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

“Home” should be a very special place for every human around the globe, much more than four walls filled with the necessary supplies to survive. “Home” should be a safe and secure haven, a comfort zone, a place filled with love and acceptance.  In other words, “a place of Refuge”.

In recent years, for a staggering 100 million people worldwide, “Home” is not their geographical region of birth. These forcibly displaced people include over 30 million Refugees, defined as persons outside of their nationality who are unable or unwilling to return to their country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion or affiliation with a social organization.  For decades, Washington state has been a leader in welcoming the humanitarian flow of resettling people, accepting more Refugees than almost any other state. Our own Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA) is one of the outstanding local organizations which has warmly welcomed Refugees and successfully integrated them into their new “Home”.

I am a child of immigrants.  My mother arrived in this country in 1939 with one suitcase, leaving a family who could no longer feed her.  My father arrived the next year seeking a better life, and was drafted into the U.S. Army, serving his new country in the trenches in North Africa, Italy and Germany. After the War, both of them relied on uncles who had immigrated before them to provide an introduction, a room and food. Both worked low income jobs, gave to those even less fortunate, and made sure their children received the education and health care not available in their country of origin. Both paid their dues in large and small ways and were forever grateful that the United States had welcomed them onto its shores.

My involvement with ReWA began about seven years ago.  Shortly after serving as President of the King County Bar Association, I retired from a thirty year commercial litigation practice in mid-size law firms to start a new chapter in my life. For decades, I had supplemented my law practice by serving on several regional, national and international Commissions, Boards and Committees whose focus was advancing gender equality and women’s rights in our state, country and globally. 

This new chapter allowed me to immerse myself in ReWA, join its Board, and serve as Chair of the Board of Directors the last four years.  ReWA’s unique “wrap-around” services attracted me, with programs focused on early learning, child care, youth tutoring, mentorship, English classes, behavioral health, domestic violence prevention, housing, vocational training, employment, citizenship and immigration legal services, and more. In recent years, ReWA’s programs have directly served more than 3,000 individuals, benefiting an estimated 12,000 family members. ReWA’s very committed 175 staff and 100 plus volunteers, located in Seattle, SeaTac and Kent offices, also attracted me. With my own personal story and not necessarily looking-the-part, I was still welcomed with open arms and kind hearts into the ReWA Family.  I experienced the same welcome that ReWA is constantly extending to people arriving from Syria, the Ukraine, Afghanistan, Eritrea, the Democratic Republic of Congo and other war-torn and impoverished parts of the world. 

In recent decades, women in our country have experienced dramatic gains in almost every sector of life.  It is indisputable that providing women and girls with opportunity, encouragement, education, emotional and psychological support, and financial resources has transformed virtually every aspect of our daily lives – all for the better.  ReWA’s mission is ambitious: to provide the tools and training so that women and their families from all parts of the globe can experience this historical giant step for women and all those they touch.  ReWA is a very special place, a Home or second Home for all of those she serves and for those of us who consider ourselves very fortunate to serve in any small way to further her Mission of empowerment.