Thanks to heightened TSA rules and regulations, traveling across the country with your own toiletries can be a real chore—let alone traveling across the country with toiletries that you plan to donate to the domestic abuse victims served by Have Justice-Will Travel.
But for the 100-plus Schweitzer Fellows and Fellows for Life who traveled from far and wide for the 4th Annual Schweitzer Fellows for Life (FFL) Conference in Baltimore last Saturday, Oct. 16, that minor inconvenience was no obstacle. Rather, it was a valuable chance to support Schweitzer Fellow for Life, CNN Hero, and Have Justice-Will Travel founder Wynona Ward—whose keynote speech on Saturday morning brought down the house.
“We will not stop school, gun, or other violence in this country until we stop the generational cycle of domestic abuse,” said Ward, pointing out that though domestic violence is no longer socially acceptable, 3.3 million children are still exposed to it each year.
Ward herself was one of those children—and, as Conference attendees learned firsthand, she has dedicated her life to ending domestic violence once and for all. In the past decade, Have Justice-Will Travel has served 10,000 women and children in rural Vermont; less than 10 percent have returned to abusive situations.
“I don’t know if we will see the end of domestic violence in my lifetime, but we will see it in yours,” said Ward to thunderous applause and a standing ovation.
Ward’s powerful keynote set the tone for a day that was jam-packed with inspiring and thoughtful speakers, opportunities to network with social entrepreneurs and leaders in the movement to eliminate health disparities—and the chance to honor the man who co-founded and directed the country’s first two community health centers, Dr. Jack Geiger.
Though late-breaking health issues prevented Geiger from attending in person, his presence was both felt and powerful: he accepted the 2010 Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism via a heartfelt video message. Before Geiger’s message played, Conference attendees who worked at community health centers stood at the front of the room in a tangible representation of Geiger’s ongoing legacy, and three Fellows for Life shared stories of how he has inspired them to commit themselves to serving others.
“In a sense, I share this award with all of you who are now or have been Albert Schweitzer Fellows, because what you do, what you have done, what you will keep doing, by its very nature is humanitarian,” said Geiger, who was instrumental in developing the national network of more than 1,100 community health centers that now serves an estimated 20 million low-income patients, and who co-founded both Physicians for Social Responsibility and Physicians for Human Rights.
“I take that word [humanitarian] to mean someone who values the lives of other human beings as much as his or her own, and who expresses that in service, in commitment, and in loyalty to those causes,” Geiger said. “So again, I thank you, I am happy to be here, and I hope—next year—I’ll be in person.”
Between Ward’s keynote and Geiger’s Prize for Humanitarianism ceremony, Fellows and guests attended eight breakout sessions (which focused on the ethics of service, health care reform, the importance of mindfulness and self-care, quality improvement, reflections from Haiti, refugee health care access, and leveraging social media to deliver health messages).
And from beginning to end, attendees found inspiration both in the day’s programming—and in each other.
“At the conference, I met Aditya [Iyer], who is a current Fellow in Pittsburgh,” said Alice Tin, a Schweitzer Fellow in Boston who — in addition to serving as the Conference’s volunteer photographer! — is expanding the Liaison Interpreters Program of Somerville (LIPS), which trains bilingual high school students in the basics of medical interpreting. “He is working with refugee youth and teaching them practical English that relates to healthcare needs of the community, which is somewhat similar to my project! Hopefully we will be able to share resources and ideas. The FFL Conference is a wonderful opportunity to make connections.”
“I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at the FFL Conference, and cannot wait for next year,” said Komal Ahuja, a Schweitzer Fellow in Greater Philadelphia who – along with Conference attendee and Schweitzer Fellow Malasa Jois – is working to expand Project REACH, a unique health education intervention program aimed at equipping at-risk Camden middle school students with the skills to take control of their own health. (REACH was launched last year by two Schweitzer Fellows in Greater Philadelphia.)
Like Ahuja, many 2010 FFL Conference attendees are already eagerly anticipating next year’s 5th Annual Conference—which will be held in Boston, MA on Saturday, October 29, 2011. For more info, visit ASF’s website—and e-mail info at schweitzerfellowship.org with the subject line “2011 RSVP” to reserve your spot today.
“Meeting the current Fellows and Fellows for Life was truly inspiring,” said Tiffany Harris, who directs the Houston-Galveston Schweitzer Fellows Program. “I’m looking forward to next year.”
Thank you to our Conference Sponsors, The DentaQuest Foundation and Summit Press. Your generous sponsorship made all of the above possible!