We’re fortunate to live in a community where scores of dedicated nonprofits and volunteers strive every day to effect positive social change. One of these nonprofits is the Albemarle Housing Improvement Repair Program (AHIP). For the past 38 years, AHIP has been helping low-income homeowners in Charlottesville and Albemarle County with critical home repairs – fixing failing roofs, faulty plumbing, dangerous electrical systems, insecure windows and doors. Repairing a lock or replacing a broken window may not be high profile or glamorous, but it is essential work in any community, work that makes it possible for individuals and families to preserve their homes, protect their health, and stay safe.
On February 14 this year, women around the globe participated in One Billing Rising, a revolutionary event demanding an end to violence against women. According to event organizer V-Day, one in three women will be the subject of violence in her lifetime. In the form of strikes, parades, dance flash mobs, live music, and other activities, risings took place all over the world in an expression of collective strength and solidarity, refusing to accept this violence.
Here at Rivanna, we strongly support V-Day’s cause and were excited to join in the movement. Check out the photos and video below from risings in Charlottesville, VA and San Diego, CA.
Rivanna team joins One Billion Rising at the University of Virginia, Newcomb Ballroom
Dancing at One Billion Rising, University of Virginia Newcomb Ballroom
Eveoke Dance Theatre performs at San Diego Rising event in Balboa Park
In honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, I’d like to share with you a story about one of our coworkers, Ashley Sisti. Many of you know Ashley, who manages your award renewal orders. What you likely do not know is that Ashley is a T10/T11 paraplegic. In 2008, just six weeks before her graduation from the University of Virginia, Ashley was in an equestrian accident that fractured her spine and put her in a wheelchair. Just as she was getting ready to head out into the world, her life took a traumatic and, for most of us, unimaginable turn.
In the three years since her fall, Ashley has put her life back together with remarkable courage and composure. At 22, she moved to San Diego on her own to continue her rehabilitation with Awakenings Health Institute, an extraordinary community-based organization that specializes in holistic healing for people with neurological disorders and disabilities. A year later, she was chosen to participate in the Breakthrough to Independence sponsored by the Stem Cell Health Alliance. She also has danced with Oakland’s AXIS Dance Company and has been featured on San Diego television as part of Head North’s Day in a Chair program.
Physical rehabilitation at Awakenings Health Institute
Ashley performs with AXIS Dance. Photo: Bud Branch (budbranch.wordpress.com)
If you take time to check out the above links, you’ll learn what we at Rivanna already know: Ashley is a star! She’s a star who needs to work for a living, of course, and that’s where Rivanna comes in. To support herself and maintain her rigorous rehabilitation schedule, Ashley needed a job that offered fair wages, flex time, and a supportive, accessible work environment. She also wanted to work in an organization that would appreciate her many strengths and enable her to do good work for a good cause. We didn’t develop our progressive, accessible workplace specifically with Ashley in mind, but I am certainly glad that all of that was in place when it came time for us to offer her a job. Employers out there take note: when you foster an inclusive work environment, you can attract and retain real talent. We definitely have!
On September 25, we lost a global hero and visionary as Professor Wangari Maathai passed away following a struggle with cancer in Nairobi, Kenya. Dr. Maathai was a passionate advocate for environmental protection, sustainable development, peace, and democracy who was honored for her work in 2004 with the Nobel Peace Prize.
Dr. Maathai made the prescient connection that for Kenya’s poor, sustainable development could not occur without a commensurate commitment to environmental protection. She established the Green Belt Movement in 1977 to put this idea into practice, training women to raise tree seedlings and then purchasing the mature seedlings for reforestation projects throughout Kenya. In addition to 47 million trees planted since then, the Green Belt Movement has also exponentially increased environmental awareness in Kenya and around the world, conducting civic and environmental education programs, empowering women and communities, and faithfully promoting sustainable development despite grave obstacles.
In Kenya, Dr. Maathai fought the widespread perception that forests lack economic value by emphasizing the social worth and ecosystem services of intact forests. According to the USDA Forest Service, responsibly managed forests sustain biodiversity, serve as carbon storage, and provide watershed services such as preventing and reversing erosion. People struggling to feed their families, however, cannot honor these long-term benefits when surviving even the next few days may require cutting down their very last tree. The Green Belt Movement therefore reversed the connection between poverty and environmental degradation by encouraging environmental stewardship among impoverished communities.
In a statement from the United Nations Environment Programme, a long-time partner of Dr. Maathai, UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner remarked “UNEP has lost a real friend and an icon of the environmental movement. But her work and her vision will live on in the millions upon millions of people – young and old – who heard Wangari’s voice, resonated with her aims and ideals and like her rolled up their sleeves to design and define a better future for all.”
In order to achieve that better future, let’s honor Wangari Maathai by taking responsibility for our environmental impacts today.
Welcome to the Rivanna Review, the official blog of Rivanna Natural Designs. Exciting things are happening every day in the world of environmental responsibility – from innovative green materials to fascinating books to ground-breaking corporate initiatives. We’ll discuss them all here. Plus, we’ll keep you up to date on what’s happening at Rivanna with employee and company news. We encourage you to join the conversation and welcome your comments. Happy reading!