Wynona Ward, 1996-97 New Hampshire/Vermont Schweitzer Fellow
Wynona gained national attention for her innovative program, Have Justice – Will Travel, which provides free legal services for abused women and children in Vermont.
“When I applied to become a Schweitzer Fellow, I had no idea that it would get me started doing what I will be doing for life. I really took on Dr. Schweitzer’s goal of making my life my argument”
“What I got to do as an Albert Schweitzer Fellow brought me to where I am today,” says Wynona Ward (NH/VT 1996). Her program, Have Justice – Will Travel, provides free legal services for abused women and children in Vermont. It also provides emotional support and links to social services for many families. Wynona has gained both local and national attention for her innovative work. She has been featured on BBC radio, in Ms. magazine, and on the cover of the Journal of the American Bar Association. She has also been awarded an ASHOKA fellowship.
Wynona’s life story is an incredible one. While still doing her undergraduate studies, Wynona and her husband started a trucking business they were to run for 15 years. She eventually finished her BA courses from Dartmouth Extended School in the cab of her 18-wheeler. When the history of abuse she grew up with surfaced again in her family, Wynona made perhaps her most radical life change and gave up trucking for Vermont Law School.
She started Have Justice-Will Travel when she learned that most battered women did not have the material means to escape from abusive situations. “When I worked for the Orange County Court House during my Fellowship, I realized that many of the women were not finalizing their relief from abuse orders. Then I realized that these women did not have access to basic things like transportation, money, and an attorney.”
Now Wynona works to deliver justice to these women’s lives by literally driving to their doors. “I go into the home where they’re comfortable,” says Wynona, who travels the length of the state several times a year. Her trademark pickup truck seconds as her office, and is fully equipped with computers and a phone for those families without electricity. Once in the women’s homes, Wynona checks for other needs the families may have, such as fuel and mortgage assistance. She also drives the women to their court appointments.
Wynona’s work does not end when the women legally separate from their abusive partners. The work that she begins is continued by some of the former women her program has helped. These mentors run Have Justice’s Women in Transition program, which works to give abused women life skills, work skills, and continued emotional support. “I help from the point of these women getting their relief orders to their obtaining self-sufficiency,” Wynona states.
“I embrace Schweitzer’s Reverence for Life,” Wynona says. “The theory I work on is the respect for life, for human beings, and for human rights. Women and children are part of life, and they have the right to enjoy it and to become productive human beings. To help every part of life, every person become the fullest they can be, is my understanding of Reverence for Life. This is something I try to put into practice everyday.”
Wynona remains active in the Schweitzer Fellowship and on influencing students and young professionals. She is a student mentor for the New Hampshire Schweitzer program, she speaks at various engagements, and she also does frequent interdisciplinary work like providing training on women’s health issues for several of Dartmouth Medical School’s departments.
Wynona particularly enjoys what she considers the specialness of what it means to be a Fellow for Life. “It’s great to know there are people you can get ideas from and people who are interested in similar things,” she says. “Fellows strive to do their work and to keep up Reverence for themselves and for others. It’s a really special bond.”