As CEO and interim executive director of Hope’s Crossing, Bulluck has helped turn lives around. Her nonprofit offers programs and service to women who have experienced trauma and empowers them to be productive community members. Bulluck understands their circumstances: As a single mother of three children, she had faced domestic violence and had no other choice than to live in a shelter. “I gained wisdom about how to navigate the process and helped other women through some of the same experiences,” she says. “I also began to volunteer and take on a mentor role with the women, and the social service bug bit me. I kept thinking about how I could do this full-time on a larger scale to help more women. I went to Walden to turn this dream into a reality.” As the leader of a small nonprofit organization, Bulluck now relies on others who are willing to volunteer to help women in transition. “Volunteers are critical,” she explains. “We wouldn’t be able to operate without them. They are our administrative staff and our assessment coordinators. Our board members are volunteers, too.”
Linda Sheppard helped start a nonprofit to promote education in Guatemala and introduced inner-city children to the fun of fishing through a ministry in Portland, Ore. But no place has sparked her passion for social change more than Haiti. “Haiti has incredible need, and I wanted to help implement long-term change in the country,” says Sheppard, who with her family now lives in a place with battery powered electricity and running water. She continues her doctoral studies and adoption attachment therapy practice via spotty Internet access. Among other challenges, Sheppard is helping oversee medical operations for the health clinic in the village of Gromathe, a short 12 miles but nearly two-hour drive from the capitol of Port-au-Prince.
For Jeff Lubsen, the negative messages LGBT people hear from some counselors and medical professionals are all too familiar. As an Iowa teen in the 1980s, he’d also been told that his life would be miserable because he is gay. Now, Lubsen is working to change the message and the healthcare provided to people of all sexual identities. The Denver licensed professional counselor is a founder of the Healthcare Guild, a national network offering information and training to mental and medical healthcare professionals who work with the LGBT community. The organization also seeks to create a dialogue and connection with cultural and religious groups and support LGBT people struggling with family issues. With a mission to make affirming and culturally competent healthcare available to sexual and gender minorities, the Healthcare Guild builds on a model Lubsen had seen in Salt Lake City and replicated in Kansas City.
Dr. Melissa Thomas created a nonprofit that is committed in part to serving Amish and Mennonite communities in need of healthcare and cancer education. Project Hoffnung, or “Hope,” stays mobile, serving Ohio and Indiana through free one-day clinics in community centers and churches to screen women for breast cancer and provide culturally competent cancer education. To date, the project has received more than $1 million in funding; her troupe of volunteer community healthcare workers has screened more than 3,500 women. “There’s passion behind the work we do. We know we have information that can save people’s lives.”
Being part of a global community that stands up for humanity isn’t everyone’s mission, but for Courtney Skiera it’s her destiny. Wanting to spend some time giving back to the world before she got married, Skiera went to East Africa’s Uganda for three months and fell in love with the country. “My heart is in humanitarian efforts, and Uganda is very fertile ground for helping other people. You can’t not do that here,” she says. “With the second-highest fertility rate in the world, the country has an average age of 15. And when you consider the AIDS epidemic and civil war in some areas, an entire generation of parents is wiped out, leaving a lot of vulnerable children.” Living in Kampala, Uganda, Skiera is the country director for Kwagala Project, an organization dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating vulnerable Ugandan and international women and girls from sex trafficking and exploitation. By providing holistic care to its beneficiaries, including providing school fees for the children and teenagers as well as vocational training and microloans for the adults, the goal of the organization is to empower these women and children to become reintegrated within their communities and for them to become agents of positive social change.
Mark and Tim, who married in Washington, D.C., in January 2013, have jointly fostered 43 children and have adopted four. But each time they adopt a child, they have to choose which partner will be the legal guardian. Although North Carolina recognizes both of them as foster parents, it does not recognize their marriage and will only legally recognize one adoptive parent. “When a child comes into our home, together we’re meeting with teachers and running to lacrosse, but when it’s time to adopt, we alternate who the legal guardian will be,” he explains. Dr. Maxwell is currently the vice president of the North Carolina Foster and Adoptive Parent Association and is building a network within the state to create training opportunities to help the public understand the need for equal rights for families who adopt children. No matter what their passion or cause is, Dr. Maxwell encourages others to continue speaking out to effect positive social change. “If you need to advocate for children, AIDS research, the end of abuse to women, or any other cause, you have to do something,” he says.