Nina Burwell, Sarasota, Florida: Nina volunteered her time to create and initiate a program at a Sarasota housing project. The program teaches children the benefits of cultural diversity, peacemaking skills for conflict resolution and tolerance for different points of view. Nina’s fortitude and endurance along with her ability to form liaisons within both the black and white community have resulted in a very successful program, which helps to develop global citizens while providing a safe place for children to learn.
Sandra Richardson, Zephyrhills, Florida: For the past 9 years, virtually 24 hours a day seven days a week Sandra has dedicated her life to helping women and children who are victims of abuse find a way to survive. She lives in the shelter with the women and offers them a safe haven and help to obtain a GED or finding a job. Her generous spirit is reflected in the success of the women she helps as they move on to live peaceful and productive lives.
Diana Sanchez, Dade City, Florida: Diana overcame great odds as a farm worker to become a certified nursing assistant. Her job enables her to serve as a role model for women who formerly thought they had no way to improve themselves educationally and professionally. As a volunteer she is often called upon for Spanish-English translation in crisis situations, some of which have involved domestic violence victims. Diana is forever positive and energetic, always willing to find resources to bring food to a family with nothing, to find shelter for a family who is homeless, and to give support and genuine caring.
Sister Rosalie Hennessy, OSM, Sun City Center, Florida: Sister Rosalie, a Catholic nun, founded a program to help pregnant women in crisis in Tampa. Her work has grown to include providing counseling, clothing items to pregnant women in need and has recently added transitional housing. She has helped hundreds of women on the streets that were pregnant and given their babies life with a healthy start.
Wendy Loomas, St. Petersburg, Florida: Wendy is the Violence Prevention Coordinator at the Pinellas County Health Department. She also has been volunteering her time for over 15 years in the area of non-violence and advocacy work. She has organized demonstrations against violence, worked with the press, spoken to organizations, as well as provided training to groups in consensus decision-making and non-violence. Her latest project is teaching people how to safely intervene when they see a child in their neighborhood or community that is being abused, neglected or in any other kind of danger and offering no-cost mediation services to the community outside the court system to prevent disagreements from escalating.
Myriam Mezadieu, Miami, Florida: Myriam, a Haitian citizen, works tirelessly preparing immigration forms such as family petitions, appeals, motions, asylum applications and interviews, requests for employment authorization and handles office contact with INS and US Embassies in foreign countries. She founded a program, which deals with the multi-faceted problems teens face, including pregnancy. The organization also addresses the needs of victims of spousal and child abuse. They provide comprehensive outreach to those who are in need of social and medical services and legal representation. Myriam screens and counsels clients, conduct necessary immigration work, provides legal services and acts as a referral to other services that may be needed. Through her single-handed efforts, she has improved the quality of life for many Haitians living in Miami-Dade County.
Angie Thompson, Deerfield, Florida: After traveling to Romania to do relief work with her church group and witnessing all the children growing up without parents, without homes, and without education Angie gave up her high-paying job in Silicon Valley; sold everything she owned and started an organization to help the street children of Romania. She brings them food, clothes and gets them much needed medical attention and a hug from possibly the only adult that has ever cared for them before in their lives. She takes home any children that are willing to give up the streets. Based out of an office in Florida, and with a partner in Romania, Angie has opened two orphanages for the children who are living in sewers and on park benches. Angie offers them a place to live, education, and the chance for a better life. With an estimated 2000 children living in the city streets of Bucharest, Angie knows she can’t save them all. But she plans to save all she can.
Bunny Sewel, Naples, Florida: Bunny worked three jobs while raising 3 kids alone. She has volunteered for more years then anyone remembers to help reduce domestic violence in her community by offering individual counseling, group counseling, hosting free weekly workshops and discussion groups. Bunny opens her home up once a week for a family fun night. She isn’t afraid to take a stand and speak out about injustices to battered women and children. The many women she has helped say she is “non-judgmental and confident”.
Pat Lupson, Silver Springs, Maryland: Pat became involved with Silent Witness because her daughter and two grandsons were burned to death in their home by her son-in-law. In 1997 Pat carried the figure of their daughter in the first Silent Witness March in Washington, DC. She goes to prisons on a regular basis to tell her story to inmates, letting them know how the ripple effect of murder has affected their lives. She also developed a web site that is visited by thousands of people each year. Pat flies around the country to various Silent Witness cities to talk to communities about how her involvement with Silent Witness has helped in her healing.
Diane Peterson, Tucson, Arizona: Diane participated in the Silent Witness March in Washington in 1997. She appeared on stage with her husband John, who gave a talk on how he had been an abusive husband but was now committed to helping other men heal. Diane stood quietly as he spoke, holding his hand. Many people said it was the single most poignant moment of the entire march. When her husband died of lung cancer last year she continued to carry on her work as a volunteer with Silent Witness in Tucson, AZ. She has continued to focus on men’s treatment since that was what John felt so strongly about. She serves as a mentor to others around the country.
Lucinda Fulkerson, Zanesville, Ohio: Lucinda was stabbed over 27 times by her abuser and left for dead. She recovered and broke the cycle of violence in her life by determining that she was going to help other people who were experiencing violence in rural Ohio by sharing her own experiences as a battered woman. She speaks to groups on violence and recently founded a new project, Common CENTS – Community Efforts Needed to Survive. The role of her program is to facilitate a volunteer support group for women experiencing violence in their lives. She gathers clothing and household items for people who are leaving their violent situations and created a lending closet. Lucinda said, “I’m taking the negative and turning it into a positive. Because if I don’t who else will?”
Rosaleen Wilcox, Sultan, Washington: Rosaleen has dedicated her life to keeping youth out of trouble, which is no easy task since many of the kids she tries to help have parents in prison. She volunteers for Girl Scouts Behind Bars, which unites young girls with their imprisoned mothers by driving across the state each month to pick up the troop members for their meetings. She also brings together young people and prisoners to learn first-hand about the wrong choices the prisoners have made. She worked with other volunteers to establish Safe Stop for middle and high school students. Every Saturday evening in the middle school, Wilcox and others provide chaperoned fun for youth – athletics, board games, arts and crafts, and video viewing among other activities. The program has resulted in a 60-65 percent drop in Saturday vandalism and domestic violence calls.
Gail Hollar, Arlington, Texas: Gail, a dentist who was surprised to hear that the students in a patient’s second-grade class were so poor that they didn’t even own toothbrushes. Gail said, “Some of these kids were in constant pain from tooth decay and were having trouble eating and sleeping. Gail says that severe decay leads to lethargy, irritability and an overall inability to thrive. Gail spent $1,500 of her own money on toothbrushes for kids. Soon after, she joined a group of dentists to form a not-for-profit organization in Arlington, which set up a free dental clinic. Since 1993 the organization has helped over 40,000 children. Gail set up its preventive-education program, giving toothbrushes and oral-hygiene instruction to 5,000 kids a year. She sold her practice to devote herself solely to aid the indigent.
Dina Dublon, New York, New York: Dina is the CFO of Chase Manhattan Corp. but she gives equal weight to helping others: Her volunteer work with refugees in general, and those from Rwanda and Afghanistan in particular, as part of the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children, has had a global impact, increasing awareness of the plight of refugees and raising money to help them. Dina says, “I feel a responsibility as a role model to use the microphone for purposes other than to discuss business. I try to be an advocate for people to become involved in this important issue by giving them information and telling them what they can do to help.”
Kristy Childs, Kansas City: Kansas, Kristy worked in street prostitution for 18 years. A little over 8 years ago she left prostitution and dedicated her life to assisting women in every way that she can by working with Veronica’s Ministry. She runs a 24-hour crisis line, a support group, and speaks to countless organizations; churches and halfway houses about the reality of life women on the streets endure. She regularly cruises the heavily prostituted areas and stops when she sees women soliciting. She offers them a hug, a gift bag of toiletries and information about the program. Kristy is working with a police consortium to start a “John School” in which men caught for soliciting prostitution will be mandated to attend an 8-hour session in which they receive an education. Most of the fines placed on “johns” will go to assist Veronica’s Ministry. Kristy has turned the tragedies of her life into triumph and gives hope to many women who have none.
Dr. Juliette Engel, Seattle, Washington and Moscow, Russia: Juliette, a 53-year-old radiologist sold her six-figure practice in Bellevue to found MiraMed Institute in 1991. By recruiting full-time volunteers to help teach computer, language, and vocational skills at Russian orphanages, she is trying to establish new, and in some ways more significant dimensions. When orphans “graduate,” they are expected to find a new life on their own, but all too often, Engel said, they are found and wind up on the streets, sometimes fueling the growing ranks of the Russian mafia and prostitutes. “Basically, the children have no choices and no hope,” Engel said. “Without education, family or resources, little is left to them but to drift into the cities and to find a place in the growing underworld. We want to establish the orphanages as places of learning and hope instead of isolation and despair.”
Dr. Anele Heiges, O.P., New York, New York, United Nations: Julliette Engel joined forces with Dr. Anele Heiges, O.P., in 1999 and formed the Angel Coalition in the former Soviet Union. The coalition is fighting the trafficking of women and children in a country so poor that the advertisements for work abroad are appealing. They have mounted a huge multi-media campaign to create awareness of the problem and educate the public to some of the tactics used by the traffickers to lure their victims. The issue is so large-spread that it caught the attention of members of the United Nations. The UN has asked for the input of Angel Coalition to address this global issue. Dr. Heiges is MiraMed Institute’s representative to the United Nations in New York and visits the MiraMed Russia sites frequently. Both women hope their work will put a large dent in the trafficking problem in Russia.
Lucy Orta, Paris, France: Lucy was greatly influenced by her experiences seeing people on the edge of survival. She used her talents as an artist to launch a Refuge Wear, which mixes fashion with social protest after she saw the plight of Kurdish refugees during the US invasion of Iraq. She was moved by the idea of collective action and public debate and has collaborated with shelters, prisons, foster homes, universities, and high schools. Her work aims to draw attention to issues of public welfare that fail to meet the media’s imagination of marginalized communities. She designs clothing that can serve multi-use, as a thermal sleeping bag by night and a rucksack by day. Pockets are made to hold objects such as water supplies, food, portable stoves, and documents. The wearer can use an attached whistle to call for assistance when under threat. She has also used her talents to teach workshops on uses of used clothing through the Salvation Army. Her work to draw attention to the plight of the homeless and the war-torn is bold and relentless.
Lizi Sagie, Shikmim, Israel: At great personal risk for teaching against long-held religious and cultural beliefs and with sheer dedication and vision, Lizi Sagie founded Ta-ir, an organization dedicated to providing support to victims of sexual assault and abuse. Ta-ir, which means, “to bring to light,” operates a support center for women who come from a multitude of countries including the Middle East, Israel, North Africa, Ethiopia, and the former Soviet Union. The sex roles and lack of education on women’s issues contributed to the taboo of addressing the issue of sexual violence in these communities. Ta-ir has changed all that by not only providing front line support to victims of sexual assault through emergency hotlines, escorts to hospitals, assistance with police, the courts and various other governmental agencies but also work to educate society in hopes of changing the way Israelis and their neighbor’s views sexual attacks on women. Ta-ir organizes workshops and lectures for students, teachers, advisors and the persons who work with sexual abuse victims. At Ta-ir, there are Jewish and Palestinians working together, poor and rich, devoutly religious and secular, native and immigrants, all work together to achieve a united goal.
Jecinter Atieno Onyango, Oyugis Kenya: Jecinter has dedicated her life to finding solutions for the problems facing women and children in Kenya. Jecinter works as a volunteer in an organization she founded to help women whose rights have been violated, counseling them through, not only the emotional devastation of the violation but also the confusing and often overwhelming legal system. Her male counterparts do not favor her mission. In fact, by lobbying for changes in the laws of Kenya and educating against violence against women and children, she risks her personal safety on a daily basis. Fighting against ignorance, encouraging the education of female children and seeking the empowerment of the women of Kenya, Jecinter’s teachings have widespread ramifications, both locally and nationally. Jecinter is dedicated to fighting against gender inequality, including the fight to allow women to own property, inherit monies, and gain political and social equality; her goals include eradicated rape, sexual abuse, forced marriages, and horrendous child labor abuses. Locally, the rate of domestic violence has decreased, and nationally, by helping to educate Kenya’s future leaders.
Mandisa Monakali, Capetown, South Africa: At the height of apartheid Mandisa grew tired of seeing the men in politics fighting and paying lip service and the women afraid to interfere or risk becoming the victim of domestic violence. Mandisa, at great personal risk, started a program to educate women and ran it out of her own home. Capetown was rife with an ungovernable government and widespread civil unrest. Most black townships had strict confinement and curfews. Mandisa was arrested and spent 18 months in jail for organizing women to protest apartheid. Upon her release, she lived underground for a year before it was safe for her to be reunited with her family. Her organization is still going strong assisting women and children survivors of domestic violence. She offers support and education around violence against women and children. She also started training programs and workshops centered on individual and community development and the legacy of apartheid. Her grassroots group now has 8 offices in various areas in South Africa and employs 20 counselors. Her group is credited with finally having women hired as police officers. The female officers are now involved with special units that deal with victims of rape and abuse.
Sushma Katuwal, Katmandu, Nepal: In 1995, floods washed away Sushma’s village. Her family had resorted to sleeping under a plastic sheet when a village woman asked her if she wanted to make money working in a garment factory in Katmandu. At age 14 and less than 5 feet tall, Sushma, the youngest of five children and never having been to school, jumped at the chance. The woman sold her for 2,000 Indian rupees or about $50 in the US to three men who owned a brothel in India. For 13 months she was a prisoner in this house until the police raided it. She made her way back across the border and found a women’s shelter. She found out she was HIV positive. While staying at the shelter she happened to be looking out the window and saw two of her captors. She screamed for help and went running outside after them. All the women at the shelter chased them down and dragged the men to the police station where they were arrested and jailed for 3-5 years. This action inspired Sushma to go back to the border and watch the border traffic for suspicious men lurking to take innocent young girls. She has been instrumental in preventing the smuggling of many young girls. Nepalese police credit her with having 4 men successfully arrested and saving 15 girls so far this year. Armed with only a determination to save other young girls from her fate she daily risks her own life and health to put an end to this problem.
Helena Stuart, Portadown, Northern Ireland: Helena gave up a well-paid job to implement a cross-community (Protestant and Catholic) project she created. The project serves the whole of Portadown and the surrounding area. Women and their children who are under stress due to the political strife in Portadown or parents who are having difficulty relating to their children use this facility to help ease the stress and strain of their situation thus helping to provide a future for children to grow into healthy fully integrated, productive adults. The root of the trauma (political war) does not know the barrier of religion or culture and people come from all over the district to gain Helena’s counseling and guidance. The people are socially and economically disadvantaged and receive these services at no charge. With no budget and the help of one other volunteer’s, Helena serves as many women and children as she can doing her part to move beyond the “troubles”.
Mary Alphonsa, Chilkalguda, India: Mary grew up very poor. She is now a social worker who has been working since 1980 to help impoverished women and children in over 800 rural villages in India. She has organized women into committees she then trains so they can help her to fight for social, economic, moral, political and human rights in their respective villages. Since she began her work she has been instrumental in having rape cases prosecuted, fighting alcohol abuse and unfair wages, preventing dowry deaths, harassment, and implementing change in traditional widow customs. No matter what the issue she is a brave one-person organizer that motivates her committees to assist her in tackling all cases of injustices and atrocities against women.
Judith Oyugi, Kissi, Kenya: Judith is a nurse that volunteers in her spare time to run a clinic for women and children. In spite of the personal risk, she offers free medical services to women and girls. She helps those that have been raped, had unsafe abortions, been forcefully circumcised and are battered by their husbands. She holds weekly health talks on various topics including the dangers of female genital mutilation and its health implications and complications, awareness of the AIDS epidemic, prevention, and control of diseases such as cholera, bilharzias, malaria, typhoid, immunization and vaccination, abortion, and women’s rights. She also campaigns for women’s’ inclusion in medical schools and careers.