30 YEARS OF ADVOCACY: A JOURNEY WITH REWA’S DV PROGRAM DIRECTOR

With over 30 years of unwavering service at ReWA, Carlin Yoophum has been at the forefront of advocating for the rights and well-being of those facing domestic violence (DV). Her leadership and commitment have been instrumental in providing crucial support, resources, and a safe haven for countless DV survivors in our community. Today, we delve into her inspiring journey, the challenges and triumphs she has witnessed, and her vision for a future where every woman can live free from fear and violence.

1. What initially drew you to work at ReWA and/or the Domestic Violence (DV) program?

Response: I saw the job posting for a Bilingual/Bicultural DV Advocate at ReWA and did some research on what the job required. Being from the communities we serve and speaking the language, I thought I would be a good fit. I love working with people and making a tangible difference in their lives. I never imagined I would stay with one agency for so long, but this job is incredibly rewarding. ReWA is a fantastic place to work, and it has become a significant part of my life.

2. What position did you initially hold, and what factors led to your promotion(s) and current position?

Response: I started as a Bilingual/Bicultural DV Advocate in the DV Program. When our former DV Program Director left, I was asked to step in as an interim director while still working as a DV Advocate. After about six months, they went through a search and interview process but couldn’t find an outside candidate with the right background and expertise. I went through the interview process as well and was ultimately offered the position of DV Program Director.

3. How do you ensure that ReWA’s services for domestic violence survivors remain culturally sensitive and responsive to the diverse needs of refugee and immigrant populations?

Response: ReWA’s DV Program is unique and well-known in the community for providing culturally and linguistically appropriate services. Our staff can provide services in 24 languages and dialects. ReWA is proactive in advocating for refugee and immigrant communities to gain access to equitable and culturally competent services. These resources for survivors of domestic violence are limited and scarce within culturally specific communities.

4. What strategies have you found most effective in fostering empowerment and resilience among survivors of domestic violence within refugee and immigrant communities?

Response: Empowering clients to be self-sufficient is crucial. When clients gain knowledge and understanding of their situation and their rights in this country, they are better equipped to make decisions that ensure their safety and well-being. Providing the right tools and support helps them thrive even in difficult times.

5. How do you approach the experience, training, and development of staff and volunteers to ensure they are equipped to provide high-quality support to refugee and immigrant survivors of domestic violence?

Response: We hire individuals from the communities we serve. This work is challenging as it involves crisis intervention and trauma. We look for candidates with educational credentials, but more importantly, we seek those who are good listeners, empathetic, patient, and willing to advocate on behalf of our clients. These qualities are essential for serving our communities effectively. Our dedicated staff at the DV Program possess these qualities and are committed to their work.

6. Over your 30-year tenure, what significant changes have you observed in the landscape of domestic violence awareness and intervention within refugee and immigrant communities?

Response: I’ve seen significant growth and expansion in domestic violence work. There are now laws protecting those impacted by intimate partner violence. King County has built a strong network of DV advocates, prosecutors, law enforcement, and treatment providers. ReWA’s outreach and prevention efforts have raised awareness and educated the community about domestic violence. Additionally, ReWA advocates for more funding and equitable services for our communities.

7. Can you share some key milestones or achievements that you and your team have accomplished over your tenure?

Response: In 2023, ReWA’s Domestic Violence Program won the Classy Awards for our impact in ending gender-based violence within refugee and immigrant communities. In 2007, we received the “Moving Mountains Award” from the Office of Crime Victims Advocacy for providing culturally relevant services in multiple languages.

8. Is there a client story you would like to share, particularly one that inspires hope?

Response: Many years ago, I helped a client who fled from her abusive husband. He had threatened her life, and after her son called the police, he was arrested. She sought help from her family and friends but was ostracized. With nowhere else to turn, she came to ReWA. We supported her throughout her journey. One day, she returned to ReWA and said, “Thank you for believing in me when everyone else turned their back on me.” Her words were a powerful reminder of the impact we can have.

9. Please use this space to add anything else you would like to share!

Response: Working in this field for over 30 years, I have seen ReWA grow from a small grassroots agency to a community-based organization. Reflecting on our journey, I am proud of the work we do and the dedicated staff who make ReWA a beacon of light and hope for our communities.

You Can do Anything: Elena’s Journey to ReWA

Imagine yourself landing in a foreign country with only a suitcase of clothes, bidding farewell to all that’s familiar, and embarking on a new chapter due to circumstances beyond your control. This is the reality for immigrants and refugees worldwide, including ReWA client Elena, a Ukrainian immigrant whose journey to the United States epitomizes the strength and resilience.

Elena vividly remembers her early days in Seattle, a city vastly different from her Ukrainian hometown. “It was overwhelming,” she recalls, describing the profound sense of isolation, unrelenting stress, struggle with identity loss, and detachment that often accompanies the immigrant experience. “I felt adrift, like I didn’t fit in.”

Despite these challenges, Elena found solace in the community provided by ReWA. Through programs and events like our Center for Social and Emotional Wellbeing’s Ukrainian Wellness Event, Elena found a sense of belonging and connection with others facing similar experiences.

“During the entire event there was an atmosphere of peace, relaxation and warmth, and I felt at home.”

Events like the Ukrainian Wellness Event provide clients a space to share their experiences, traditions, and customs, helping them find strength and resilience in their cultural heritage. For Elena, she took great comfort in learning meditation practices. Her affirmation picture was painted with colors so warm, gentle and calm to her, she longs for this peace.

“You can do anything” is her daily meditation affirmation. 

Elena is grateful for the support she has received from ReWA and encourages others to support organizations like ReWA that make a difference in the lives of immigrants and refugees.

“I hope that more people can find the same hope and healing that I have found. We need to remember that each of us has great strength, and we can cope with everything in this life with the support of others.”

If you’d like to support other refugees and immigrants like Elena, please consider using our Giving page. Every dollar truly makes a difference, and we deeply appreciate your generosity. You can also support us by purchasing our cookbook or sharing our information on social media.

Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn

GiveBIG to Brighter Futures for Refugees and Immigrants

Imagine facing the daunting task of navigating unfamiliar legal immigration hurdles while striving to find housing, employment, schools for your children, and learning how to navigate American systems. Now, add the complexity of doing this same work for your family simultaneously. This is the harsh reality confronting many of our clients until they find support through ReWA.

Consider the journey of two former clients who later married. We assisted them in acquiring green cards and then permanent residency, all while guiding them through the intricacies of the US legal system with our in-house immigration attorneys. Nearly ten years later, these two clients have built a happy family in the United States and have become US citizens. They have also become two of ReWA’s most vocal advocates, helping others in their community access the same services they received at ReWA.

This year, we aim to raise $40,000 to continue creating pathways for a better future for our clients and their families. Together, we can foster lasting change and build a more inclusive and equitable society for all. Every gift, regardless of size, helps us sustain our vital programs and services that support refugee and immigrant women and their families. 

​​​

Celebrating Hope & Resilience: ReWA’s Spring Art Event for Newly Arrived Ukrainians

In a world filled with uncertainty, art has the remarkable ability to uplift spirits and inspire hope. This was beautifully showcased at ReWA’s Spring Art Event held on March 17th at our SeaTac office. The event, organized by ReWA’s Mental Health Navigation team at the Center of Social and Emotional Wellbeing (CSEW), aimed to provide support and solace to newly arrived Ukrainians through the power of creativity.

Twenty-two Ukrainian immigrants registered for the event, with 17 individuals joining in to express themselves through canvas art. Under the guidance of Ukrainian refugee artist Natalia Klimova, participants embarked on a journey of self-expression, using art as a medium to celebrate spring as a symbol of hope, inspiration, and new beginnings.

The event was not just about art; it was a holistic experience designed to nurture the mind, body, and soul. Participants were treated to snacks, water, and tea, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere that encouraged meaningful connections and conversations.

One of the highlights of the event was a guided relaxation meditation, which allowed participants to immerse themselves in the creative process and explore their innermost thoughts and feelings. The result was a collection of unique paintings that radiated with hope, resilience, and optimism for the future.

Participant feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with many expressing their gratitude for the event and its impact on them:

  • Participant 1: “Thank you for an incredible event! Here everyone gets what they expect: super relaxation, understanding, psychological support, and the opportunity to communicate, share experiences, and even reveal their talents.”
  • Participant 2: “I really liked art therapy! I would suggest the same thing but drawing on T-shirts. That would be cool!”
  • Participant 3: “Such meetings are unforgettable. It is always warm, cozy, and comfortable here. Alina, Yulia, and Natalia are excellent professionals in their field.”
  • Participant 4 (Translated from Ukrainian): “You are doing an extremely important job. After all, help in all aspects of life is very necessary, especially when you are an immigrant.”

One participant even expressed a desire to join ReWA’s team, inspired by the impactful work being done to support the Ukrainian community in Washington state.

The event also provided an opportunity for participants to share their experiences from previous ReWA events. Three individuals who had attended previous Art & Wellness and Singing and Handcraft events spoke about how ReWA’s ongoing support had helped them overcome challenges and find new opportunities in their lives.

The Spring Art Event was not just a one-time gathering; it was a continuation of ReWA’s commitment to empowering and supporting immigrants and refugees in our community. Through art, we are able to create a space where individuals can find solace, healing, and connection, regardless of their background or circumstances.

We are grateful to everyone who participated in and supported this event. Your enthusiasm and positivity inspire us to continue our mission of creating a welcoming and supportive environment for all. Here’s to a future filled with hope, resilience, and endless possibilities!

International Women’s Day: Celebrating Women Changemakers

International Women’s Day (IWD), held every year on March 8, is a moment to celebrate the achievements and contributions of women worldwide. From political leaders to activists, artists to scientists, women have made indelible marks on history and society. This year, as we honor their legacies, we highlight a diverse group of international women whose impact transcends borders and inspires generations. Their stories illuminate the ongoing struggle for gender equality and serve as beacons of hope and empowerment for women everywhere, embodying the theme of #inspireinclusion (2024 theme) by championing diversity and inclusivity in their fields.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors: Eileen Concannon’s Story

As we honor International Women’s Day, it’s crucial to acknowledge the remarkable strength and resilience of refugee women. They face unique challenges in their quest for safety and stability. For over 100 million people worldwide, “home” is not merely a birthplace but a safe haven, filled with love and acceptance. Among them are over 30 million refugees, compelled to flee due to persecution or fear of it. Washington state stands as a beacon of hope, leading in refugee welcoming efforts. Organizations like ours (Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA)) have played a pivotal role in successfully integrating them into their new communities.

As the child of immigrants, I understand the importance of welcoming those seeking a better life. My parents arrived in the U.S. with little, relying on family and working hard to provide for their children. Inspired by their journey, I joined ReWA after retiring from a law practice, serving as Chair of the Board of Directors. ReWA’s comprehensive services, including education, healthcare, and legal support, have positively impacted thousands of individuals and their families.

Women have made significant strides in our society, thanks to opportunities and support. ReWA’s mission reflects this progress, aiming to empower women and their families from all backgrounds. It is a privilege to be part of an organization that provides a second home for those in need and to contribute to its mission of empowerment.

Read More of Eileen’s Story

Local Women Making a Difference

Rebecca Saldana: WA State Senator, Community Champion, and ReWA Advocate

Rebecca Saldana, a prominent figure in Washington state politics, has dedicated her life to advocating for equity, justice, and the rights of marginalized communities. Born in Washington to her father, a machinist and Mexican immigrant, and her mother, a social worker from the Midwest, Saldana’s upbringing instilled in her a deep sense of compassion and a commitment to public service.

Growing up on a Superfund site, Saldana witnessed firsthand the impact of environmental degradation on communities. Her father’s exposure to toxic chemicals at work, which led to his early retirement, further fueled her passion for environmental justice. She learned the value of conservation and resourcefulness, as her family had to make do with limited resources.

Saldana’s journey into activism and politics began early. She was involved in student government in high school and continued her advocacy work in college. After earning her degree, Saldana worked in various community organizations, including the Tenants Union of Washington State, where she fought for affordable housing and tenants’ rights.

In 2016, Saldana was elected to the Washington State Senate, representing the 37th Legislative District. As a senator, she has been a fierce advocate for workers’ rights, affordable housing, and healthcare access. She has championed legislation to raise the minimum wage, protect workers from wage theft, and expand access to healthcare for low-income families.

Saldana’s advocacy extends beyond her legislative work. She is actively involved in community organizing and has been a vocal supporter of immigrant rights, racial justice, and gender equity. She has worked closely with organizations like the Washington State Labor Council, OneAmerica, and Planned Parenthood to advance progressive policies and empower marginalized communities.

Throughout her career, Saldana has remained true to her values of equity, justice, and inclusivity. She has been a trailblazer for women and people of color in politics, inspiring a new generation of leaders to follow in her footsteps. Her commitment to making Washington a more equitable and just state serves as a testament to her unwavering dedication to public service.

Sharon Tomiko Santos: First Japanese American Woman Elected to the Washington State House of Representatives 

Sharon Tomiko Santos is a prominent figure in Washington state politics, known for her tireless advocacy for community empowerment and diversity. Born and raised in Seattle, Santos has deep roots in the region and a strong commitment to serving its diverse communities.

Santos’ journey into public service began with her involvement in community organizing. She worked with local organizations to address issues like affordable housing, education equity, and economic development. Her passion for social justice and community empowerment led her to pursue a career in politics.

In 1998, Santos was elected to the Washington State House of Representatives, representing the 37th Legislative District, making history as the first Japanese American woman to hold elected office in Washington state. Since then, she has been a steadfast advocate for working families, women, and communities of color. She has championed legislation to improve education, expand healthcare access, and protect workers’ rights.

Santos has also been a leader in promoting diversity and inclusion in government. She has worked to increase representation of women and people of color in elected office and has been a vocal supporter of policies that promote equity and justice for all communities.

Throughout her career, Santos has remained committed to her values of integrity, compassion, and inclusivity. She has been a strong voice for those who are often marginalized and underserved, working tirelessly to ensure that all Washingtonians have a fair and equal opportunity to succeed.

Santos’ dedication to public service and her unwavering commitment to community empowerment have made her a respected leader and a role model for future generations. Her impact on Washington state politics will be felt for years to come, as she continues to fight for a more just and inclusive society.

International Women & their Global Impact​

Dr. Wangari Maathai: Environmentalist, Nobel Prize Laureate

Dr. Wangari Maathai was a trailblazer in African history, achieving several significant milestones. She was the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize and the first female scholar from East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate, specifically in biology. Through the Kennedy Airlift program, Maathai studied in the United States, obtaining a bachelor’s degree from Mount St. Scholastica and a master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh. Upon returning to Kenya, she became the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a Ph.D., which she received from the University of Nairobi. Additionally, she made history as Kenya’s first woman professor.

Beyond her academic accomplishments, Maathai was a leading figure in Kenya’s democracy movement, bravely opposing the oppressive regime of Daniel arap Moi. In 1977, she launched the Green Belt Movement, a grassroots initiative aimed at combating deforestation and promoting ecological conservation. This movement empowered women to plant trees in their local communities, fostering a sense of environmental stewardship and sustainable practices. The Green Belt Movement’s impact extended beyond Kenya, leading to the planting of over thirty million trees across Africa.

Maathai viewed tree-planting not just as an environmental endeavor but as a tool for advancing democracy, women’s rights, and global solidarity. Her approach, as recognized by the Nobel Committee, was to “think globally and act locally,” highlighting the interconnectedness of environmental, social, and political issues.

Shirin Ebadi: Champion of Human Rights in Iran, Nobel Prize Laureate

One remarkable woman whose life and work embody the spirit of IWD is Shirin Ebadi, born on June 21, 1947, in Hamadan, Iran. Ebadi is an Iranian lawyer, former judge, and human rights activist who became the first Muslim woman and Iranian to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her efforts in promoting human rights, especially those of women, children, and political prisoners in Iran. She took part in the establishment of organizations that placed these issues on the agenda and wrote books proposing amendments to Iran’s succession and divorce laws.

Ebadi studied law at the University of Tehran and became one of the first women judges in Iran in 1969. However, after the Islamic Revolution in 1979, she was dismissed from her position as a judge due to her gender. Undeterred, she continued her legal career as a lawyer, advocating for human rights and representing various political dissidents, journalists, and activists.

Throughout her career, Ebadi has faced harassment, threats, and imprisonment for her work. Despite these challenges, she has remained a vocal advocate for democracy, women’s rights, and the rule of law in Iran. She has also been critical of the Iranian government’s treatment of political prisoners and its restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly. She also wanted to withdraw political power from the clergy and advocated the separation of religion and state.

In addition to the Nobel Peace Prize, Ebadi has received numerous other awards and honors for her human rights work. She has authored several books on human rights, including “Iran Awakening: A Memoir of Revolution and Hope,” which chronicles her life and work as a human rights activist in Iran.

Despite facing ongoing persecution and threats to her safety, Ebadi continues to be a leading voice for human rights in Iran and around the world. Her bravery and dedication to the cause of justice have inspired countless individuals to stand up for their rights and freedoms, even in the face of adversity. Her unwavering commitment to democracy and social progress should serve as a reminder for us all to keep working towards a more just and equitable society.

Dr. Michelle Bachelet: Chile’s First Woman President and Minister of Health and Defense

Dr. Verónica Michelle Bachelet Jeria (Michelle Bachelet) is a prominent Chilean politician and a respected advocate for human rights. Her early life was marked by political turmoil, as her father, Alberto Bachelet, a general in the Chilean Air Force, was arrested and tortured for his opposition to the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Michelle and her mother, Ángela Jeria, were also detained and subjected to torture before they went into exile first in Australia and then in East Germany.

Despite the challenges she faced, Bachelet pursued a career in medicine, specializing in pediatrics and public health. Her experiences under Pinochet’s regime fueled her commitment to social justice and human rights. Bachelet became involved in politics and joined the Socialist Party of Chile.

In 2000, Bachelet was appointed Minister of Health by President Ricardo Lagos, becoming the first woman to hold that position in Chile. She later served as Minister of Defense from 2002 to 2004, another first for a woman in Chile. Her tenure as Minister of Defense was notable for its focus on reforming the military and improving civilian-military relations.

Bachelet’s political career reached its peak when she was elected as the first woman President of Chile in 2006. She served a four-year term, focusing on progressive social reforms, including improvements to healthcare and education. Her government also made strides in reducing poverty and inequality in Chile. After stepping down from the presidency in 2010, Bachelet took on an international role as the head of UN Women, the United Nations entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. In 2014, she was re-elected as President of Chile, serving a second term until 2018.

In 2018, Bachelet was appointed as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, where she continues her advocacy for human rights around the world. Her leadership and commitment to social justice have earned her international acclaim and admiration, making her one of the most influential figures in Chilean and global politics.

Dr. Tsai Ing-wen, First Woman President of Taiwan

Born in 1956 in Taipei City, Dr. Tsai Ing-wen’s upbringing was rooted in the values of hard work and perseverance. Her family background, with parents running a small auto repair shop, instilled in her the spirit of small and medium-sized enterprises—professional, dynamic, resilient, and hard-working.

Tsai’s academic journey is a testament to her dedication to education. She graduated from National Taiwan University with a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1978, followed by a Master of Laws degree from Cornell University Law School in 1980, and a Ph.D. in Law from the London School of Economics and Political Science in 1984. Her specialization in international trade law and competition law laid the foundation for her future contributions to Taiwan’s economic development.

Tsai’s career in public service began in the late 1980s when she joined Taiwan’s trade negotiation delegation. She played a crucial role in Taiwan’s bid to join the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which eventually led to Taiwan’s admission to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2002. Tsai’s expertise in trade negotiations and her role as Chief Legal Advisor during key negotiations were instrumental in Taiwan’s economic transformation.

In the realm of cross-strait relations, Tsai’s contributions are equally significant. She served as Senior Adviser to the Mainland Affairs Council and the National Security Council, and later as Chairperson of the Mainland Affairs Council, where she dedicated her efforts to the development of cross-strait relations. Tsai’s political career took a new turn when she joined the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in 2004. She became a DPP legislator at-large and was later appointed as vice premier. Tsai made history as the first woman to chair a major political party in Taiwan when she was elected DPP chairperson for two successive terms.

In 2012, Tsai made history once again as Taiwan’s first female presidential candidate representing the DPP. She was elected as the nation’s 14th-term president in 2016, becoming the first woman head of state in Taiwan and the first woman head of state in Asia not born into a political family. Tsai’s re-election in 2020 with the highest total votes in history reaffirmed her position as a beloved leader in Taiwan. Tsai Ing-wen’s journey is a testament to the power of perseverance, education, and leadership.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: Africa’s First Woman President

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s historic presidency, marked by significant strides in rebuilding Liberia and promoting gender equality, serves as a testament to the transformative power of women in leadership. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is a Liberian politician and economist who served as the 24th President of Liberia from 2006 to 2018. She was the first woman head of state in Africa and is known for her efforts to rebuild Liberia after years of civil war and economic devastation.

Born on October 29, 1938, in Monrovia, Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf spent much of her early life in Liberia before moving to the United States to further her education. She studied economics and public administration at Harvard University and later worked for the United Nations Development Programme and other international organizations.

Johnson Sirleaf returned to Liberia in the 1980s and became involved in politics, serving in various government positions. She ran for president in 1997 but was defeated. After years in exile during the presidency of Charles Taylor, she returned to Liberia and successfully ran for president in 2005, winning a runoff election against footballer George Weah.

During her presidency, Johnson Sirleaf focused on rebuilding Liberia’s infrastructure, promoting economic development, and improving healthcare and education. She also worked to strengthen Liberia’s democratic institutions and promote gender equality, appointing many women to top government positions.

In 2011, Johnson Sirleaf was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee and Yemeni activist Tawakkol Karman, for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work. Johnson Sirleaf stepped down as president in 2018, following the election of George Weah as her successor. As we honor Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on International Women’s Day, let us also celebrate the countless women who, like her, are breaking barriers, shattering stereotypes, and making the world a better place for future generations.