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Contact: Laurie Kappe
Grassroots Community Leaders To Receive $25,000 Cash Awards for Violence Prevention Work
Los Angeles —Sahra Abdi teaches Somali and African refugees and immigrants who have fled their violent homelands how to control anger and manage stress. Margaret Diaz, a former victim of domestic violence, established a shelter and a pioneering transitional housing program for women and children. Anthony Thigpenn helps train people in African-American and Latino communities to understand and participate in public policy decision-making to prevent violence.
On Nov. 14, The California Wellness Foundation (TCWF) will honor these three grassroots activists with its 14th annual California Peace Prize at a ceremony in Los Angeles. In recognition of their efforts to prevent violence and promote peace, the honorees will each receive a cash award of $25,000. [Profiles and photographs of the honorees can be accessed at www.tcwf.org; video profiles are available on request.]
“The honorees are representative of thousands of other unsung heroes working to make our state healthier and safer,” said Gary L. Yates, TCWF president and CEO. “This year’s honorees also reflect the diversity of California and the sad truth that no community is immune from the effects of violence.”
Abdi is program coordinator at the City Heights Wellness Center in San Diego, a partnership between Children's Hospital and Scripps Health. She oversees the Hooyo Health program, which provides education and support for Somali and East African mothers. In her previous position, at Social Advocates for Youth San Diego, Abdi was involved in parenting classes and youth groups that taught anger and stress management to parents and children.
A decade ago, when Abdi arrived in the United States, she realized that the Somali community needed help in adapting to their new environment. The immigrants and their children had left a country embroiled in civil war, where constant violence was the usual way of life.
“It is important to have different ethnic groups participating in the planning and implementation of new policies and programs,” Abdi said. “As advocates of positive change, we should always engage community members in solving problems that concern them.”
Diaz, founder of the Victor Valley Domestic Violence, Inc./“A Better Way” Shelter in Victorville, Calif., has worked in domestic violence prevention for more than 18 years. Among the services offered by “A Better Way” are professional counseling, parenting classes and assistance with restraining orders. The shelter’s teen awareness program, Y.O.U.T.H. L.I.F.E., educates at-risk youth about domestic violence, relationship abuse and anger management.
Diaz’s organization also founded the first transitional housing program in the High Desert region of San Bernardino County for women transitioning from the shelter who need support to begin a self-sufficient lifestyle. Having endured 16 years of spousal abuse before fleeing to California, Diaz is motivated by her firsthand experience of being forced out of her home to escape violence.
“I believe that violence is preventable and that education is the key,” Diaz said. “If we can reach them [the children] in elementary school, we can decrease violence. If we don't stop violence, the cycle will continue.”
Thigpenn, founder of Strategic Concepts in Organizing & Policy Education (SCOPE), a social justice organization based in South Los Angeles, has more than 30 years of experience in neighborhood organizing, public policy advocacy and community organizing training. A component of SCOPE is Action for Grassroots Empowerment and Neighborhood Development Alternatives (AGENDA), a membership organization that trains African-American and Latino community members to understand and participate in public policy formulation and decision-making. Thigpenn has also been involved in job training programs, livable wage campaigns, and the King/Drew campaign to save King Drew Medical Center to address the public health crisis in South Los Angeles. His efforts to help people positively express their frustrations and create economic opportunities have advanced violence prevention work in his community.
“When you think about young people who are involved in gangs or other kinds of antisocial activity, if they had a job, if they had a career path, if they had a chance to go to college, there is no question that they would have taken a different path,” Thigpenn said.
The California Wellness Foundation is an independent, private foundation created in 1992 with a mission to improve the health of the people of California by making grants for health promotion, wellness education and disease prevention.
The Foundation prioritizes eight issues for funding: diversity in the health professions, environmental health, healthy aging, mental health, teenage pregnancy prevention, violence prevention, women’s health, and work and health. It also responds to timely issues and special projects outside the funding priorities. Since its first founding in 1992, TCWF has awarded 4,523 grants totaling more than $545 million. It is one of the state’s largest private foundations, providing an average of $40 million in grants each year in pursuit of its mission.
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Note to reporters & editors: “The” in “The California Wellness Foundation” is part of the Foundation’s legal name. Please do not drop or lowercase the “T.”