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YWCA leads out in cultural celebration

Maybe you’ve heard Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, described as Mexican Halloween. But according to YWCA Advocate Lorena Ault, it’s much more than that.

“In our culture,” Lorena said, “Dia de los Muertos is a way to celebrate and honor our departed loved ones. Because so many come together for this event, it is also a way for Walla Walla to build community.”
This year’s celebration took place the Wednesday before the two-day holiday that falls on Nov. 1, All Saints Day, which honors the saints and innocent children and Nov. 2, when all others are remembered. The festival is known for spectacular displays of bright flowers and beautifully decorated skulls.

Lorena and Celia
The Villalobos Brothers

Lorena, along with YWCA Community Relationships and Outreach Coordinator Celia Guardado (pictured), led out in the festival planning, assisted by Whitman College Community Fellow Daphne Gallegos. All three are bilingual and bicultural.

The event incorporated art, music (notably the Villalobos Brothers, pictured, who also performed with the Walla Walla Symphony), food, and dance.
Central to the Day of the Dead is El Altar, a display created to celebrate, remember, honor, and keep a connection with lost loved ones.

Traditional dancers

Lorena noted that memorial displays may not always be called “altars,” but every culture creates displays of love and remembrance in response to death or tragedy. After the death of a celebrity, a mass shooting, a fire, a natural disaster — whenever humans face grief or loss, especially a large, shared loss — displays of flowers, notes, toys, and more appear to comfort the grieving and honor the dead.

Central to the Day of the Dead is El Altar, a display created to celebrate, remember, honor, and keep a connection with lost loved ones.

Spanish-speaking cultures have learned that Art Heals (Cultura Cura). This belief makes the Dia de los Muertos celebration perfect for working with a population that has faced domestic violence and sexual assault. “When trauma and abuse happen to you, even if you survive, something inside you dies,” said Lorena. “Building an altar is a way to cope with that loss. In our support groups, I’ve had clients build altars as a healing ritual. Original pre-Columbian altars had levels to represent the different gods and the steps to the afterlife. Our healing altars can have levels too, to show the progress toward recovering from assault or from a dangerous relationship.”

The planning committee included representatives from many local organizations, including YWCA Walla Walla. In future years, the committee hopes to extend the building of healing altars to more groups who experience trauma, including perhaps veterans or first responders.

“The YWCA mission begins with eliminating racism and empowering women,” said Executive Director Anne-Marie Zell Schwerin. “When we gather to share and celebrate the power of Latin culture, racism falls away. And when ancient rituals are repurposed to heal the wounds of trauma, it has the potential to empower anyone in our community.”

Mariposa girls take campus field trip

On a December Saturday, nearly 60 fifth-grade girls from across Walla Walla came together for the Mariposa fall field trip.

These girls have spent the past three months learning leadership skills in small groups with their classmates. The field trip allowed them to meet the other girls in the program for a day of fun. They rotated in groups through three different stations: a slime-making experiment, a planetarium show, and a martial arts class. 

After the activities, the girls ate pizza and toured KWCW, Whitman’s radio station, which included a chance to talk and even sing on air!

It was a great day that allowed the girls to have fun and create a community with other girls in the district who are also learning how to be successful female leaders.

Kirsten Schober joins team to coordinate events, engage donors

We have a saying at YWCA Walla Walla: “We never say goodbye at the YWCA.”

In the mid-1990s Kirsten Schober worked for YWCA’s Gourmet Gifts program. It wasn’t one of her favorite jobs; she claims to be fairly terrible at gift-wrapping. Fortunately, we have found a place for her this time that is a great fit for her experience and skills.

A little over twenty years after she left YWCA Walla Walla to finish her degree in Anthropology, Kirsten has come back to what she calls her “homey home.”

She most recently spent seven years managing Dayton’s historic Liberty Theater and has an extensive background in museology and historic preservation.

“As much as I enjoy working with arts and culture, I felt a pull to get more involved with an organization helping people transform their lives,” says Kirsten. “The nonprofit world is known for having committed employees who go above and beyond, but the team at YWCA Walla Walla is truly exceptional and I am grateful for the opportunity to work with them.”

Kirsten will plan and organize YWCA events, from the Year-in-Review lunch that kicks off each year to the December holiday favorite, Hansel & Gretel Houses – and everything in between, including our largest event, the annual Leadership Luncheon. She will also work closely with the Executive Director and Communications Coordinator, who make up the rest of the development team.

YWCA and volunteers Take Steps Against Domestic Violence

“On Main between 2nd and 3rd,” says YWCA Executive Director Anne-Marie Zell Schwerin, “a past YWCA board member came out of an office with tears in her eyes and told me how amazing the shoe displays were.”

This was only one of many responses to the stories and corresponding shoes distributed downtown by YWCA Walla Walla with help from Walla Walla University student volunteers on Wednesday, Oct. 17. Part of Domestic Violence (DV) Action/Awareness month, the 52 stories were compiled by the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence from published news accounts of all the fatalities, a total of 70, attributed to DV in Washington state during 2017.

Our past board member watched several people see the shoes and react to them, says Anne-Marie, and said it made her feel proud to be part of the YWCA.

“These stories are never easy to read,” says Jan Asher Dolph, YWCA Communications Coordinator. “Going through the 52 narratives, I felt oddly  grateful that this year included no law enforcement officers and ‘only’ one child, a 5-year-old boy whose father killed him and his mother before killing himself. Holding a child’s shoes and knowing they represent an actual little life lost — there are no words.”

“A woman came up to me and thanked me for bringing attention to this most important issue,” says Mary Byrd, YWCA Client Services Director. “She wanted a purple ribbon and a button to take back to work since she couldn’t join us.”

The “Take Steps Against Violence” walk took place over the lunch hour, starting at Land Title Plaza and marching through downtown to the Walla Walla County Courthouse.

Most walkers — and even a couple of dogs — wore purple, the color of domestic violence awareness. At the courthouse, county commissioners read a proclamation making October Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Also at the Courthouse was Don Estes, uncle to one of 2017’s fatalities, Tina, a beautiful young  mother to four small children, who was murdered by her boyfriend on Thanksgiving. Don spoke movingly about the kind of woman Tina was and shared how much her family misses her. Five of Tina’s relatives participated in the walk wearing special shirts to celebrate a remarkable life tragically cut short.

View Tri-Cities television coverage here.

“Hansel and Gretel” house event coming to YWCA

Kids of all ages are invited for a sweet afternoon of building holiday houses from graham crackers, super-stiff icing, and lots of fun candy at the YWCA on Wednesday, Dec. 12.

The cost of this holiday tradition is $5 plus one non-perishable food item per child to share with the YWCA domestic violence shelter. Space is limited, so registration is required.

Parents can sign up their child for 45-minute slots at 2:30, 3:30 or 4:30 p.m. by calling the YWCA at 509-525-2570. For children 5 and younger, an adult is kindly asked to stay for the duration of the event.

The YWCA will provide plates, graham crackers, and lots of decorative treats for kids to build with. And after your children have completed their creations, you can leave the sticky mess for us! Best of all, since the food collected from “Hansel and Gretel” goes to our shelter, the afternoon offers a fun way to remind children about the importance of sharing and caring during the holiday season.

YWCA Walla Walla is located at 213 S. First Ave.

Advocates host An Evening of Graceful Space

On Monday, Oct. 29, YWCA Walla Walla hosted what we hope is our first Evening of Graceful Space. Recognizing the tense atmosphere that currently surrounds sexual assault, an intimate group, several of them strangers to each other, gathered for respite and support.

There was no agenda for the evening, no goal beyond carving out some time to breathe in peace. In creating that space, people from diverse backgrounds were able to commune and enjoy each other’s company.

The YWCA provided a light supper and beverages. If you weren’t able to attend and would like notice of the next opportunity, please email YWCAWallaWalla@gmail.com.

Jessica Matthews named YWCA campus advocate

A new Sexual Assault Victims Advocate for Whitman College has joined the YWCA staff.

Jessica Matthews recently arrived from Seattle, where she worked for the Firland Northwest Tuberculosis Center at Harborview. Prior to that, she served as a Peace Corps Response Volunteer in Malawi, leading efforts to establish a men’s HIV and violence prevention program in the prison system. Her professional interests are focused in social justice and advocacy for marginalized populations.

Jessica earned her Master of Public Health degree at Oregon State University. During her Master’s she was the Peer Health Advocate Graduate Assistant, working with undergraduate students to institute educational health outreach programming on campus. She received her B.A. in Sociology and Education from Colorado College. In college, she helped organize “Take Back the Night” events and worked at a homeless shelter.
Jessica grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, and returns to visit family as often as possible. In her free time she enjoys traveling, skiing, and practicing yoga.

“I am really excited about advocating for the men and women of Whitman College to make the campus and community safer,” Jessica says. “I hope any student or staff member will feel comfortable reaching out to me, knowing that, as a YWCA employee, I’m not required to report assaults to the college. I can keep your stories absolutely confidential.”

Jessica, shown here on a visit to India, loves to travel.

You sent the Fun Factory rolling into parks

YWCA van takes games, library books, crafts to underserved neighborhoods in the Walla Walla Valley

This summer’s Fun Factory team touched the lives of more than 2,500 children all over the Walla Walla Valley. The team was especially excited about visiting Dayton, where no other summer park activities were offered, and the VA grounds, where formerly homeless veterans now live with their families.

“While I’ve loved all our teams, I have to say this Fun Factory group was one of the very best,” said Executive Director Anne-Marie Zell Schwerin.

Caleb Carter is a Walla Walla University senior majoring in education and Spanish. His goal is to be a bilingual elementary teacher. He was in Argentina all last year and comes to us with great experience working in summer programs at Broetje Orchards, Valle Lindo, and with preschoolers in a childcare center.

Chantell Lopez is a Whitman College grad who is currently working with Americorps and ETHOS in Madras, Ore., as a music teacher. ETHOS is an organization that brings music to children in underserved areas. She is the music teacher for an elementary school of 420 children. (Fall 2018 update: Chantell is teaching K-5 music right here in Walla Walla for Blue Ridge Elementary, where she has spotted a couple of Fun Factory kids!)

Hannah Siepmann just finished her first year at Whitman. She is a Mariposa leader, helping with our summer Mariposa group at Edison, and with Fun Factory the rest of the time. She’ll continue to lead Mariposa this fall.

Finally, meet Daphne Gallegos. She will be a Whitman College senior this fall majoring in French and biology. Just back from a semester in France, Daphne was awarded a Newman Fellowship. This national award honors inspiring college student leaders who have invested in finding solutions for community challenges all over the U.S. Newman Civic Fellows make the most of their college experiences to better understand themselves, the root causes of social issues, and effective mechanisms for creating lasting change. Also a Bill Gates Scholar, Daphne grew up in Pasco and has been a YWCA volunteer for three years.

Pictured in the Fun Factory van, from  left: Hannah, Chantell, Caleb,  Daphne

Next Century Fund: Securing the future for tomorrow’s women

The new year has begun, and it’s a special one for us! YWCA Walla Walla is celebrating 100 years of empowering our community! You can expect a burst of activities and excitement from YWCA throughout the year.

Reaching this milestone has us thinking about our past—and our future. We look back to a group of inspiring women who, led by Mary Shipman Penrose in 1917, began an organization that has evolved into the work we do today.

Without the investment of our inspiring founders, we might not be here today to advocate 100yearson a national level for policies that eliminate racism and empower women and families. And we might not be here offering the tools to empower women who have experienced domestic violence and sexual assault, or to offer the high quality early childhood education that empowers every child in our community to reach her or his full potential.

Our charter members couldn’t have guessed that having a safe place to escape from a violent intimate partner would be a critical need for hundreds of women in 2017 or foreseen the percentage of women in the workforce today. But they believed in investing in women.

What will empower the women of 2117? Knowing how to repair jetpacks and grow crops on Mars? Whatever their needs—whatever their hopes and dreams—we believe that investing in tomorrow’s women is still critically important.

But we can’t do it alone. Now is the time to come together as passionate supporters of YWCA Walla Walla’s future.

We can support the women of tomorrow with the Next Century Fund—the YWCA Endowment. It allows us to support YWCA programs from the proceeds of a carefully managed account.

Here’s how it works with a bequest we received in 1967: Ida Rose Stonecipher believed in the YWCA and Whitman College. Both were close to her heart, so she left her farms to both in a shared agreement. That’s how every year, decades after Ida Rose was able to attend an event or drop off donations to the shelter, her legacy gift continues to help run YWCA programs, giving hope and help to women we serve. We are grateful for her generosity and foresight.

How will we build the Next Century Fund during our Centennial year? One way is by acknowledging the Next Century Circle. These are people who, like Ida Rose, look to the future with their charitable gifts and have made a bequest to YWCA Walla Walla. If that list includes you, please let us know (download a form by clicking the orange button below) so we can add you to the Next Century Circle roster and honor you at our Year-in-Review event Feb. 6.

The other way is with our YWCA Centennial publication, Inspired: The Women in Our Lives. Click here to learn more about how this book can help you honor a woman you admire and help create a legacy for the future.

If you have included YWCA Walla Walla in your estate plans, or if you plan to, this form includes everything we’ll need to know. We can keep your gift anonymous, or with your permission, we will use your gift to inspire others.

Join the Next Century Circle

International photojournalist coming to Walla Walla

YWCA Walla Walla is excited to announce that Paola Gianturco will be the keynote speaker at the YWCA Leadership Luncheon at the Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center from noon to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, May 2. Tickets, $50 per guest, are available from the YWCA office or from one of our Table Captains.

Paola is an American photojournalist and former business executive, born and raised in Urbana, Illinois. Her photojournalistic work has focused on women around the world who have overcome difficult issues. When she was 8 years old, she received her first camera, a gift from her father. She graduated from Stanford University in 1961.

Before becoming a photojournalist in the mid-1990s, Paola spent 34 years working in marketing and corporate communications. She worked at Hall & Levine, the first women-owned advertising agency, where she became a principal; and spent nine years as executive vice president of the corporate communications subsidiary of Saatchi & Saatchi. In 1995, Paola was living near San Francisco, working as a communications consultant. The United Nations’ Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing inspired her to document craftswomen in developing countries, and she invited former co-worker Toby Tuttle to collaborate in photographing and writing a book. Photojournalism became her career.

Paola has worked as a photojournalist, documenting women’s lives in 55 countries. PowerHouse Books has published five of her acclaimed photographic books: Gianturco’s Grandmother Power: A Global Phenomenon (2012), Women Who Light the Dark (2007), ¡Viva Colores! A Salute to the Indomitable People of Guatemala (2006), Celebrating Women (2004), and, In Her Hands, Craftswomen Changing the World (2004). All are philanthropic projects, for which she donates her royalties to carefully selected nonprofit organizations that relate to each book’s content.

Poala just published Wonder Girls: Changing Our World in collaboration with Alex Sangster and Musimbi Kanyoro. Paola   and her 11-year-old granddaughter documented the work of 15 girl-led nonprofit groups in 13 countries in Asia and Central Asia, North and Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and Oceania. They interviewed and photographed 102 girls.

“If you believe ‘girls are the future,’ prepare to be dazzled,” said Anne-Marie Zell Schwerin, YWCA Executive Director. “These girls are changing our world right now, and you will leave this luncheon inspired and full of hope.”

Groups of activist girls age 10-18 are transforming our world: improving education, health, equality and the environment; stopping child marriage, domestic violence, trafficking and war. Their imagination and courage radiate through their stories, all told in their own words.

The book’s Foreword was written by Musimbi Kanyoro, President and CEO of the Global Fund for Women, the world’s largest grant- making organization that benefits women and girls internationally. The Global Fund for Women will receive 100% of the authors’ royalties from this book. Musimbi was also General Secretary (CEO) of the World YWCA for 9 years, working out of Geneva.

Paola’s photographs have appeared in Marie Claire, Essence Magazine, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Business Week, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, and the Washington Post, among others. Paola has been a guest on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” CNN, NPR and “Voice of America” programs as well as many other television and radio programs across the country and around the world. Her work has been exhibited by the United Nations-New York; UNESCO-Paris; the US Senate Russell Rotunda; The Field Museum, Chicago; The Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Washington DC; the International Museum of Women, the Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco and the San Jose Museum of Art among others. Paola has lectured all over the country, including The Peabody Museum, The National Museum of Women in the Arts, The Smithsonian Renwick Gallery and the American Craft Museum.

Gianturco is a former board member of the Association for Women’s Rights in Development, and a former board chair of the Washington-based Crafts Center. 40 Over 40 listed her as one of 40 Women to Watch Over 40 in 2013. Women’s e-News named her one of Leaders for the 21st Century in 2014.Grandmother Power won ForeWord Review’s 2012 Book of the Year Award for Women’s Studies, the 2013 International Book Award for Multicultural Nonfiction, and About.com’s 2013 Readers’ Choice award for Favorite Grandparenting Book.