Madame Helene Tahibola Kiashiba, Street Adolescent Girls Project, Lusaka, Zambia: When Laurent Desire Kabila was elected president of the Republic of Congo he created a law that dictated that women must wear the traditional dress of the county or be arrested, and tortured. Madame Kashiba organized a group of women and girls to visit the president’s home so that they could present a 20-page paper outlining the economic situation for women and girls. When they arrived to meet with the president the guards prevented them from entering so they took off all of their clothes to demonstrate how marginalized women are in the Congo. When they were released from jail Madame Kashiba managed to obtain an appointment with the president. At the meeting she told him that females wear men’s pants because they are cheap, and the traditional dress is expensive. She said that if he was going to mandate women to wear traditional dress then he should provide these dresses for everyone. The president reversed the law and women are now able to wear what they are able to afford.
Terry Luna, Pregnancy Care Center, Zephyrhills, FL: Terry worked for the Department of Children and Families for 21 years and knows first hand the devastation of women and girls in crisis. She left her secure position to start the Pregnancy Care Center. With her Church’s support she used her work experience to create the Pregnancy Care Center in Zephyrhills. The center offers counseling, childbirth and parenting classes, and assistance with physical needs. The center also provides information about abortion and its alternatives, fetal development and the value of human life. Free pregnancy tests are available to anyone in crisis situations, such as domestic violence or substance abuse. The center has an open-door policy in a home-like atmosphere. Baby and personal items are free to those in crisis. They offer cooking classes and life-management skills classes. Terry thinks sharing practical living skills can be an immense help in preparing new parents for a new life. Terry is sensitive to the needs of both the clients and the volunteers. Through her training, the volunteers and the center were able to help more than 190 women in its first year.
Jan Rodgers, Zephyrhills, FL: The book “Trevor’s Place” made an impression on Jan many years ago. The story involves a young boy who sees a newscast about homeless people. Curious, he asks his parents whether there are any homeless people in his city and can he see where they stay. The child takes his pillows and blanket to give to the homeless when his parents take him to that area. Helping the homeless has become a personal mission for Jan. Through her church, friends, business customers and through word of mouth, she gathers clothes, blankets, pillows and toiletries. She and a friend set up tables in the parking lot of the Salvation Army in Tampa in January and distribute items to 35 -40 people the first year and 175 the second year. She immediately starts collecting again for the following year. Jan realizes she can’t help everyone but she can make a difference to some who are in need.
Susan Stallard, Some of My Best Friends, New Port Richey, FL: Susan founded Some of My Best Friends in 1995 as a 12- step support group much like Alcoholics Anonymous to help displaced women and children. A prison ministry for women was added in 1998 that is currently helping 75-125 inmates in 8 facilities in Florida after helping many of the children of these inmates. The focus of the organization is to show at risk youth the positive side of life so that they may be steered away from a potential life of crime. Many of the youth are exposed to crime through dysfunctional home lives and their parent’s criminal behavior. Her project offers them an alternative. One of the main projects is a summer camp that the children can attend at no cost. Susan does all of this work for no pay but great rewards when she sees the children grow into high functioning young adults that are able to stay out of the system.
Patty Sanphy, Clearwater, FL: Patty is a musician who has devoted many volunteer hours to supporting and educating the public about domestic violence and raising money for women’s shelters in the Tampa Bay area. In the early 90’s, as a member of the Greens, she organized two “Take Back the Night” vigils in downtown Clearwater. In 1996 she single-handedly recruited local women musicians and planned and put on a “Take Back the Night” benefit concert on Mother’s Day top raise money for an area shelter at Skipper’s Smokehouse. This has turned into an annual Mother’s Day event ever since. This year was the 7thannual concert. The concerts now benefit 3 area shelters. Patty has raised more than $35,000 for the shelters in her relentless mission to help battered women.
Ondria Brown, Boca Raton, FL: For over a decade Ondria has been involved with programs that assist women and young girls. She developed and taught displaced homemakers on the mechanics of starting a home-based business. These women had been economically successful however had found themselves abandoned by spouses with no skills or gainful employment. She has provided youth entrepreneur ship training to a special group of youth to provide them a hope for the future. These youth have come away from the juvenile courts and whose parents have had difficulty finding schools that would take them. Ondria has taken Take Your Daughter to Work Day to a new level. She takes inner-city girls to meet successful women in their good paying jobs or women who own businesses. She has matched over 25 inner-city girls with successful urban women mentors. She diligently works with the daughters of battered women in shelter and has started a program that targets and mentors inner city and urban young girls and their moms with ongoing communications about life skills. It offers them exposure to the arts, museums and other places that many people take for granted. Conversations are used to promote their educational desires, hope of leaving their environment, obtaining viable housing, gainful employment and seeing themselves as positive role models to their daughters.
Tracey Dannemiller and Lesley Clementi, Lakeland, FL: Tracey Dannemiller and her 11 year old daughter, Lesley have AIDS. Tracey contacted the disease from her former husband who died of AIDS in 1987. Lesley was born with the disease. Their mission is to help people overcome the fear factor about people infected with HIV.Dannemiller, who is a homemaker, volunteers her time to educate people about AIDS safety precautions as part of the talks she gives regularly at area churches and community centers. She and her current husband, Timothy (his previous wife died of AIDS in 1993) are writing a book about their experiences, and a group of Lakeland High School students are filming a documentary on Lesley’s version of being HIV infected as part of their television production class. Lesley participates with her mother at the speaking engagements “because I know it will make a difference in peoples’ lives. I tell them what I’ve been through…It’s difficult. I have to take medicine and go to doctors all the time.”
Nancy Rafi, Silent Witness Rhode Island, Newport, RI: Nancy survived a murder attempt by her former husband. It spurred her to get involved with a group of survivors that went on to build the Rhode Island exhibit for the Silent Witness display in Washington, DC. She was so moved by the exhibit and the speech of a recovered abuser that she decided she had to let go of her hatred and start really healing. She has coordinated domestic violence awareness marches for the last 5 years, works on a project to connect with families of victims, hosts Silent Witness events at all 10 of the colleges in her state, hosted 2 regional training programs to name a few. She is a prime example of passion at work and using your own healing experiences to heal others.
Vickie Amundson and Jerri Miller, Silent Witness Montana, Livingston, MT and Missola, MT: This team of two powerhouse activists are changing the face of domestic violence in Montana. They are the Silent Witness coordinators and are making sure the Witnesses travel around their sate promoting awareness. Jerri and Vickie personally raised the money to have a traveling trailer built to accommodate the Witnesses. They are both active members of Business and Professional Women and have formed networks with other BPW’s to carry forward domestic violence work in other states. They formed a non-profit organization (Silent Witness Montana) so they could get grants to sponsor training on effective programs focusing on perpetrators, adolescents, and court observation. Several programs have begun thanks to their efforts including a Native American Nations training project. Both of these tireless women work outside the home and do all this work as volunteers.