Champions of Change Blog
- Posted byon April 30, 2013 at 10:17 AM EDT
Lipo Chanthanasak is being honored as a Champion of Change for his efforts as a Community Resilience Leader.
I came from a place so remote most people would have trouble pointing to it on a map. I left school in Laos at sixteen to support my family by farming, fishing and hunting on the land that I loved. But the Vietnam War interrupted these peaceful pursuits.
To protect the people and the land I loved, I enlisted with a special guerilla unit alongside American soldiers. From the battlefield to the frontlines in the fight for our planet and people, I’ve never backed down from a just fight.
In 1978, under threat of captivity and persecution at home in Laos, I left all I had known. I lived in a refugee camp in Thailand until 1991, when I came to this country for the promise of freedom and opportunity.
As a refugee and new immigrant in the United States, I was excited to engage in a peaceful democratic process to affect the change I felt was important. I joined the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) to champion environmental justice, local renewable energy, and fair jobs. APEN not only works with Asian and Laotian communities, but also with other communities to fight for our rights, promote equal opportunity, and develop a stronger community for our children and many generations to come.
At APEN, we are doing what we can to accelerate America’s path toward a clean energy future.
We are hopeful that our leadership will move policymakers in capitals across the world to protect people and our planet from carbon pollution and the destruction of climate change.
In my 70 years of life, I have discovered that we are all willing to fight for what we love. Far from giving up because the problem seems too large, we must model what it means to love our planet, our country, and our home. We must demand clean air and good jobs. As a leader with APEN, I will continue tearing down the barriers to health and climate solutions and help communities in need.
Together, we can capture the best of the American spirit as community leaders battling for the Earth and the health and welfare of our fellow Americans.
Lipo Chanthanasak is a Community Leader with the Asian Pacific Environmental Network and has been championing renewable energy, pollution reduction and public health for the past decade.
- Posted byon April 30, 2013 at 9:55 AM EDT
Kimberly Hill Knott is being honored as a Champion of Change for her efforts as a Community Resilience Leader.
I served as a Legislative Assistant for Congressman John Conyers for over 10 years and now I am the Senior Policy Manager for Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice, the oldest urban environmental organization in Michigan. I have committed my professional career to addressing a myriad of social justice issues. Throughout my career, I have embraced the quote, “Emancipation begins with you,” which has compelled me to serve as an agent of change.
After attending the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, I began to reflect on the severe impact that climate change could have on urban communities, particularly Detroit. As a resident of Detroit, I fervently believe that urban centers should be heard and recognized in climate change discussions ensuing across the nation and around the globe.
In response to this evolving belief, I convened community, academic, government, and private stakeholders to form the Detroit Climate Action Collaborative. Through DCAC, I am working with a dynamic team to facilitate the development of Detroit’s first comprehensive Climate Action Plan in response to Detroit’s local climate projections.
Historically, most CAPs are initiated by cities and/or municipalities; however, Detroit’s CAP was spearheaded by Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice. In developing the city’s first CAP, we will document baseline greenhouse gas emissions from public and private sectors and translate this information into actionable mitigation and adaptation strategies. I am honored to lead the charge to accomplish this vision.
Kimberly Hill Knott serves as Senior Policy Manager at Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice.
- Posted byon April 17, 2013 at 4:24 PM EDT
Ann Lee Hussey is being honored as a Champion of Change for her efforts in being a Rotarian.
I don’t recall ever thinking, “I want to change the world.” Today, I feel I am. Because of Rotary, I have been given the opportunity to become more than I ever dreamed of, to find passion I never expected to feel, to make a real difference in the lives of the world’s children.
As a child, I grew up trying not to think about my polio; as an adult, my challenges became the motivation behind my work to eradicate the disease. Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. It invades the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis, and often death, in a matter of hours. No child today should ever have to experience the crippling effects of polio, a preventable disease.
I am grateful to have personally placed two drops of vaccine into the mouths of thousands of precious children. Traveling to distant lands, giving thanks to those who work constantly in the campaigns, creating strong advocates leading teams of volunteers, all the while inspiring others to do more, is the focus of my eradication efforts.
In 1985 Rotary International launched PolioPlus, the first and largest international humanitarian public and private-sector public health initiative. Today the Global Polio Eradication Initiative comprised of Rotary, the Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization and UNICEF has reduced the number of polio cases in the world by 99% over the past 28 years. The governments of the world play an incredible role and I give thanks for the more than $2 billion contributed by the United States. As a volunteer, I am proud to have had the privilege to be a part of our success; we must continue until we reach our goal and polio is no more.
Through my travels in the developing world, I have met thousands of polio survivors, witnessed their difficulties, and turned my attention to improving their lives. The work that lies ahead seems endless. It is estimated that between 12 and 20 million polio survivors live in the world today. In countries with weak health care systems, many are left struggling with their mobility issues. Even in our own nation, major needs are often not met. Joan Headley, Director of Post-Polio Health International cites, “Aging polio survivors as a group (estimated to be 750,000) now need and will need more and more the services of Medicare (hospitalization; physician care; access to treatment- pharmaceuticals and equipment) and for some (more than survivors like to think) Medicaid and availability of accessible housing, as the ability to do activities continues to decline.”
We all must do more. All children, everywhere, regardless of their color, nationality or religion deserve the right to healthcare and an opportunity to walk in a world free from polio. In the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “Our ability to work together is what will make our victory over polio endure. Because of what you have done and what we will continue to do until this dreaded disease is defeated, is come together like a family. Do what we do best, lift each other up.”
To receive the White House Champion of Change award is a tremendous honor.
Ann Lee Hussey currently serves on the board of Port Resources.
- Posted byon April 17, 2013 at 4:09 PM EDT
Neli Vazquez Rowland is being honored as a Champion of Change for her efforts in being a Rotarian.
As co-founder and president of A Safe Haven Foundation, I am honored to be named a White House Champion of Change. A Safe Haven Foundation is a non-profit social service agency and related for-profit social business enterprises dedicated to creating jobs and serving as employers to people with employment barriers. Since 1994, all of us at A Safe Haven Foundation have worked with a network of public and private partners to achieve a common mission: solving the issue of homelessness for people in need, one person at a time.
Since then, the vast majority of more than 44,000 people who were homeless have achieved self-sufficiency through the A Safe Haven holistic model. Consistent with the theme throughout our history to Aspire, Transform and Sustain, the individuals residing at A Safe Haven aspire for a stable lifestyle, transform through adult education courses and job skills training programs, and gain the confidence and skills to sustain employment and housing that allows them to support themselves and their families.
Over the last 19 years, at A Safe Haven we are proud to have designed a unique, vertically integrated "eco-system" that assists homeless individuals and families to pursue and achieve their God-given potential. The process is simple and rooted in empirical evidence. We assess and help people in need to address, alleviate and resolve the problems that led to financial crisis and homelessness, whether it is chronic or for the first time. Programming is assessment-driven and may include treatment, education, job training and placement, life skills training, financial literacy, and a myriad of other services structured to help each individual become self-sufficient. These changes also improve the lives of the families and break the cycle of generational poverty.
As we all know, the high cost of homelessness and poverty on our communities is manifested by high unemployment/underemployment, increase in crime, demand for drugs and illegal weapons, rampant violence, skyrocketing school truancy and dropout rates. We believe that nothing can replace the importance of empowering people with social and economic stability, which will help them break the cycle of poverty and provide them with the skills necessary to sustain long-term self-sufficiency. We cannot think of a better investment that offers a better return than investing in our most precious resource: people.
During this pivotal time in our nation's history when we are facing the many issues that result from homelessness and poverty, we are proud to be considered a national model and to have been noticed by leadership from other major cities across the country. For the first time at A Safe Haven, we are considering our options to expand the A Safe Haven footprint beyond Illinois.
We are blessed with outstanding support of proactive board members, partners, sponsors, donors, volunteers, professional staff, the business community and the community, at large. It is a privilege to be part of this life-giving organization.
Neli Vazquez Rowland is the co-founder and President of Safe Haven.
- Posted byon April 17, 2013 at 3:32 PM EDT
Walter Hughes, Jr. is being honored as a Champion of Change for his efforts in being a Rotarian.
I am honored to be a White House Champion of Change. I’m accepting on behalf of Rotarians and friends from a team of over eighty Rotary clubs in the U.S., Canada, Switzerland, Ghana and South Sudan. We are celebrating the end of Guinea worm disease in Ghana in West Africa. It all started with a dream, and I feel grateful to have witnessed lives transformed around the world.
I’m passionate about bringing clean water because of three priceless moments. The first starts when the people see the drill rig hit water. The cheers erupt when the water flows! The second moment comes when people throughout the village bring their buckets after the pump is installed. Everyone is silent and finally cheers erupt when the water pours out. Seeing the smiling faces of the men, women, and children make for a lifetime of unforgettable memories. The third priceless moment takes longer to notice because it happens quietly over time. It is the moment when children are healthy because they have safe water to drink. We do this work for the kids who will grow up not knowing Guinea worm disease.
By expanding access to clean water, children are less at risk of being crippled by polio. Rotary’s polio eradication efforts gave credibility to our team who partnered in the effort to eradicate Guinea worm disease which is transmitted by dirty water. The three-foot long parasite grows in the body for one year and feels like a hot iron hit the skin when it emerges. Adults can’t work and children can’t go to school when they are sick.
South Sudan has 96% of the victims of Guinea worm disease. Our dream now is to get rid of the disease in South Sudan, too. In October 2012, I traveled to South Sudan to build and encourage the team needed to finish Guinea worm eradication. It is led by the South Sudan Guinea Worm Eradication Program. The team is complete with non-profit organizations, developmental partners, faith based organizations, churches like Catholic Relief Services and Redwood United Methodist Church, medical professionals, the Rotary Foundation and finally Rotarians. The Carter Center helps to fund water filters, education, medical care and mobilizing community health workers. Water is the missing piece of the puzzle.
Our plan is to repeat the success of Ghana by drilling wells in the remote Eastern Equatoria State where the majority of the people suffering from this disease live. We can eradicate this disease if we put wells in the places where the greatest number of people is sick. We’ve drilled five wells in South Sudan so far this year and helped to give 250,000 people water to drink since we started!
I am a missionary who lives in America, but is always dreaming of ways to change the world. I share my faith by giving hope through action. We drilled a well in a village called Do Meabra in Ghana which means “You’ve got to love me to come this far to see me!” Love is a big reason why I go so far to serve. In February 2013, Christians and Muslims in the Upper East Region of Ghana were working together to dig wells for their communities with tribal and civil unrest. I thanked them for clearing the land, hauling sand, cooking food for the workers and fetching water for concrete so we could dig more wells. I told them that people of all faiths were working together to fund their wells. I prayed, “I am thankful that every drink of water from their wells would be a drink of peace.
It is time to dream big! Service is a journey that is worth taking. My appeal to you is to believe that when someone asks you “How can we change the world?” don’t think that there is nothing that you can do. We can change the world one person at a time and one drink of water at a time. An amazing team of people came together in Ghana to eradicate Guinea worm disease. We are transforming people’s lives with neglected tropical diseases like Guinea worm and Buruli Ulcer. We will be able to tell our families that we were involved with Rotary when we celebrated the end of polio and Guinea worm disease from the world. We can change the world when one person is united with others in a common purpose. If we can imagine and think we can, one day we can say we changed the world. Come join us! The journey is worth it.
Walter Hughes, Jr. leads a partnership of eighty Rotary Clubs in Switzerland, Ghana, South Sudan, eighteen U.S. states and two Canadian provinces.
- Posted byon April 17, 2013 at 3:13 PM EDT
Peggy Halderman is being honored as a Champion of Change for her efforts in being a Rotarian.
I came to learn about hunger by working with food. After I retired from the Park Service as an Assistant Regional Director for External Affairs in the Intermountain Region, I went back to school to learn to be a professional chef. After training with master chefs in both Italy and France, I completed my culinary studies at Cook Street in Denver and set up her personal chef business.
My next step was to sign up to volunteer with a local branch of the nonprofit “Cooking Matters.” It was there that I met a former chef from a local restaurant, Andy Nowak. It was through Andy that I began to learn about hidden childhood hunger and the need for weekend “kid food.” He explained that he and his wife put together backpacks with enough food for one kid for a weekend. The thought of kids without food jarred me, and that’s when I began to explore in more depth the hidden epidemic of childhood hunger.
This weighed on my heart, and I asked Andy where I could learn more about it. That’s how I met Kathy Underhill, who managed a local food bank. She invited me to shadow her over time, and I learned quickly the importance of partnerships, especially with the faith community and school personnel. Very quickly, she taught me the basic formulae associated with how to determine the level of need within a school or community. Then, as an educational exercise, I gathered the data about the upper-middle class city of Golden, Colorado, only to learn that we had almost 450 children who had no food on the weekend.
Shocked and outraged, I said, “Not in my backyard. Not in America!” I took my findings to the board of my Rotary Club of Golden. Everyone on the board was shocked by the numbers, and gave me the challenge of “fixing” it. I explained that I didn’t know how much it would cost, and the Board said that they would write the check; my job was to “fix it.” As I began to think about how to approach it, I shared the numbers with people throughout the City. No one knew about these numbers or what it meant. Within several weeks I decided to try a pilot project with a school where the Rotary Club had strong relationships, Bell Middle School. But it was at the end of the school year, so we decided to do some planning over the summer. And then fate intervened. Because of an accident, I ended up with a bad compound fracture and was confined to a wheel chair for four months, critical months during which I had to complete the project planning. Because I had to approach the project differently while in a wheelchair, I finalized the operation plan of working through our nonprofit arm, the Golden Rotary Foundation, to develop a relationship with the Food Bank of the Rockies. My next step was to find a warehouse to store the provisions. With one phone call to the Developmental Disabilities Resource Center, I found a partner organization that would pick up my ordered food, fill the sacks of food, and deliver the sacks to the schools. Through this arrangement, we were able to expand easily as the program grew.
So, as we served 65 kids in our pilot, the community heard about what we were trying to do and wanted information and wanted to help. As the program grew to meet the needs all of the schools in Golden, a call came from the Golden Police Department. They explained that they had so many calls from a Jefferson County “Options School” that they finally figured out all the problems were associated with hunger. They asked if we could help. Of course, with our community, we met the needs quickly. Once we provided food, attendance went up, disciplinary problems diminished, and we once again witnessed the amazing difference that full tummies can make.
Two more individuals learned about our program. One was a businessman who remembered his hungry childhood when he had white bread, Crisco, and sugar for dinner. He decided to not only help cover the food costs but also to make sure that these children, who were without food, would each have a Christmas stocking. This program continues to this day. Yet one more person stepped forward with a blank check, asking how she could help. With a “blank check,” I decided to test whether feeding kids makes a difference in how a child learns. Working with principals at two local elementary schools, I asked: Once we feed the kids AND we give each a book of his/her own, does it make a difference? The answer after five months of the program was a resounding: YES! From a regular elementary school, the principal cited many anecdotes of positive activity. From the Title I elementary school, the data were even more telling: With five months' worth of books, the children of the title I school increase their reading ability on average of two levels! Granted, generally the children were not reading at grade level, but they are making strides in the right direction!
So, we are in our fifth year, and I asked the Golden community a question: What should we do in our next five years? The community was very clear: We love what the Golden Backpack Program does for the kids during the school year. Now, do it year-round. And within 24 short hours, I received a donation of a half-size “beer bus” that we could convert into a mobile food pantry. Then it was back to a wonderful community team to figure out how to feed kids weekday lunches. Chiefly among them were Deacon Bethany Thomas, Dan Thoemke, Judy Maxwell, Reagan Giffels, and the Food Bank of the Rockies. We laid out the summer program quickly, including this “beer bus” that we needed to figure out how to convert into a mobile food pantry.
Then, as fate would have it, the Golden Backpack Program became one of 177 projects accepted by the Walmart Foundation for participation in the 2013 Walmart Foundation “Fighting Hunger Together” campaign. If our program garners enough votes, we will win $20k in time to complete the conversation of “the beer bus” into our Snack-n-Wagon (yes, our mobile food pantry) and we begin feeding kids this July 1, 2013!
So, where does all this end? When there are no hungry children in our community. It is so important that our kids have the right food, for without food these children – our future – will not have a chance to be all that each one of them can be. It’s as simple as that. And, believe it or not, it is doable!
Peggy Halderman is the creator of the Golden Backpack Program (GBP).
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