My favorite holiday — International Women’s Day — seems like the ideal time to uplift and celebrate women who have profoundly impacted my life. While the full list of women I should celebrate would be much longer, the smart, talented, strong women below are the ones who came to mind this year.
Marta Nieves, “my first mentor,” whose ground-breaking work at UnitedHealthcare of the Midlands gave me a refreshing new view of organizational development and cultural competence. Her uncomfortable observation that I had been raised to be a “really nice girl” gave me pause and set me on a firmer path toward self-actualization. Thank you, Marta!
Rosie Tingpalpong worked with Marta and I at UnitedHealthcare of the Midlands. We also worked side-by-side at the Institute for Career Advancement Needs (ICAN). Smart, competent and trustworthy, Rosie called me on my tendency to micromanage and was a steadfast mirror as I worked to break this unhelpful habit.
Judy Mladineo served as Associate Director and moved to Executive Director during my time at Catherine Place in Tacoma. She displayed exceptional compassion at every turn and embodied and upheld feminist ideals in her life and in her work in a way I had never experienced. Her wise, comfortable presence, and collaborative spirit allowed space in which the new — such as Juntas en Transicion and the We-Can & Si, Se Puede Circles — could be born.
Peg Murphy was director of Catherine Place when we began offering the We-Can & Si, Se Puede Circles. Watching Peg in action is like watching a saintly, seasoned, social services Jedi. She taught me the power of healthy collaboration, secure community, and faith in action. In my mind, she’s a big reason why in her words, “Miracles happen every day at Catherine Place.”
Donna Lambdin, founder of Maha Methods, is both teacher and healer. At her urging, I trained in both Usui and Karuna Reiki. Time with Donna and members of the healing community she formed cemented my commitment to the health, healing and well-being of myself, others, and the earth.
Sr. Lucy Kurien had been leading Maher in India for 13 years when our daughter and I arrived at the organization’s unpretentious office in June 2010. She has been a great teacher for me in overcoming loss, perseverance in extreme adversity and compassion. I marvel at Sr. Lucy’s elegant ability to unwind complex human dramas in a way that preserves dignity. Her creation of the Interfaith Association for Service to Humanity and Nature exactly 20 years after Maher’s inspires me to “think big” and “hold fast to my vision.”
Hirabegum Mulla, Maher’s board chair, is my favorite person to ride through the teeming streets of Pune, India with at the end of a long day. Her infectious laugh fills all around her with pure joy and she sees and holds life’s humor and sorrow with candor and grace. Observing Hira taught me much about how to support and collaborate with visionaries committed to models and methods that produce life-affirming change.
Zumbir, an experienced Maher housemother, effortlessly managed a home with 23 children and one U.S. visitor (me) during my three-month stay. Capable, positive and strong, she dramatically increased my understanding of what it means to live in community.
My mother, Pat Helmke, and our daughters, Lynne Clure and Cara Clure. My mother gave her love, her feedback and devoted tens of thousands of hours to my success. Our daughters remain the greatest gifts and most powerful teachers in my life.