Winning the Human Race, Together

Armed Conflicts, Civil Society, Climate Change, COVID-19, Development & Aid, Education, Education Cannot Wait. Future of Education is here, Environment, Gender, Global, Headlines, Health, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, Migration & Refugees, Poverty & SDGs, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

NEW YORK, Oct 14 2021 (IPS) – “Now is the time for a stronger, more networked and inclusive multilateral system anchored in the United Nations,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in his latest report “Our Common Agenda.” Indeed, there is a fork in the road: we can either choose to breakdown or to breakthrough.


Yasmine Sherif

Making this moral choice and adopting this legal imperative is more relevant today than ever. The estimated 75 million children and adolescents caught in emergencies and protracted crisis who suffer from disrupted education has now dramatically increased from 75 million to 128 million due to the pandemic. These vulnerable girls and boys are now the ones left furthest behind in some of the world’s toughest contexts, in Afghanistan, the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa and South America.

The current education financing gap amounts to US$1.48 billion for low- and middle-income countries. A gap that is increasingly widening. In reviving the multilateralism that is so urgently needed, the UN Secretary-General will convene a crucial, timely summit on Transforming Education in 2022.

Despite all that we do, despite all our investments, we cannot win ‘the human race’ unless we invest in our fellow human beings, now. It is the children and young people impacted by armed conflicts, climate-crisis induced disasters, forced displacement and protracted crises who are in a sprint against time, with their lives and futures on the line.

We can no longer let “an entire generation facing irreversible losses be left behind in the ruins of armed conflicts, in protracted refuge, on a planet whose climate-change threatens us all,” as the UN Special Envoy for Global Education and Chair of Education Cannot Wait’s High-Level Steering Group, The Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown stated at the launch of Education Cannot Wait’s Annual Results Report: Winning the Human Race, on 5 October 2021.

Education is the foundation, the DNA and the absolute prerequisite for achieving all other Sustainable Human Development Goals and Universal Human Rights. Education means investments in the limitless possibilities of human potential: the workforce, governance, gender-equality, justice, peace and security.

“Access to quality education is key to addressing 21st century challenges, including accelerating the fight to end poverty and climate change,” says The LEGO Foundation’s new CEO, Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, in this month’s ECW Newsletter high-level interview.

The time has come to connect the dots between individual human beings and our collective humanity and life on this planet. We are now investing more and more in Mother Earth through significant climate change financing. We must now also invest in the human beings populating the planet. The correlation between the positive impact of education upon on all aspects of life on the planet is indispensable and inescapable.

    Higher education levels lead to higher concern for the environment, and adaptation to climate change. If education progress is stalled, it could lead to a 20% increase in disaster-related fatalities per decade.
    Education is the one unique investment that can prevent conflict and forced displacement. High levels of secondary school enrollment have been shown to be associated with an increase a country’s level of stability and peace and reduce crime and violence.
    Every additional year of schooling reduces an adolescent boy’s risk of becoming involved in conflict by 20 percent. This effect reflects both education’s economic benefits and its role in social cohesion and national identity.
    Conversely, lack of education often leads to political disempowerment and regression to group allegiances. Across 22 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, sub-national regions with very low average education had a 50 per cent probability of experiencing the onset of conflict within 21 years, while the corresponding interval for regions with very high average education was 346 years.
    Education is also the most secure means of ending extreme poverty. For nations, each additional year of schooling can add up to 18 per cent to GDP per capita. For individuals, one more year of education brings a 10 per cent increase in personal income. If all children were to learn basic reading skills, the impact would be 171 million fewer people living in extreme poverty. *Footnotes below.

Education Cannot Wait is a multilateral global UN fund. Our Annual Results Report of 2020, Winning the Human Race, launched at the UN in Geneva this month, testifies to what we can achieve when we think and act multilaterally: when we connect the dots, become one, and act for all.

Through multilateralism, we reached more than 29 million crisis-affected girls and boys in 2020 alone through ECW’s COVID-19 emergency response, working with our strategic partners, including host governments, our 21 donors, UNICEF, UNHCR, UNESCO, UNDP, WFP, our civil society partners, such as INEE, Jesuit Refugee Service, AVSI, Save the Children, Plan International, Norwegian Refugee Council, International Rescue Committee and numerous local civil society organizations across 34 countries. Through joint programming, we were also able to jointly deliver quality education to more than 4.6 million children and youth, of whom 51% were girls and adolescent girls, 38% were refugees – all while we increased ECW allocations to children and youth with disabilities.

This is made possible because ODA governments, private sector and philanthropic partners are scaling up their support for the catalytic ECW global fund whereby their investments are part of multilateral efforts that work as closely as possible to those we serve, establishing links conducive to numerous, diverse SDGs and human rights. The full list of our 21 generous donor partners can be found at the end of this Newsletter.

In connection with the UNGA week this year, ECW strategic donors advancing multilateralism, such as Germany, the United States, the European Union/European Commission, France, The LEGO Foundation and Porticus took giant steps and committed $138.1 million to ECW, bringing the total resources mobilized thus far in 2021 alone to $156.1 million and the total since ECW’s inception to $1.85 billion ($827 million mobilized for the Trust Fund; and, over $1 billion worth of programmes aligned with ECW MYRPs, as leveraged by ECW with partners).

Furthermore, the Global Hub for Education in Emergencies celebrated its new collective space under the ECW umbrella in Geneva, thanks to Switzerland which is the second biggest UN capital for humanitarian and development actors after New York City. The Global Hub brings together NGOs, the UN, academia, foundations, and governments to inspire more commitment and resources to quality education for those left furthest behind in emergencies and protracted crisis.

Multilateralism through the United Nations works.

Still, this is just the start of a major global effort to work through the multilateral coordination system to reach those left furthest behind and bring education from the margins to the center. Based on empirical evidence, ECW calls for an additional $1 billion to contribute to an innovative model that has proven to work.

Political leaders, governments, private sector, UN and civil society – all part of ECW’s multilateral UN system – recognize that education is a precondition for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and Universal Human Rights. Together, we think long-term and act now. Together, we connect the dots and see things from afar and within. Together, we work on what the world needs most right now: A Common Agenda to Win the Human Race.

Yasmine Sherif is Director,
Education Cannot Wait
The UN Global Fund for Education in Emergencies and Protracted Crises

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Rural Communities in El Salvador United to Supply Water for Themselves – VIDEO

Civil Society, Development & Aid, Headlines, Integration and Development Brazilian-style, Multimedia, Poverty & SDGs, TerraViva United Nations, Video, Water & Sanitation

Water & Sanitation

LA LIBERTAD, El Salvador, Oct 8 2021 (IPS) – As the saying goes, united we stand, divided we fall, hundreds of families in rural communities in El Salvador are standing together to gain access to drinking water.


The Salvadoran state fails to fulfill its responsibility to provide the resource to the entire population, and the families, faced with the lack of service in the countryside, have organized in “Juntas de Agua”: rural water boards that are community associations that on their own manage to drill a well and build a tank and the rest of the system.

It is estimated that in El Salvador there are about 2,500 rural water boards, which provide service to 25 percent of the population, or some 1.6 million people, according to data from the non-governmental Foro del Agua (Water Forum), which promotes equitable and participatory water management.

One of those community systems has been set up in the small village of Desvío de Amayo, in the canton of Cangrejera, part of the municipality and department of La Libertad, on the central coastal strip of El Salvador.

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The system provides water to 468 families in Desvío de Amayo and eight other nearby villages.

“Governments have the constitutional obligation to provide drinking water in each country, but when they are not able to do it, as it happens here, the families decided to meet to take decisions and seek support either from NGOs or municipal governments to set up drinking water projects”, José Dolores Romero, treasurer of the Cangrejera Drinking Water Association, told IPS.

Created in the 1980s, this board finally obtained in 2010 a contribution of US$ 117,000 from the National Administration of Aqueducts and Sewers (Anda), the sector’s authority, for the expansion and improvement of its network infrastructure, he explained.

For more information, you can read an article on the subject of this video here.

As agreed by those involved in this effort, each family pays seven dollars for 20 cubic meters a month. If they consume more than that, they pay 50 cents per cubic meter.

“We benefit from the water, it is a great thing to have it at home, because we no longer have to go to the river, remember that we cannot go there because it overflows during the rainy season, so this community system benefits us a lot”, María Ofelia Pineda, from the village of Las Victorias, told IPS, while washing a frying pan and other dishes.

“Before, we had two or three hours of water during the day, and now we have it all day long, I am very happy for that, because I have it all day and all night,” said Ana María Landaverde.

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UN Warned of Two Dangers Ahead: Health of the Human Race & Survival of the Planet

Civil Society, Climate Action, Climate Change, Conservation, Environment, Featured, Global, Headlines, Natural Resources, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa (on screen) of Sri Lanka addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-fifth session. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

LONDON, Oct 5 2021 (IPS) – Addressing the UN General Assembly last month President Gotabaya Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka raised several concerns, two that had to do with health. One concerned the health of the human race; the other the health of Planet Earth on which man struggles increasingly to survive.


It is understandable for the President to draw the world’s attention to the current pandemic that plagues the people of Sri Lanka as it does the populations of most other nations that constitute the UN family that have struggled in the last two years to overcome COVID-19 which has brought some nations almost to their knees.

As we know some countries have dealt with the spreading virus more effectively and efficiently than others because they relied on the correct professional advice and had the right people in the places instead of dilettantes with inflated egos.

The immediacy of the pandemic with its daily effects on health care and peoples’ livelihoods is seen as urgent political and health issues unlike the dangers surrounding our planet which, to many, appear light miles away while still others treat it with large doses of scepticism.

Quite rightly President Rajapaksa pointed to the dangers ahead for the survival of the planet – as underscored in the recent report of the Inter-government Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — due to human activity and said that Sri Lanka, among other measures, aims to increase its forest cover significantly in the future.

What really matters is whether those on the ground — like some of our politicians and their acolytes who seem to think that saving the planet is somebody else’s responsibility but denuding the forests and damaging our eco-systems for private gain is theirs — pay heed to the president’s alarm signals that should appropriately have been sounded at least a decade ago.

But what evoked a quick response was not the call for international action to save the people from the pandemic or the planet from climate change as President Rajapaksa told the UN but what he told the UN chief Antonio Guterres at their New York meeting.

While reiterating Sri Lanka’s stance that internal issues should be resolved through domestic mechanisms what aroused interest was the president’s sudden and unexpected readiness to invite the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora scattered across the Global North and in smaller numbers elsewhere, for discussions presumably on reconciliation, accountability and other outstanding matters.

One would have thought that there would be a gush of enthusiasm from some sections of the Tamil diaspora which had previously shown an interest in being involved in a dialogue with the Sri Lanka Government over a range of issues that concern the Tamil community.

But the few reactions that have been reported from a few Tamil organisations appear lukewarm. Yes, the Non-Resident Tamils of Sri Lanka (NRTSL), a UK-based group, welcomed the President’s announcement saying that “engagement with the diaspora is particularly important at the time when multiple challenges face Sri Lanka”.

However, there was a caveat. The NRTSL is supportive of “open, transparent and sincere engagement of the government of Sri Lanka,” the organisation’s president V. Sivalingam was quoted as saying.

The better-known Global Tamil Forum (GTF) called it a “progressive move” and welcomed it. But its spokesman Suren Surenderan questioned what he called President Rajapaksa’s “sudden change of mind”.

Surendiran said that in June President Rajapaksa was due to meet the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) but that meeting was put off without a new date been fixed.

“When requests are made by democratically elected representatives of Tamil people in Sri Lanka to meet with the President, they are “deferred with flimsy excuses”, {and} now from New York he has declared that he wants to engage with us, Tamil diaspora,” Surendiran said rather dismissively in a statement.

Though the Sri Lanka Tamil diaspora consists of many organisations and groups spread across several continents there has been a studied silence from most of them, a sign that many of them are sceptical about how genuine the gesture is.

In March this year, after the UN Human Rights Council passed a highly critical resolution on Sri Lanka, the Rajapaksa government proscribed several Tamil diaspora organisations and more than 300 individuals labelling them terrorist or terrorist linked. These included Tamil advocacy organisations such as the British Tamil Forum, Global Tamil Forum, Canadian Tamil Congress, Australian Tamil Congress and the World Tamil Coordinating Committee.

Precisely seven years earlier in March, the Mahinda Rajapaksa government banned 424 persons and 16 diaspora organisations.

The problem for the present administration is that if it is intent on inviting Tamil organisations to participate in talks it would have to lift the existing bans on individuals and groups without which they are unlikely to talk with the government.

As transpired before peace talks at various times between the government and the LTTE, the Tamil groups are most likely to insist on participation as legitimate organisations untainted by bans. That is sure to be one of the key conditions, if not the most important pre-condition.

It is also evident that the Tamil diaspora is not a homogenous entity. It consists of moderate organisations that are ready to resolve the pressing issues within a unitary Sri Lanka, to those at the other end of the spectrum still loyal to the LTTE ideology and demanding a separate state.

If the Government cherry-picks the participants-particularly the ones that are more likely to collaborate with the administration, it would be seen as an attempt to drive a huge wedge in the Tamil diaspora.

That could well lead to the excluded groups strengthening their existing links with political forces in their countries of domicile including politicians in government as one sees in the UK and Canada, for instance, and Tamil councillors in other elected bodies to increase pressure on Sri Lanka externally.

That is why some Tamil commentators already brand this as a “diversionary move” to lessen the international moves against Colombo.

What would be the reactions of powerful sections of the Buddhist monks and the ultranationalist Sinhala Buddhists who strongly supported a Gotabaya presidency?.

And across the Palk Strait there are the 80 million or so Tamils in Tamil Nadu and an Indian Government watching developments with a genuine interest and concern.

Neville de Silva is a veteran Sri Lankan journalist who was Assistant Editor of the Hong Kong Standard and worked for Gemini News Service in London. Later he was Deputy Chief-of-Mission in Bangkok and Deputy High Commissioner in London.

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IUCN World Conservation Congress Warns Humanity at ‘Tipping Point’

Biodiversity, Civil Society, Climate Action, Climate Change, Conferences, Conservation, Environment, Featured, Global, Headlines, Natural Resources, TerraViva United Nations

Conservation

President Macron and Harrison Ford among speakers at the Congress Opening Ceremony. Credit: IUCN Ecodeo

St Davids, Wales, Oct 4 2021 (IPS) – The world’s most influential conservation congress, meeting for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, has issued its starkest warning to date over the planet’s escalating climate and biodiversity emergencies.


“Humanity has reached a tipping point. Our window of opportunity to respond to these interlinked emergencies and share planetary resources equitably is narrowing quickly,” the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) declared in its Marseille Manifesto at the conclusion of its World Conservation Congress in the French port city.

“Our existing systems do not work. Economic ‘success’ can no longer come at nature’s expense. We urgently need systemic reform.”

The Congress, held every four years but delayed from 2020 by the pandemic, acts as a kind of global parliament on major conservation issues, bringing together a unique combination of states, governmental agencies, NGOs, Indigenous Peoples’ Organisations and affiliate members. Its resolutions and recommendations do not set policy but have shaped UN treaties and conventions in the past and will help set the agenda for three key upcoming UN summits – food systems security, climate change and biodiversity.

“The decisions taken here in Marseille will drive action to tackle the biodiversity and climate crises in the crucial decade to come,” said Dr Bruno Oberle, IUCN Director-General.

“Collectively, IUCN’s members are sending a powerful message to Glasgow and Kunming: the time for fundamental change is now,” he added, referring to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) to be hosted by the UK in November, and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 15) to be held in China in two parts, online next month and in person in April-May 2022.

The week-long IUCN Congress, attended in Marseille by nearly 6,000 delegates with over 3,500 more participating online, was opened by French President Emmanuel Macron who declared: “There is no vaccine for a sick planet.”

He urged world leaders to make financial commitments for conservation of nature equivalent to those for the climate, listing such tasks as ending plastic pollution, stopping the deforestation of rainforests by eradicating their raw materials in supply chains, and phasing out pesticides.

Congress participants during an Exhibition event of the Sixth Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network. Credit: IUCN Ecodeo

China’s prime minister, Li Keqiang, said in a recorded message that protecting nature and tackling the climate crisis were “global not-traditional security issues”.

While noting that some scientists fear that the climate emergency is “now close to an irreversible tipping point”, the Marseille Manifesto also spoke of “reason to be optimistic”.

“We are perfectly capable of making transformative change and doing it swiftly… To invest in nature is to invest in our collective future.”

Major themes that dominated the IUCN Congress included: the post-2020 biodiversity conservation framework; the role of nature in the global recovery from the pandemic; the climate emergency; and the need to transform the global financial system and direct investments into projects that benefit nature.

Among the 148 resolutions and recommendations voted in Marseille and through pre-event online voting, the Congress called for 80 percent of the Amazon and 30 percent of Earth’s surface—land and sea—to be designated “protected areas” to halt and reverse the loss of wildlife.

Members also voted overwhelmingly to recommend a moratorium on deep-sea mining and reform the International Seabed Authority, an intergovernmental regulatory body.

“The resounding Yes in support for a global freeze on deep seabed mining is a clear signal that there is no social licence to open the deep seafloor to mining,” Jessica Battle, leader of the WWF’s Deep Sea Mining Initiative, said, quoted by AFP news agency.

The emergency motion calling for four-fifths of the Amazon basin to be declared a protected area by 2025 was submitted by COICA, an umbrella group representing more than two million indigenous peoples across nine South American nations. It passed with overwhelming support.

Representatives from COICA and Cuencas Sagradas present their bioregional plan for the Amazon during a press conference. Credit: IUCN Ecodeo

Jose Gregorio Diaz Mirabal, general coordinator of COICA and a leader of the Curripaco people in Venezuela, said the proposal was a “plan for the salvation of indigenous peoples and the planet”.

The Amazon has lost some 10,000 square kilometres every year to deforestation over the past two decades. Brazil is not an IUCN member and thus could not take part in the vote which runs against President Jair Bolsonaro’s agenda.

The five-page Marseille Manifesto makes repeated references to indigenous peoples and local communities, noting “their central role in conservation, as leaders and custodians of biodiversity” and amongst those most vulnerable to the climate and nature emergencies.

“Around the world, those working to defend the environment are under attack,” the document recalled.

Global Witness, a campaign group, reported that at least 227 environmental and land rights activists were killed in 2020, the highest number documented for a second consecutive year. Indigenous peoples accounted for one-third of victims. Colombia had the highest recorded attacks.

The resolution calling for 30 percent of the planet’s land and ocean area to be given protected status by 2030, said selected zones must include “biodiversity hotspots”,  be rigorously monitored and enforced, and recognise the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands, territories and resources. The  ‘30 by 30’ target is meant as a message to the UN biodiversity summit which is tasked with delivering a treaty to protect nature by next May.

Many conservationists are campaigning for a more ambitious target of 50 percent.

However, the 30 by 30 initiative, already formally backed by France, the UK and Costa Rica, is of considerable concern to some indigenous peoples who have been frequently sidelined from environmental efforts and sometimes even removed from their land in the name of conservation.

The IUCN Congress also released its updated IUCN Red List. The Komodo dragon, the world’s largest lizard, was reclassified from ‘vulnerable’ status to ‘endangered’, while 37 percent of shark and ray species are now reported to be threatened with extinction. Four species of tuna are showing signs of recovery, however.

Craig Hilton-Taylor, head of IUCN’s Head of Red List Unit, said the current rate of species extinctions is running 100 to 1,000 times the ‘normal’ or ‘background’ rate, a warning that Earth is on the cusp of the sixth extinction event. The fifth, known as the Cretaceous mass extinction event, occurred 65 million years ago, killing an estimated 78 percent of species, including the remaining non-avian dinosaurs.

One of the more controversial motions adopted – on “synthetic biology” or genetic engineering – could actually promote the localised extinction of a species. The motion opens the way for more research and experimentation in technology called gene drive. This could be used to fight invasive species, such as rodents, snakes and mosquitos, which have wiped out other species, particularly birds, in island habitats.

It was left to Harrison Ford, a 79-year-old Hollywood actor and activist, to offer hope to the Congress by paying tribute to young environmentalists.

“Reinforcements are on the way,” he said. “They’re sitting in lecture halls now, venturing into the field for the very first time, writing their thesis, they’re leading marches, organising communities, are learning to turn passion into progress and potential into power…In a few years, they will be here.”

Andrea Athanas, senior director of the African Wildlife Foundation, affirmed there was a sense of optimism in the Marseille air, in recognition that solutions are at hand.

“Indigenous systems were lauded for demonstrating harmonious relationships between people and nature. Protected areas in some places have rebounded and are now teeming with wildlife. The finance industry has awoken to the risks businesses run from degraded environments and are calculating those risks into the price of capital.

“Crisis brings an opportunity for change, and the investments in a post COVID recovery present a chance to fundamentally reshape our relationship with nature, putting values for life and for each other at the centre of economic decision-making,” he told IPS.

View the complete Marseille Manifesto here.

 

Georgia Trend 2021 40 Under 40

Honoring the state’s best and brightest under age 40 for the 25th year.
Georgia Trend October 2021 40 Under 40 p018

This year Georgia Trend is celebrating 25 years of honoring the state’s best and brightest with our 40 Under 40. And this year, like the others, the winners leave us awed and inspired.

As we continue to battle COVID-19 in the state, many in this group of young leaders are working to keep our economy afloat and our citizens healthy. These outstanding people come from every corner of Georgia and represent the nonprofit, healthcare and legal sectors, large corporations and startup entrepreneurial ventures. As important as their day jobs are, however, they also find time to volunteer and give back to strengthen and grow the communities around them.

This year’s 40 Under 40 were selected by the Georgia Trend staff from nominations provided by readers throughout the state who know them well. We’re proud to share their stories.

The profiles were written by Brian Lee, Michele Cohen Marill, Charlotte Norsworthy, Patty Rasmussen and Randy Southerland. – The Editors


Kimberly Barnes 39

CEO and Founder

Might Be Vegan

Atlanta

Kimberly Barnes was looking for a new challenge. As she became vegan in an effort to stave off diet-related preventable illnesses common in the South, she realized she’d found it. She created Might Be Vegan, which works with food brands to educate people around plant-based eating. She set up what she says is the world’s largest vegan tailgate at the 2019 Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta, serving 1,500 people.

She also created Food Love, a unique plant-based hunger relief effort dedicated to getting fresh fruits and vegetables, among other items, delivered to the doorsteps of those experiencing food insecurity.

This included “hosting a 100% plant-based food event where we basically just gave food away,” she says. “And the reasoning was because we wanted to introduce people to plant-based eating.” – RS


Lattisha Bilbrew 35

Orthopedic Surgeon

Resurgens Orthopaedics

Stone Mountain

Lattisha Bilbrew was a young girl at her grandmother’s hospital bedside when she decided she was going to be a doctor someday. She didn’t like the tone of the doctors and nurses, and neither did her grandmother, who spit out her medicine after they left.

When people told Bilbrew her dreams weren’t realistic, she became more determined. She navigated a daunting 14-year journey through college, medical school and specialty training, becoming the first African-American woman to train as a fellow in hand and upper extremity surgery at the University of Florida.

Now an orthopedic surgeon, Bilbrew supports the community through annual back-to-school and toy drives, and her passion is mentoring others. She works with students from elementary to medical school. “The next step is to make sure other people can realize their dreams,” she says. – MCM


Amber Brantley 32

Assistant Solicitor General

Office of the Solicitor General

Augusta

As an assistant in the solicitor general’s office, Amber Brantley is a force for bringing justice to both victims and offenders.

“You can always make the recommendations you think will be better for that person, the community and the victims,” she says.

She is the prosecutor with the newly formed Domestic Violence Accountability Court in Richmond County. Since its formation, the court has reduced repetitive domestic violence offenses by providing enhanced offender supervision and accountability and offender conflict resolution alternatives.

The program has a 90% success rate, according to Brantley.

She is active in the community as regional vice president of the Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys. She has led efforts to meet community needs such as raising funds to purchase caps and gowns for graduating seniors. – RS


Alton “A.J.” Brooks Jr. 37

Assistant Vice President, Clinical Operations

Wellstar Atlanta Medical Center

Atlanta

A.J. Brooks originally planned to be a physician, but he found another way to drive quality care through healthcare administration.

He has managed over 80 surgery clinics across Wellstar Medical Group, one of the largest medical groups in the southeast. Most recently he took on running clinical operations for Wellstar Atlanta Medical Center.

He has also served the community through work with the Center for Family Resources, a nonprofit organization that supports families experiencing hardship.

“We take individuals who come from tough situations and set them up for success,” says Brooks.

He was 2020 chair of the Cobb County Chamber’s Young Professionals committee. This group organizes community initiatives including food drives. He works with the Health Career Academy to introduce students to careers in medicine, and he was a member of the LEAD Atlanta class of 2017. – RS


Bess Butler Brunson 28

401(k) Investment Advisor

The Fiduciary Group

Savannah

Bess Butler Brunson grew up going to the offices of The Fiduciary Group, an investment firm started by her grandfather more than 50 years ago. She always knew she would join the family business because she finds financial health just as important as physical and mental health.

“Saving and investing was always a conversation around the dinner table, and I love that feeling of giving clients the confidence they need to accomplish their financial goals,” she says.

Her grandmother inspired her community service at a young age, introducing her to the interpreter program at the Davenport House. Her service has expanded as she’s stepped up as co-president of the Historic Savannah Foundation’s 13th Colony, an organization of young professionals centered around historic preservation, as well as a number of other organizations. – CN


Ethan Calhoun 30

Assistant Director of Regional Planning

Northwest Georgia Regional Commission

Chatsworth

Ethan Calhoun’s favorite part of his job is helping small towns all over the state achieve their economic development and planning goals. At the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission, he is able to reach Georgia cities that have big goals but limited resources.

His work speaks to his commitment to helping communities thrive, as he serves as vice president for the Georgia Association of Zoning Administrators, as a member of the Whitfield County Historical Preservation Committee and as a site interpreter for the Chief Vann House State Historic Site, to name a few.

Serving communities as small as 75 people allows Calhoun to “really make a difference in the community that otherwise wouldn’t happen,” he says. He loves watching a community grow knowing that he had a small hand in that progress, he says. – CN


Kigwana Cherry 35

Construction Manager

NIKA Solutions

Co-founder

Pop-Up Augusta

Augusta

Tagged the “Secret Mayor of Augusta” by his friends, Kigwana Cherry is a Tuskegee University-educated construction engineer and a contractor with NIKA Solutions. He’s also an entrepreneur-creative, conceiving ideas like Pop-Up Augusta, exclusive themed entertainment experiences, in 2017.

“The idea is to share a meal, ignite conversation and inspire change,” Cherry says. “I had friends saying there was nothing to do in Augusta. I decided to create events to prove them wrong.”

The pop-ups shut down in 2020 but are gradually starting again. During the pandemic, Cherry discovered a talent for urban farming and teaching others to grow food. He also gave away more than 250 plants from his own backyard. A classically trained opera singer, Cherry is a staunch arts advocate and member of the Greater Augusta Black Chamber of Commerce. – PR


Kristoff Cohran 28

Founder and CEO

Mission 3E Inc.

Program Administrator

Georgia South Psychiatry Residency Program
Colquitt Regional Medical Center

Moultrie

A student who dropped out of public speaking class becomes a public speaker. A person uninterested in healthcare becomes a psychiatry residency program coordinator. A boy who lost his dad early in life becomes a father figure to many. That’s Kristoff Cohran, and the common motivator is his “strong passion for helping others and belief that my life’s purpose is to be a catalyst for a better, brighter tomorrow.”

Mission 3E, Cohran’s nonprofit, offers character and leadership development programming designed to engage, enlighten and empower young adults to elevate in school, career and life. That includes teaching financial literacy, promoting civic responsibility and community engagement.

“What’s most satisfying about my work is helping young adults create a life plan that is clear, concise and attainable,” Cohran says. “Our goal is to make this world a better place, one person at a time.” – BL


Charlotte Davis 29

Deputy Director of Governmental Relations

Georgia Municipal Association

Atlanta

Charlotte Davis spends her days lobbying in the state Capitol on behalf of more than 500 Georgia city governments and her nights volunteering as a track coach.

At the Georgia Municipal Association, Davis addresses the needs of local governing bodies, advocating for initiatives and bettering relationships between local and state interests. She serves on GMA’s Cares Committee, which helps disadvantaged youth in the state.

Her service extends outside of work, too. Davis coaches female athletes at Dunwoody High School and the Atlanta Track Club and she also mentors athletes at Berry College, where she was a track athlete. The overall goal, she says, is to help athletes plan for success.

“My passion is helping young women, particularly with athletic backgrounds, transition into a very successful career. Because that was me,” she says. – CN


Jason Dozier 38

Atlanta Director, Program Operations and Evaluation

Hire Heroes USA

Atlanta

Jason Dozier is using the skills and knowledge he acquired in the military to ease the transition of other veterans into civilian life with Hire Heroes USA. This included helping 12,000 vets and their spouses find jobs last year alone, he says.

After moving to Southwest Atlanta, he became “an advocate and community organizer in my community, working to help folks fight against displacement, and making sure that we had a seat at the table whenever development decisions were being made that impacted our community.”

To make that happen, he has worked with the Neighborhood Planning Unit and was vice president of the Mechanicsville Civic Association and the Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition.

A regular commuter, he advocated for the creation of two new bus routes in South Atlanta to make transit easier for residents. – RS


Daniel Farr 33

Senior ISV Manager

Salesforce

Chamblee

Daniel Farr spent most of his career in the automotive industry before deciding to make the jump to tech.

“I wanted to get into an industry whose principles were around innovation, because that meant that they were not hesitant to take chances and disrupt the status quo,” he says. “I wanted to get into an industry that I was able to bring my best self to work every day.”

This desire led him to Salesforce, where he rose swiftly to lead the Heroku Elements marketplace, a source for supporting app development. In 2021, he was responsible for Heroku’s $52 million in gross revenue.

He is also a leader in volunteer programs aimed at helping the homeless, co-founding the nonprofit Project H.E.L.P. ATL. It provides aid to those without shelter ranging from food to hygiene kits. The goal is creating partnerships that help homeless people transition from the street to self-sufficiency. – RS


Andy Gaines 39

General Manager

The Earl and Rachel Smith Strand Theatre

Marietta

The play’s the thing for Andy Gaines. The general manager of The Earl and Rachel Smith Strand Theatre in Marietta knows the arts can both inspire a community and fuel it economically.

“Helping The Strand succeed in those two areas is what is so endlessly satisfying about what I do,” he says. “Working here is like coming to play in a sandbox and make castles everyday – an absolute joy.”

The University of Georgia alum, who also studied the 2,000+ year-old art form of Sanskrit theatre in its Indian birthplace, takes that spirit of sharing and caring with him wherever he goes. Recognized as the Kiwanis Club of Marietta 2020 Kiwanian of the Year, Gaines heads the West Side Elementary K-Kids Club and serves on The Walker School’s Patrons of the Arts Board, the Marietta Arts Council and the Marietta Welcome Center’s Board of Directors. – BL


Kevin Gillespie 39

President and Chief Ideas Man

Red Beard Restaurants

Owner, Chef, Cookbook Author, Speaker

Atlanta

In 2009, Chef Kevin Gillespie achieved culinary success at Woodfire Grill

and fame on Bravo’s Top Chef. Since then, he’s started a company, opened four restaurants (Gunshow, Revival, Gamechanger and Cold Beer), and written several cookbooks. For natural introvert Gillespie, cooking is communication.

“I realized that I needed cooking, and to cook for strangers, in order to be able to play an active role in our society because my natural inclination is to be shut off from people,” he says.

Gillespie founded the Defend Southern Food Foundation in 2019 to ensure local farmers and producers would always have a market for their product. During the past 18 months, his foundation prepared and distributed approximately 500,000 meals to families through the Atlanta Public Schools. – PR


Hayden Hancock 38

Commercial Agent

Houston & Associates Insurance

Nashville

Leaders rise from adversity, and Hayden Hancock is living proof. During the onset of the pandemic, the chair of the Berrien County Chamber of Commerce board recognized that the county was not equipped to communicate vital information to residents and businesses. So he spearheaded the formation of a COVID-19 task force.

“Together we began a series of live weekly ‘press conferences’ to present a united and calming voice and quickly created a centralized website,” says Hancock, who also helped facilitate a three-county relief effort to distribute more than 5,000 food boxes to families.

Inspired to give to his community and powered by coffee, the energetic Hancock won the chamber’s 2020 Community Service Award. He also serves on several boards, including school, church, hospital and Rotary Club. – BL


Robert Hendrix 39

Licensed Professional Counselor
Owner

The C.O.O.L. Program

Union City

Robert Hendrix has dedicated his life to service since launching The C.O.O.L. Program, where he works with the Clayton County Public Schools to provide mental health support to students and their families.

Hendrix says that growing up in a low-income neighborhood without a father inspired him to give crucial guidance to young men with similar upbringing. When he’s not working in Clayton County, Hendrix mentors young Black men and women in the Metro Atlanta area. He sees it as his responsibility to show young people that they can achieve success.

“I see myself in these kids, and I understand that all you have to do is tell them that they can make it, give them the resources to make it and they will make it,” Hendrix says. – CN


Miranda Kyle 37

Arts and Culture Program Manager

Atlanta Beltline

Atlanta

A sculptor herself, Miranda Kyle understood the difficulties emerging sculptors have finding exhibition space.

“I’ve always been the type of person who thought, ‘if it doesn’t exist, let me make it exist,’” she says.

At the Atlanta BeltLine, Kyle oversees the South’s largest linear gallery space and temporary public art exhibit. Ensuring the collection reflects the communities is something she is passionate about.

“Art on the BeltLine is a temporary exhibition,” she says. “Feedback is incredibly important. Our shared public spaces do not belong to any one person, it’s supposed to be a shared vision.”

A member of the Americans for the Arts Public Art Network Council, Kyle also works with advocacy groups like the South River Forest Coalition, working to preserve greenspace in Fulton and DeKalb counties, and the Stone Mountain Action Coalition, attempting to reclaim Stone Mountain Park from its legacy as a Confederate memorial. – PR


Jessica Lamb 36

Founder and Executive Director

Atlanta Redemption Ink

Atlanta

Jessica Lamb will never forget the first transformation she enabled. A young woman felt vulnerable and shamed by the branding a sex trafficker had placed on her neck. In 2017, a tattoo artist turned it into a beautiful purple flower with a butterfly – an opening to a new future.

Lamb, also a survivor, had her own coverup in 2016 and wanted to help others remove the markings of a former life. “I had a passion to see someone experience freedom the way I did,” she says.

Since then, Atlanta Redemption Ink has worked with tattoo shops around Georgia and nationally to remove or cover up tattoos from sex trafficking, gang symbols and marks from self-harm or addiction. More than 375 individuals have received the transformation. Atlanta Redemption Ink also provides trauma-informed counseling, life coaching and educational services. – MCM


John Lanier 35

Executive Director

Ray C. Anderson Foundation

Atlanta

John Lanier took the bar exam two weeks before his grandfather, businessman-environmentalist Ray C. Anderson, died, leaving most of his estate to the family foundation that bears his name and promotes environmental stewardship.

Lanier worked several years at Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan (now Eversheds Sutherland) before he was hired to run the foundation and advance his grandfather’s legacy.

The foundation funds research for ideas like sustainable highways and biomimicry (the practice of learning from and mimicking nature to solve human challenges) and in 2020 launched Drawdown Georgia, an initiative to decrease the state’s carbon footprint by at least 35% by 2030.

“If we can do that here, in a Southern state, and show climate change is not a political issue, then we can show what’s possible,” Lanier says.

Lanier served on the board of the Southface Institute for seven years, an organization working to build sustainable workplaces, homes and communities. – PR


Davia Lassiter 39

Lecturer

University and Technical College Systems of Georgia

Atlanta

Davia Lassiter has always seen herself a teacher.

This fall she left a high-level communications post at the Georgia Department of Community Affairs to become a faculty member at three Metro Atlanta colleges – University of West Georgia, Kennesaw State University and Atlanta Technical College.

“Teaching was always the end goal for me,” she says. “Throughout my career, I was able to teach in a different way, not necessarily in the classroom, but from doing public speaking. I traveled the country… to teach about marketing strategy.”

As a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, she has worked on a wide range of service projects in the community. One of her greatest passions is students. She is a mentor to 4th and 5th grade students at Hickory Hills Elementary in Marietta. – RS


Tionya Lawrence 36

Family Nurse Practitioner

Athens Neighborhood Health Center

Athens

Tionya Lawrence wanted to give her patients more than basic care.

“As a nurse practitioner we have the authority to diagnose, evaluate, treat and prescribe medicine,” she says. “You want to prevent patients from ending up in the hospital. We fill the gap in primary care.”

She works in a neighborhood health center founded 50 years ago by four women in a small trailer that has since expanded to a main building and two other locations in Athens. She is also a Vot-ER fellow, a nonpartisan leadership development program for healthcare workers looking to increase voter participation by helping patients register to vote.

“I ask my patients, ‘Do you smoke or drink? Are you registered to vote?’” she says. “’We focus on your physical health your mental health – let’s take a look at your civic health and see how you’re doing.’” – PR


Constance Mack 38

Director

Global Transaction Services

Bank of America

Atlanta

Bank of America executive Constance Mack was attending an event for “Neighborhood Builders,” a bank- sponsored program supporting local nonprofits, when she met the president of Atlanta Technical College. Soon she was touring the school, observing its cutting-edge training and becoming a “builder” herself.

Today, she is board chair of the Atlanta Technical College Foundation. She helps raise money for gap funding to assist students who are in danger of dropping out for financial reasons. Meeting the students and hearing their stories has been inspiring, Mack says. “It’s a really amazing student body. I have never met a student that I wasn’t impressed with,” she says.

Mack also chairs the Women’s Employee Network for Bank of America in Atlanta, a mentoring opportunity. “We can see so many dynamic female leaders” at Bank of America, she says. “We want to keep that going.” – MCM


Brittany Marshall 35

Behavioral Scientist

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Atlanta

Brittany Marshall worked for 160 days without a day off to support CDC’s COVID-19 response, researching attitudes and behaviors around hand hygiene, cleaning and disinfection. It was exhausting, but also a passionate mission. “The pandemic definitely strengthened my commitment to public health,” she says.

Marshall also holds leadership roles with the American Public Health Association (APHA) and the Urban League of Greater Atlanta Young Professionals. She is the youngest person ever elected to the APHA executive board. In 2020 she was named outstanding member of the year for the national Urban League’s Southern region.

Today, Marshall is working on HIV prevention, continues on the APHA board and serves as president of her Urban League chapter. But if she’s needed, she says she’s ready to return to the pandemic response. – MCM


Juan Mejia 28

President and Founder

JCM Ventures

Senior Brokerage Partner

DTSpade

Atlanta

Juan Mejia devotes his life to his community, whether it’s through his work or volunteering, his donations or spending. He helps businesses and nonprofits grow by providing strategic advice through JCM Ventures, a consulting company, and as a commercial real estate broker with DTSpade. Recently, he secured space for two Latin American consulates.

The only child of a widowed mother, Mejia immigrated from Colombia. As a teenager, the Metro Atlanta nonprofit Ser Familia helped him cope with the loss of his father. Mejia has since volunteered for more than 15 years for the organization, which provides workshops, counseling, advocacy and other services.

He also supports the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Latino Community Fund, the Atlanta Ballet and the American Jewish Committee. “I always say that I am a product of community organizers,” he says. “They instilled in me the passion for giving back.” – MCM


Jenna Mobley 34

Education Director

Small Bites Adventure Club

Community Farmers Markets

Georgia Organics

Atlanta

Jenna Mobley initially ventured into the garden with her first-graders to teach them about George Washington Carver, the famous Black agricultural scientist and inventor. The children loved growing, cooking, and tasting radishes and snap peas – while they learned principles of science, math, social studies and language arts. (They wrote persuasive essays asking for radishes to be served in the cafeteria.)

“It’s been 12 years now, and I’m still pursuing what this might look like, to teach kids through food,” Mobley says.

Mobley won the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators in 2015, which opened up new opportunities. Now she trains teachers through food-related nonprofits, including Small Bites Adventure Club, Community Farmers Markets and Georgia Organics. And she’s still rooting for the radishes. “We never got the radishes in the school cafeteria, but we’re working on it,” she says. – MCM


Raveeta Addison Moore 38

Project Manager

TSYS/Global Payments

Columbus

Service has always been a passion for Raveeta Addison Moore. She began her career with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of the Chattahoochee Valley in Columbus.

“I’ve always had a love for serving the community,” says Moore, who now works as a project manager with TSYS/Global Payments, ensuring projects for credit card clients come in on time and under budget.

She continues to serve her community through work with the United Way, as a member of the United Way Women United Board.

Among her passions are the Ronald McDonald House, where she volunteers in honor of her late brother. She chairs the Character Breakfast fundraiser for the Junior League, has been active with the Urban League Young Professionals and is a member of the Leadership Georgia class of 2020-2021. – RS


Paul Nam 36

Associate General Counsel
Senior Director

InComm

Atlanta

When Paul Nam moved from New York to Atlanta to go to John Marshall Law School, he lacked a network of friends or mentors to help him adjust. “I told myself, ‘Once I get into a place where I’m a lawyer and can help others, I will,’” he says.

Nam fulfilled that promise. He founded a chapter of the Asian Law Students’ Association and later advised law students and young lawyers through the Korean American Bar Association of Georgia and the Georgia Asian Pacific American Bar Association (GAPABA).

He is now community service chair for GAPABA and serves on the Leadership Council for the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation. When he’s not negotiating complex contracts for InComm, a global payment processing company, he provides legal services to nonprofit organizations and helps people in need. “I want to reach out as much as I can,” he says. – MCM


Ashley Nealy 33

Assistant Director, Support Services

U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration

Founder and Chief Creative Officer

Mindly Maven LLC

Atlanta

Ashley Nealy didn’t set out to become an influencer. She wanted to make sure that African Americans were represented in COVID-19 vaccine trials, so she signed up for the Pfizer study.

After reassuring doubtful family and friends about vaccine safety, she ended up telling her story on the local news. Even after some pushback – one online commenter called her a “guinea pig” – she still spoke out, with appearances on national TV and webinars. “If I could even influence one person, that was good enough for me,” she says.

Her reach is far bigger than that. A TikTok video she posted to explain common vaccine effects received 1.6 million views in two days. She launched a company that sells “Vaxxed” wristbands, shirts, masks and buttons. When boosters are needed, she’s ready to sign up – and to keep promoting the value of vaccines. – MCM


Phi Nguyen 36

Litigation Director

Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta

Atlanta

Giving a voice to the voiceless and shining a light on human rights, that’s what civil rights attorney Phi Nguyen does. That could mean anything from simply driving a Vietnamese grandma to the polls to major social justice cases and campaigns.

“The most satisfying part about my job is when I can experience moments of shared joy during visits with people who are incarcerated,” she says. “To show up in my full humanity and remind someone of their full humanity in a place like a prison feels like one of the most powerful gifts I can give another person.”

The stakes are high for the historically excluded communities she serves: When Nguyen and her team win, a person is reunited with their family after long periods of incarceration or thousands of voters get better access to the ballot box. – BL


Phillip Olaleye 36

Executive Director

Next Generation Men & Women

Atlanta

Phillip Olaleye’s nonprofit focuses on students in the most underserved, economically disadvantaged schools and communities in Metro Atlanta, specifically in the Fulton County and Atlanta Public School Systems.

Olaleye and his team of mentors and teachers look for the forgotten students in need of support systems and enrichment opportunities. Gender-specific cohorts of students meet with a teacher and mentor twice a week, hopefully for all four years of high school.

“There’s power in tangible experiences,” says Olaleye. “Talent is universal but opportunity is not. We stand in that gap and activate community resources in Atlanta to plug into our students, to help them get excited about their futures.”

Olaleye is also the leader of the Organized Neighbors of Summerhill, working to preserve and protect the quickly gentrifying historic intown neighborhood, the first freed slave and Jewish post-Civil War settlement. – PR


Christopher Perlera 35

Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships and Messaging

Georgia Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS)

Chamblee

Son of El Salvadoran immigrants, Chris Perlera carries inevitable “immigrant child baggage” – the need for autonomy, to be involved and let other people know they can do the same. It’s why he ran for state representative at age 26 and why he’s passionate about civic engagement. He worked in the office of the secretary of state, ran his own consulting firm and now primarily serves immigrant communities at DFCS.

“My role is external-facing and very specific,” he says. “I come in to cover community and cultural gaps for DFCS; this is predominantly expressed with culturally specific communities, Hispanic, AAPI [Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders], and Black refugees and diasporas.”

He also serves on the advisory board of the Hispanic Mentoring Priority, a student success program in Gwinnett County, and the advocacy committee of the Latin American Association. – PR


Deborah Rodríguez Garcia 32

Educational Manager
Humanitarian Programs

Sesame Workshop

Hinesville

Across the globe in Bangladesh, Rohingya refugee children find comfort and early learning through a version of Sesame Street with Muppets in traditional garb, speaking the Rohingya language. The culturally appropriate curriculum is shaped by Deborah Rodríguez Garcia, education manager of humanitarian programs for Sesame Workshop.

Rodríguez Garcia aims to help children become more resilient through play-based learning. “I look at the world from the perspective of a four-year-old,” she says. Recently, she created messages to help children stay healthy during the pandemic.

She previously worked as an educational specialist with the Peace Corps in Nicaragua and with a U.S. State Department program in Malawi. Her community service revolves around Hermandad de Sigma Iota Alpha Incorporada; at Georgia Southern University, she co-founded the first Georgia chapter of the Latina-oriented sorority. – MCM


Cara Simmons 39

Director, Student Success and Advising Center

University of Georgia (UGA)

Adjunct Instructor and Course Coordinator

UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences

Athens

Quitman native Cara Simmons didn’t plan to attend UGA, but there she earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees.

Her love of the university and students became a career. She teaches courses she helped develop in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences and supports and advises students, helping them become “the best version of themselves.”

“I’ve heard it said, ‘lift as you climb,’” Simmons says. “It’s important to bring others up as you move along.”

Simmons found volunteering at the Athens Diaper Bank “unexpectedly fulfilling. Having access to diapers means having access to education, to a job and to so many things that are needed for people to feel like they have a life,” she says. – PR


Alena Smith 37

Human Resources Business Partner

Accenture Strategy & Consulting

Author and Founder

Trust Your Strength

Powder Springs

Earning her college degree was a pivotal moment in Alena Smith’s life, one that motivates her to support entry-level analysts through her role at Accenture. Smith credits mentorship as the foundation of her career success and says she’s passionate about doing the same for others.

But perhaps Smith’s greatest accomplishment comes from the mentorship she gives fellow mothers through her nonprofit, Trust Your Strength. The organization provides resources to babies (and their families) who were born prematurely and spend time in neonatal intensive care units. She founded it after both of her sons were born prematurely, her youngest spending nearly a year in the NICU.

“The mental support for the parents, I felt, was lacking,” she says. “We need them to know that we understand the journey, but they need someone to lean on too.” – CN


Ralph C. Staffins III 38

President and CEO

Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce

Brunswick

Wherever he’s worked – Thomson, Newton County, and now Brunswick and the Golden Isles – Ralph Staffins has built a reputation for helping businesses succeed.

“It starts with the local business climate,” he says. “You have to build on solid rock so businesses can flourish and want to locate in your community.”

Taking over one of the state’s best-run chambers, Staffins immediately created a communications director position.

“Our economy is the regional leader,” he says. “We need to talk not just to our members but to the entire business community.”

In 2020, Staffins served as chair of the Georgia Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives and is serving an additional year due to the pandemic. Passionate about workforce education, Staffins serves on the boards of directors at the Coastal Pines Technical College and the Golden Isles College and Career Academy Foundation. – PR


Mary-Kate Starkel 37

Vice President of Development

redefinED Atlanta

Scottdale

With a desire to serve children and education and experience in fundraising, Mary Kate Starkel found her niche at redefinED Atlanta, a nonprofit that partners with Atlanta Public Schools to ensure the city becomes a place where every student can get a quality public education.

“We can provide grants to incubate, innovate and scale things that are really working in the district and use some of the funds and relationships we have to influence policy and shift the way things are done,” says Starkel.

RedefinED teaches parents to advocate on behalf of their children and local schools, backing them up with grants – this year about $5 million will be reinvested into APS.

Since 2004, Starkel has volunteered in various capacities at Camp Horizon, a summer camp and year-round support for kids in foster care, ages eight through 23.

“They are massively changing the trajectory of children’s lives,” she says. – PR


Randell Trammell 39

Founder and CEO

Georgia Center for Civic Engagement

Cartersville

Randell Trammell has loved civics since middle school thanks in part to his involvement in Y-Clubs, a community service group teaching about government through the Youth Assembly and Model UN programs of the State YMCA of Georgia (not affiliated with the more well-known YMCA).

After college, Trammel became the program director of the State Y, eventually becoming executive director. The Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) was founded in 2017 as a complementary organization but by 2020, it was time for the organizations to merge.

“Our mission at CCE is simple,” he says. “To educate and equip students to become informed and active citizens. We are straight down the middle. We teach the process.”

Trammell is helping other states set up similar civics education initiatives. And in 2021 he helped develop the Georgia Civics Renewal Act, nonpartisan legislation to enact a Georgia Commission on Civics Education. – PR


Rachel Hollar Umana 31

Founder and Executive Director

Bike Walk Macon

Macon

If you cross Columbus Street at Appleton Avenue in Macon, your feet may skip across a painted keyboard or stride on colorful swirls. Artist-painted crosswalks catch the attention of

drivers and slow them down – just one visible way that Macon is becoming bike- and pedestrian-friendly, thanks to the work of Rachel Hollar Umana, founder and executive director of Bike Walk Macon.

Umana started in 2015 with a desire to encourage commuting by bike and a $5,000 grant as an 8 80 Cities’ Emerging City Champions fellow. Today, Bike Walk Macon offers year-round events, including Open Streets Macon, when some neighborhood streets are closed to cars and reimagined as places to play, walk or bike.

Perhaps most importantly, Umana brings the voice of pedestrians and bicyclists to Macon-area transportation planning. “We don’t want our streets to be built only for cars,” she says. – MCM


Tommy Valentine 38

Executive Director

Historic Athens

Athens

Athens native and community activist Tommy Valentine went looking for a place to help and found Historic Athens, the 53-year-old organization and protector of historic buildings, neighborhoods and heritage, at what he calls an exciting crossroads.

“I’m fiercely loyal to Athens,” he says. “The city also has a history that is complex and sometimes difficult. We have to try to determine how we simultaneously celebrate, conserve and confront that history.”

Noting that it’s hard to conserve without celebrating, Valentine introduced Historic Athens Porchfest in 2019. The outdoor concert series went virtual in 2020 but will be live again this October.

And since Historic Athens relies so much on the volunteer wherewithal of others, Valentine says he “pays it forward by serving other area community groups and emerging leaders as a volunteer, ally and mentor.” – PR


Allison Wilkinson 37

Director of Payroll Services

Georgia College

Founder

Queen of Bags Initiative

Sandersville

As an adoptive mother, Allison Wilkinson knew her son could have been in the foster care system where many children lack essential supplies. That led her to launch The Queen of Bags Initiative.

“It breaks my heart when kids entering foster care are given a trash bag to hold their belongings,” says the tireless volunteer who also leads Georgia College’s payroll department. “That’s why my nonprofit provides new book bags filled with a teddy bear, blanket, hygiene kit, coloring book, crayons, school supplies, socks and more.”

With the help of friends, churches and others, The Queen of Bags – the name is a nod to the beauty pageants she’s entered – has provided much-needed supplies to foster children from Georgia to California. The highlight for Wilkinson is her family’s involvement, including her husband and two sons becoming master bag stuffers. – BL


Jeff Williams 37

Business Development Manager

Conditioned Air Systems

Gainesville

Jeff Williams and his wife faced the worst any parent could endure when their young son died. Out of tragedy came a way to honor his life while serving the community. They founded Joy for Justus, a community initiative to encourage random acts of kindness during the week of his birthday.

A business development role with Conditioned Air Systems also allows him to serve the community. He developed an apprenticeship program with Hall County Schools where students can gain practical experience and training at the company before graduating.

“That’s so valuable to the next generation of kids,” says Williams. “In introducing them to this work, they realize that this is a big need, and they can have a great career.”

During the pandemic, he has also volunteered with the South Hall Rotary to deliver more than 30,000 pounds of food to people in need. – RS

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Leprosy has a Cure, so has Prejudice, says Miss Universe for Brazil

Civil Society, Development & Aid, Featured, Gender, Headlines, Health, Human Rights, Inequity, TerraViva United Nations

Human Rights

Julia Gama, Miss Brazil Universe working with Morhan to deliver food baskets to people affected by Hansen’s disease, with support from the Sasakawa Health Foundation. Credit: Morhan

NAIROBI, KENYA, Sep 29 2021 (IPS) – A new dawn has come, and it was through the work of Yohei Sasakawa, the WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, that those affected by leprosy now had a voice to speak for themselves.


So said Faustino Pinto, a person affected by leprosy and Vice National Coordinator of Movement for the Reintegration of People Affected by Hansen’s disease (Morhan), at a webinar with the theme ‘Hansen’s Disease/Leprosy as Human Rights issue’.

Sasakawa, who is also the chairperson of the Nippon Foundation, and Dr Alice Cruz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Elimination of Discrimination against Persons Affected by Leprosy, addressed the webinar. Guests included Caroline Teixeira, Miss World Brazil 2021 and Julia Gama, Miss Universe Brazil 2020. The Sasakawa Health Foundation, in collaboration with Morhan, were co-conveners. The event forms part of a 10-month-long campaign dubbed ‘Do not Forget Leprosy’.

The celebrity guests applauded his sentiments.

Faustino Pinto, a person affected by leprosy and Vice National Coordinator of Morhan. Credit: Joyce Chimbi

Gama, also working with Morhan, told IPS: “Hansen’s disease has a cure, and I believe so does prejudice. I will use my voice to ensure that those who were silenced are heard. I believe togetherness is our strength, and together we can eradicate Hansen’s disease.”

Pinto praised Sasakawa for his lifelong commitment to improving the lives of those affected by the disease.

“We were taught to just accept what we were told: Take the medicine, keep the appointments, open your mouth to check if you did take the medicine, do not abandon the treatment,” says Pinto. This changed when Sasakawa became involved.

Pinto appealed for those affected by leprosy to be heard, seen, and involved in efforts towards zero leprosy.

He lauded the Sasakawa and the Foundation “for always talking about us and including us in the debate” and for “truly listening to us and giving us a voice”. It is this voice that Pinto used to appeal to the global community, saying, “Don’t Forget Hansen’s Disease. Don’t Forget Us.”

At the heart of discussions was the bid to draw the world’s attention to a disease in equal measure, a medical and social problem. Furthermore, the meeting was a key platform where participants were urged to approach leprosy as a human’s rights issue.

While concerted efforts have today led to less than one case of leprosy in a population of 10 000 people as per WHO estimates, with at least 200 000 new cases reported annually, experts say leprosy is still very much a concern.

“There are more than one billion people in the world living with disabilities, including persons affected by leprosy. We need to create an inclusive society where everyone can have an education, find work, and get married if they want to. People have passion and motivation. Often, all they lack is opportunity,” says Sasakawa.

Governments efforts to respond to COVID-19 is believed to have setback the progress towards zero leprosy.

“Persons affected by leprosy face multiple discrimination. They are often discriminated against on various grounds – like leprosy, but also gender, age, poverty, disability, sexuality, and race. They also struggle with violence from the State and society and with interpersonal violence,” says Cruz.

Caroline Teixeira, Miss World Brazil, with Morhan’s national coordinators Artur Custódio (centre) and Lucimar Batista (right), and the director of the National Beauty Contest and Morhan volunteer, Marina Fontes (left). Credit: Morhan

“There is such ability and potential in the world, and to have everyone participate in society will create a truly wonderful future. That is why it is important for persons affected by leprosy to have confidence and speak out,” Sasakawa emphasises.

“To support them, Sasakawa Health Foundation and The Nippon Foundation are helping them to build up their organisational capacity. I would like to see a society in which everyone is active, able to express their opinions to the authorities with confidence, and their contribution is valued,” he adds.

Over ten months, the campaign, which leverages Sasakawa’s 20th anniversary as Goodwill Ambassador, will raise awareness of why the world should stay focused on leprosy.

“It was a great honour to be chosen Miss World Brazil and thus become an ambassador of the fight against Hansen’s disease in Brazil, the country with the highest incidence of the disease in the world,” Teixeira told IPS.

“In the coming days, I will be part of a Morhan delegation visiting several cities in the north of the country, sensitising governments to action in defence of the rights of persons affected. We will certainly unite many voices so that Hansen’s disease is not forgotten,” she says.

Nevertheless, left untreated, leprosy can result in permanent disability. Worldwide, three to four million people live with some form of disability due to leprosy, as per WHO estimates.

There is growing concern that COVID-19 and the fear of discrimination could further prevent people from visiting hospitals, leading to diagnosis and treatment delays.

As it is, WHO’s 2020 statistics show an estimated 40 percent drop in the detection of new leprosy cases, which, experts warn, will lead to increased transmission of leprosy and more cases of disability.

Discrimination and stigma remain a primary concern for Sasakawa. He decries that “people who should be part of society remain isolated in colonies facing hardships. The more you look into it, the more you see the restrictions they live under, including legal restrictions in some cases. Is it not strange that someone cured of a disease cannot take their place in society?”

“I belatedly realised that if the human rights aspect wasn’t addressed, then elimination of leprosy in a true sense would not be possible. I would like to create a society where everyone feels fully engaged, able to express their opinions, and appreciated. The coming era must be one of diversity, and for that, we need social inclusion.”

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