us, all women, are sisters, and we have more in common than divides us. If we truly understood this we would see greater empathy and humility in our world. I am learning to embrace these traits more in my life and interactions with others.”
Written by ShelliRae Spotts