In mid-February, the Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council hosted five Russian women participating in an International Visitor Leadership Program project focusing on combating gender-based violence.
They began their professional program in Pensacola with a visit to FAVOR House of Northwest Florida where Marsha Travis spoke about services available for victims and intervention programs for aggressors. Afterwards, the group visited the FAVOR House shelter. Next, they volunteered with Manna Food Pantries where Warehouse Support Coordinator John Ham spoke about Manna’s food programs before giving them a project sorting donated food items.
The next day, the visitors experienced local hospitality and fellowship during a community coffee discussion organized at Seville Quarter. Attending were Donna Clark, Julie Connerly, Sandra Horton, Scarlett Munoz-Perez, Charles Stauffer, and Trudy Walden. Later that morning, they met with Teacher Ashley Donahoo and toured the PACE Center for Girls before meeting with Terry Light, Charmaine Whyte, Stacy Ray, Kerry Auld, and Laura Poloski of 90Works to highlight that organization’s efforts in promoting self-sustainability for clients, including victims of domestic violence.
Their third day started at the First Judicial Circuit Court of Florida where Ana Eligio from Court Administration arranged several meetings and experiences which were beneficial in helping them understand the court process in the U.S. for domestic violence cases. They first met with Victim Advocate Blaine Lukkar and State Prosecutor Lidija Barauskas and then attended Judge Linda Nobles’s domestic violence hearings. A tour of the courthouse completed their experience.
The Russians then went to the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office where Protocol Officer Allison Morgan arranged a meeting to discuss investigation of domestic violence cases and services in place for victims with Victim Advocates Sarah Smith and Leanne Sprague and Investigators Melissa Salter and Heather Kinnard. Sheriff David Morgan also greeted the visitors.
The delegation’s professional program ended with a meeting at Pensacola City Hall with Councilwoman Sherri Myers who spoke about local government, the history of the area, and her background fighting for women’s rights. She also surprised the group with certificates of honorary citizenship to the City of Pensacola.
In addition to their professional meetings, the women experienced local hospitality when hosted for dinners in the homes of Leslie and Gerry Yandle and Paula Drummond and Joe Hemmer.
The Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council thanks everyone who contributed time towards ensuring the success of this project and extends a special thank you to Kim Rivera for accompanying the visitors to all of their meetings.