AWARE: Assisting Women Through Action, Resources and Education
Posted on November 21, 2012, by Rachel Taylor, Half the Sky Movement
As a volunteer for Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign, Rachel Justus gained experience as a community organizer and ignited her passion for helping others. However, after graduating from college, she found it difficult to find opportunities that fit around her day job at an entertainment public relations firm. Instead, she, along with a few friends, founded AWARE (Assisting Women Through Action, Resources and Education) to make a meaningful difference in the lives of women in the greater New York area.
In the beginning, AWARE helped organizations that specialized in such areas as violence against women, teen pregnancy and women in poverty. However, as members of the group started changing careers, getting married and having children, the group lost its momentum. Rachel went to graduate school and received a degree in social work.
Last year, members of a book club that Rachel belongs to read Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. The book had an immediate impact on her; she kept asking herself, “What’s next?” Many of the book club members had been in AWARE and were inspired to revive the organization.
For their initial beneficiary, the newly reformed group selected Barrier Free Living Freedom House, the first nationally recognized shelter that serves disabled domestic violence victims and their families.
AWARE’s approach to helping is three-tiered, focused on fundraising, volunteering and educating. The roughly 45-member group held its Desserts, Drinks and Dancing fundraiser Oct. 18, with wildly successful results: They raised more than $25,000 through auction items, raffles, ticket packages and donations. One person who canvassed for auction items received 40 donations in a single day. Those funds purchased the shelter a disabled accessible oven, allowing the women to cook their own Thanksgiving meal for the first time.
Next up, AWARE plans to hold a carnival in the spring for the women and children helped by Barrier Free Living Freedom House. For the education component, they’re planning a health fair for the women to teach skills such as how to do a self-breast exam and dental hygiene. Many of AWARE’s are doctors or nurses, which will let them put their medical skills to use.
Rachel says that they’re always looking for New York-based organizations that can benefit from AWARE’s multi-faceted approach. Want to recommend one? Contact them through their website and connect with them on Facebook.