1. Why did Rosemary decide to tell her story to the world?
Back in her salon-industry days, Rosemary had customers sitting with her as a captive audience for an hour or more at a time, which gave them plenty of opportunities to get to know one another. Her clients often asked about her background and how she came to the U.S, so she got a lot of practice telling her story. Finally a good friend told her she should write a book. Rosemary never gave it serious thought until after she founded her nonprofit Devotion to Children (DTC) in 1994. Until then, she wasn’t sure many people (beyond friends and clients) would be interested in her life or what she had to say. Her work with DTC changed the way she looked at things.
Rosemary felt that writing Beggars or Angels would be a good way to not only tell her story, but also the story of Devotion and to show why it’s mission matters so much, particularly with so much turmoil and families being uprooted around the world today. Along with DTC, Rosemary feels like Beggars or Angels is her legacy – and her way of saying “thank you” to all the amazing people who helped her along the way.
Finally, Rosemary wanted the book to be an expression of her deep passion and caring for her kids and all the other children who are struggling, through no fault of their own, to escape a cycle of poverty. She wanted her book to show how one person can make a difference – even someone like her: a refugee, single mom, welfare recipient, small-business owner, cancer survivor. In doing so, she hopes to inspire other people who may be going through similar tough times now and wanting to just give up. Because she sacrificed and overcame those things to give her kids a better life, she wanted to let other parents know that they could too.
2. Could you tell us a bit about the nonprofit organization Devotion to Children?
Rosemary founded Devotion to Children in 1994 as a way to help Washington, D.C.-area working families with children age 6 and under find affordable, quality child care so that the parents could work outside the home and have a better chance of breaking the cycle of poverty. DTC is dedicated to fulfilling the needs of children so that they may become mentally, physically and emotionally healthy members of society. DTC collaborates with many like-minded organizations in the provisions of childcare, health and educational services for needy families and their children.
Last year Devotion helped more the 400 families with young children in the DC-metropolitan area. It awarded 18 preschool scholarships, provided grants to five childcare centers, and created a new preschool computer lab.
3. What are some ways a person could help be involved with Devotion to Children?
Because DTC is an organization that is managed and supported 100 percent by volunteers, it is always looking for help in fundraising, raising awareness, on-site event support, as well as newsletter and Website development. If people would like to find out more about Devotion, make a donation or contribute to the organization in some other meaningful way(e.g., volunteering or donating other services/resources), they can visit www.DevotionToChildren.org. Any donation amount is worthwhile and will have a positive impact on the lives and futures of deserving children and their working parents.
4. How has Beggars or Angels contributed to the organization?
Beggars or Angels, essentially, tells the evolutionary story of Devotion to Children. The desperate need for affordable, quality child care to help break the cycle of poverty isn’t just DTC’s cause, it’s also Rosemary’s life’s journey. The book, almost like her calling card, has made that important message more tangible and provides Rosemary with another way to introduce DTC to an even broader audience – far beyond the boundaries of the Washington, D.C. area. More directly, most proceeds from sales of Beggars or Angels support DTC.
5. What is one of the most surprising things you found in writing this book?
I met Rosemary not long after my first daughter was born. And I began researching and writing the book just before my second little girl arrived in late-August 2009. So, what I found most surprising about Rosemary’s story is just how much she was able to accomplish as a single parent given her circumstances. As an example, I often had difficulty getting work done working from my home office while also taking care of my two children, both under age 3. Rosemary, on the other hand, managed somehow to take care of two children roughly the same ages as mine while fleeing the war in Vietnam and establishing a home for them in a foreign country. When she told me she only had one cloth diaper with her on board the cargo ship that delivered her and her kids to a refugee camp in Guam, I had to laugh. Because diaper changings for my kids frequently would require the use of two or more diapers and half a package of wet wipes. This is just one of the stories that provided me with a great appreciation for Rosemary’s strength and resourcefulness.
6. What do you hope readers can learn from Beggars or Angels?
First and foremost, we hope readers better understand the challenges single parents of all backgrounds face in raising their children, and just how vital it is to have access to quality, affordable child care. We also hope some will read Beggars or Angels and know that they are not alone, that they are not powerless in dealing with whatever hardship they are facing. Because we know that many people – thousands and thousands of families – still are looking for ways to make ends meet in our country and around the world.
We hope Rosemary’s story can help buoy the spirits and ease the paths of other women, other single parents, other immigrants, other small business owners and cancer patients. Rosemary wants them all to know that they need to hang in there – to believe, like she did, that there is always hope. There is always help, always compassion, even from people from whom you’d least expect to find it. So just be open and alert to it.
7. For those who are still fighting cancer, what message would you like to give them?
A cancer diagnosis is very scary. But try not to be afraid. Live – and I mean really live – each day and appreciate each moment. It will be better for you and happier too. Fear only makes us weaker. Love life and live it as best you can. It’s what I’ve told myself every day since my own cancer surgeries. My ongoing health issues have been a vivid and regular reminder that I have to do the most with whatever time I have left. None of us knows when it’s “our time,” anyway. Most of all, we must learn to love ourselves and forgive others – they may not know that by hurting us they hurt themselves too.
8. Has writing Rosemary's story changed you personally?
As Rosemary would say, “everything happens for a reason.” With me being a new parent when she and I met, starting this particular book project couldn’t have happened at a more perfect time. My parenting experiences informed my writing and her experiences informed my parenting in some ways. Working with Rosemary the past few years has helped broaden my perspective on what it means to be a parent who makes hard choices and sacrifices for their children. Once you’ve heard about Rosemary’s journey, what she endured, and how she’s now helping families that face the same challenges she did, you can’t help but look at your own life and stop taking certain things for granted – like the luxury of working from home and spending time with your kids throughout the day, watching them grow up, and, hopefully, having a positive influence on them along the way.
Scott Beller is a 20-year public relations-industry veteran, writer, independent consultant, and work-at-home dad.
During his PR career, Scott has held leadership positions with some of the world’s top agencies-including- Fleishman-Hillard, The Weber Group, and Weber Shandwick Worldwide, where he honed his writing skills and developed a number of public-information campaigns supporting and the improved health, nutrition and quality of life for children and families. His talents have been frequently called upon by some of the most recognized brands-- including Nike, SBC Communications Inc. XM Satellite Radio, Dell, Anheuser Busch, Exxon, the American Public University System, and NASDAQ.
As a consultant, Scott helped launch DADs Unlimited and REEL FATHERS (www.ReelFathers.com) and is part of the Devotion to Children’s Advisory Board. He was named for 2003 Volunteer of the Year as a youth mentor for New Hope Housing, Northern Virginia's largest provider of shelter, transitional and permanent housing to homeless families. He lives in Arlington, Virginia, with his patient wife, Elisabeth and two brilliant, kind, adorable, and exhausting daughters.
Also, check out my review of Rosemary Tran Lauer's and Scott Beller's novel:
Beggars and Angels: How a Single Mother Triumphed Over War, Welfare, and Cancer to Become a Successful Philanthropist