Veronica Clark: Honoring Our 2020 Volunteer Award Winners

Veronica Clark, The Advocates For Human Rights Volunteer Award Recipient

Veronica Clark, owner of the Minneapolis-based boutique D.NOLO, is the 2020 recipient of The Advocates for Human Rights Women’s Program Volunteer Award. Clark has been an active volunteer with The Advocates since 2015, advocating on behalf of both racial and gender equality. This month, as Clark was in the midst of re-opening her boutique that had closed in the wake of pandemic, she took time out to virtually correspond with me about her work with The Advocates. I left our conversations inspired by her resilience, hard work, and ability to balance her different roles in the community.

Clark first encountered The Advocates while working on a documentary in Geneva. Since then, she has gone on several trips advocating for human rights. In 2017, Clark travelled with The Advocates to lobby at the United Nations in Geneva. While there, she delivered an oral statement to the Human Rights Council raising awareness on issues of race in the United States – particularly with respect to the crisis of the killing of Black men in the U.S. In addition, Clark traveled to Malta for the WAVE (Women Against Violence Europe) annual meeting where she forged new relationships with women human rights defenders from around the world helping to ensure the protection of women’s rights in their respective countries.

In addition to her work at various human rights conferences, Clark also volunteers a substantial part of her time fact finding for The Advocates. She helps them to collect information that will guide their future recommendations and policy changes. She has researched international threats to women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and the safety of human rights defenders. As director of The Advocates’ Women’s Human Rights Program Rosalyn Park noted, “[f]or each of these projects, Veronica brings tremendous talent to the table: from her keen observation skills where she consistently spots the subtle yet crucial details, to her ability to make everyone she meets feel instantly at ease, to her worldview and multicultural understanding of racial and gender inequality issues.”

When I asked Clark what her favorite part about working with The Advocates was, she responded, “feeling like I have a small part in positive change.” Veronica, you have had more than just a small impact on international and local human rights matters and your commitment to justice is unparalleled. It is with great pleasure that The Advocates’ Women’s Rights Program honors you this year with a 2020 Volunteer Award.

By Jenna Schulman, University of Pennsylvania sophomore and active volunteer for The Advocates For Human Rights.

The Advocates for Human Rights is a nonprofit organization dedicated to implementing international human rights standards to promote civil society and reinforce the rule of law. The Advocates represents more than 1000 asylum seekers, victims of trafficking, and immigrants in detention through a network of hundreds of pro bono legal professionals.

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Sarah Musgrave: Honoring our 2020 Volunteer Award Winners

Sarah Musgrave, Volunteer Award Recipient, honored at The Advocates’ Human Rights Awards Dinner 2020

Sarah Musgrave is one of the five recipients of The Advocates for Human Rights Volunteer Awards. She is an active member in the Minneapolis community and committed to her volunteer work. Musgrave helps set the welcoming and supportive tone for The Advocates’ Minneapolis office.  As a volunteer receptionist, Musgrave is the first face clients see when walking through the door and she welcomes each person with open arms – making them feel noticed and comfortable. This past month, I had the opportunity to interview Musgrave about her volunteer work with The Advocates and learn about the impact that she has had within the world of human rights.

Musgrave has worked with The Advocates for eight years, volunteering in several capacities including as an assistant at The Advocates’ tent at the Minnesota State Fair, as a helper with mailings, and, most recently, as a part-time receptionist a few times a week. Musgrave began volunteering with The Advocates eight years ago after going to one of their film series that they hosted in a local library in Minneapolis. At the end of the film, Musgrave put her name on a sign-up sheet and found herself a part of a loving and supportive community that she has “great respect for.”

As an assistant working at The Advocates’ booth at the State Fair, Musgrave recalls an impactful moment with a visitor:  “I was once at the State Fair and someone with a Trump t-shirt was walking by the booth and I stopped him and asked him if he wanted to take a spin [referring to the Advocates’ spinning wheel in the booth that poses participants with questions] and he did and he answered a question and then I gave him a pin. And then I just saw him walking away with a “I love human rights” pin and …. You know it made me think about human rights. I had no idea where that [pin] was going to go.”

As a receptionist, Musgrave works a couple times a week welcoming people into the office, answering and transferring phone calls, and maintaining the United Nations Deadline Database. The database includes the dates that special rapporteurs examining poverty and violence against women will visit certain countries, as well as specific dates that committees meet at the United Nations. When I asked Musgrave what she liked most about working with The Advocates, she described to me the warmth that she feels working at the front desk: “Working at the front desk and just seeing people going through the asylum process and then they get it … just the joy they have of being able to work through it and have people working with them is just neat. These are people who don’t really have a whole lot of support and then to have people working behind them, totally on their behalf, to get them in the country and the appreciation they have for it…” Since Minnesota’s stay-at-home orders were put in place due to COVID-19, Musgrave has continued her receptionist work from home – updating the database and transferring calls.

When asked what motivates her to continue her volunteer work, Musgrave responded, “I really believe in the cause … everyone should have the opportunity to progress.” She was sure to mention the hopeful atmosphere that exists within the organization: “Everyone is just so positive. It is just a really positive place to be.”  She began to talk about how much she respects and admires the organization and the way they are able to bring volunteers in from all walks of life. “They are very welcoming! Everyone has different talents and they are willing to work with you to find something that benefits both parties.” For Musgrave, she feels as though she has benefited from volunteering in a number of ways, including being able to have the “great opportunity to explore things within the human rights community.” I asked her what keeps her volunteering with The Advocates and she quickly answered by saying, “I just really enjoy doing it… I don’t know why I would give up something I enjoy doing… people thank me for doing this, but I really enjoy doing this – it’s not like I am sacrificing a whole lot…”

In addition to working with The Advocates, Musgrave is an advocate for the environment and works closely with the Sierra Club and other climate change related organizations. In her free time, she enjoys biking in nature and exploring her surroundings. While Musgrave expresses deep gratitude for the work of The Advocates, it is important to note that The Advocates expresses a similar gratitude for her presence and impact on the organization. Thank you, Sarah, for all of the work that you do. Your positiveness is infectious and your passion for volunteering is inspiring. It is with great pleasure that The Advocates presents to you a 2020 Volunteer Award.

By Jenna Schulman, University of Pennsylvania sophomore and active volunteer for The Advocates For Human Rights.

The Advocates for Human Rights is a nonprofit organization dedicated to implementing international human rights standards to promote civil society and reinforce the rule of law. The Advocates represents more than 1000 asylum seekers, victims of trafficking, and immigrants in detention through a network of hundreds of pro bono legal professionals.

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Amano Dube: Honoring Our 2020 Volunteer Award Recipients

Amano Dube, The Advocates For Human Rights Volunteer Award Recipient

Amano Dube, a leader in the Minneapolis community, is one of five recipients receiving The Advocates for Human Rights Volunteer Award. Dube is the Director of Public Sector Programs at Pillsbury United Communities’ Brian Coyle Center, a social service center that supports the local immigrant community. Prior to working at the Center, Dube was the Executive Director of the Oromo Community of Minnesota, a nonprofit dedicated to enhancing the quality of life of the Oromo in Minnesota. For the last five years, Dube has volunteered with The Advocates, connecting immigrants and refugees who are seeking asylum with volunteer attorneys and helping to interpret asylees’ testimonies. This past month, I had the opportunity to speak with Dube about his work with The Advocates and to learn about the impact he has made in his community.

Dube, an asylee from the Oromo community in Ethiopia, came to the United States in 1994:

“Knowing how I came to this country, what kind of help I got – by the way, when I came to this country, I did not have a language program interpreting for me – [ motivated me to help others] … I have seen so many clients who come to this country with nothing in terms of education and they fully rely on somebody who is bilingual and who speaks their language and understands English.”

Dube has worked for over twenty years with community organizations connecting refugees and immigrants to assistance, including to asylum help. “I stepped up to bridge that gap and there are people that rely on me as a person who knows them and knows the atrocities in their country.”

Dube learned about The Advocates while working at the Oromo Community of Minnesota trying to connect members of the community with necessary resources. During this process, Dube discovered The Advocates and the work that they do in helping asylees. As a volunteer with The Advocates, Dube connects those that come to him for asylum help with The Advocates’ services. “From the day they come to me, I first call The Advocates for Human Rights. I connect that client with staff there so that they can schedule interviews and appointments… and then my role during this time is basically helping with language interpretation and document interpretation sometimes.” 

When I asked Dube to describe an impactful moment that he had while volunteering with The Advocates, he took a moment to think and then began to tell me about the experiences of a young Oromo adult with medical complications from Ethiopia who sought asylum. “I received a call from the Mayo Clinic about somebody who came to the country because of a traumatic injury, who was also a victim of political prosecution. He had a disease that partially paralyzed his body.” The man was sick, could not speak English, did not know the country, and could no longer afford treatment. Dube called the man to see what he could do to help. The next day, Dube drove an hour and a half to visit the young man at the Mayo Clinic. “I saw him in the hospital, and he said ‘get me out of here. Do whatever you can do for me.’ He was really desperate to meet someone who could understand him and comfort him.” Dube then remembered the work of The Advocates and believed that this young Oromo man was the type of person that could benefit from their help in the asylum process. “So, I decided to bring him to my home and give him a bedroom. My wife and I decided that if God can help him and the American system can help him, then we will do our part by helping to feed him and dress him.” Two days later, Dube called The Advocates and explained the situation and they scheduled an interview for the man. “I drove him to The Advocates’ office. They interviewed him, they took his case, asylum was filed, and he was connected to the Center for Victims of Torture which got him insurance – which he needed for treatment. He then got the asylum and got the most needed treatment.” Dube went silent for a moment. He continued, “now he has gone back to college, majored in micro information systems and accounting, he got married, and he is a husband now living right here close to us.” Dube paused again and then added “and that, I would say, is the most memorable part of the work that The Advocates do. They completely turn around the life of people.”

After clients seek asylum, Dube’s work does not end. Through his work at the Brian Coyle Center, he helps asylees to obtain housing, find jobs, and receive health care. “All of this we do behind the scenes,” he told me: “We live in the community we know what they need … We take this as our responsibility. I am not doing this for The Advocates, I am not doing this for recognition … I do it because it is my role as an Oromo to help another Oromo or Ethiopian. Because I know the language, I am better positioned to help them and to connect them with systems including The Advocates.”

Thank you, Amano. You are a kind, hardworking, and passionate advocate. You lead by example and your work inspires others to become better advocates for social change. It is with great honor that The Advocates for Human Rights presents to you a 2020 Volunteer Award.

By Jenna Schulman, University of Pennsylvania sophomore and active volunteer for The Advocates For Human Rights.

The Advocates for Human Rights is a nonprofit organization dedicated to implementing international human rights standards to promote civil society and reinforce the rule of law. The Advocates represents more than 1000 asylum seekers, victims of trafficking, and immigrants in detention through a network of hundreds of pro bono legal professionals.

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Joan Kuriansky: Celebrating the Work of Our Volunteers

Joan Kuriansky, The Advocates For Human Rights Volunteer Award Recipient

The work done by The Advocates for Human Rights is fueled by its team of talented volunteers. One of these volunteers is Joan Kuriansky, a Washington D.C.­–based lawyer, with a strong commitment to women’s rights work, domestic violence issues, and human rights advocacy. Kuriansky began volunteering with The Advocates in the late 1990s and, ever since, has been a consistent volunteer. I recently had the chance to speak with Kuriansky about her career, including her work with The Advocates.

Moments into the interview, Kuriansky’s passion for human rights advocacy became evident as she excitedly explained to me about some of her past jobs and projects. “It is a lot of fun for me to do this work. I have been involved, especially with the issue of domestic violence, since 1978,” she told me. Kuriansky was the co-founder of a battered women’s program in DC, My Sister’s Place, she ran a legal center in Philadelphia protecting domestic violence victims, and she worked on the passage of the Violence Against Women Act.

Throughout her time volunteering for The Advocates, Kuriansky has worked on a number of different projects. Her first project was in Ukraine providing advocates with domestic violence training. Kuriansky then conducted an in-depth study in Armenia related to domestic violence issues. The report consisted of interviews with attorneys, prosecutors, advocates, and government officials. “And that was my introduction to the work of The Advocates. Already, I was impressed with the way they structured their training, the relationships they were forming, and the breadth of the work,” Kuriansky told me during our interview. Her report was later used to inform future advocacy work of The Advocates in Armenia.

One of Kuriansky’s favorite parts of volunteering with The Advocates is being a part of their annual United Nations Study-Advocacy trip to Geneva. Since 2016, Kuriansky has been an integral member of The Advocates team of volunteers that lobbies at the United Nations. She has co-facilitated panel discussions, delivered a short presentation to the full body of the Human Rights Commission, sat in on country hearings, and met with special rapporteurs and individual delegates from around the world. Kuriansky credits The Advocates for the impact that she has been able to have in Geneva:

“It was because of the extraordinary preparation of The Advocates’ staff that we, as volunteers, could be useful and, I hope, effective. It would not have been possible for us to have had the impact that we did, if we did not have the very well-developed materials and instructions about how to go forward with meeting with these different delegates.”

She noted that many of the team’s recommendations have been incorporated into official comments to various countries under review and some countries have even directly implemented their recommendations:

“In one instance we saw a country increase its funding for domestic violence programs. We also saw that certain laws were changed in keeping with the recommendations. In another instance, moving from law to administration, we saw where a country reorganized its response to domestic violence and the role that the different members of the legal community would play in that regard.”

Currently, Kuriansky is working with The Advocates on various shadow reports, including one on the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on domestic violence. Kuriansky’s shadow report is particularly focused on the D.C. metropolitan area.

When I asked Kuriansky why she chooses to volunteer to with The Advocates, her answer was simple. She told me that she enjoyed the direct application of the work. She praised The Advocates’ advocacy skills:

“One of the great aspects of The Advocates in my mind, is their ability to present information in a way that is compelling, raises hard issue that could otherwise be responded to very defensively by a country but, because of the methodology and on the ground support, the recommendations that come from The Advocates … are taken very seriously and sometimes you don’t find that is the case if a country believes that the outside groups, which are coming in to “criticize” them, are not very respectful of the people in it.”

Kuriansky is a model volunteer – longstanding, enthusiastic, dedicated, passionate, and knowledgeable – and is a role model for many. Just as Kuriansky credits The Advocates with being effective change makers, The Advocates credit her with helping to actualize that change.

By Jenna Schulman, University of Pennsylvania sophomore and active volunteer for The Advocates For Human Rights.

The Advocates for Human Rights is a nonprofit organization dedicated to implementing international human rights standards to promote civil society and reinforce the rule of law. The Advocates represents more than 1000 asylum seekers, victims of trafficking, and immigrants in detention through a network of hundreds of pro bono legal professionals.