We continue in the theme of this week’s cover story, ‘Pioneer Women,’ with two more profiles of local female change-makers
Carmel Jud knows a thing or two about following dreams. In 2003, when the global plight of women became too important of a cause to her, the local abandoned a promising advertising career in order to establish the Santa Cruz-based nonprofit Rising International. The organization seeks to empower women around the world by selling their handmade crafts at home shopping parties reminiscent of those held by companies like Avon. Since its launch, Rising International has helped homeless women, women with AIDS, and human trafficking survivors in more than 45 countries.
The decision to drop her advertising career and start the organization meant that Jud and her husband had to sell their home in the Santa Cruz mountains (and most of their belongings) and move into a barn in Freedom, Calif. “I remember feeling embarrassed that I wasn’t rich enough to just fund and launch a nonprofit, but now looking back on it, the barn experience was really great for me,” she says. “When you let go of all the ‘stuff,’ you can focus on what really matters.”
The risk paid off: Jud has been the recipient of such awards as Huffington Post’s Person of the Day and 50/50 Leadership’s Women of World. But, more importantly, she has watched the organization make real change.
“The most rewarding experience is watching our program work,” she says. “A women’s group in Rwanda bought a plot of land from our basket sales. A single mom in Santa Cruz avoided eviction from her apartment by running her own Rising Home Party business.”
Learn more at risinginternational.org.
Sisterhood of Support
Soroptimist — (noun) Latin, ‘best for women’
Soroptimist International is a global women’s organization that spans 120 countries and is about 95,000 members strong. The essence of the Soroptimist vision is to ally professional, successful businesswomen with impoverished, disadvantaged populations of women and allocate time and financial support to the betterment of their circumstances. The Soroptimists have local Central Coast chapters populated by passionate, dedicated women like Pat Donohue, a Watsonville resident and the national president of the Soroptimists of America.
Donohue joined the Soroptimists in 1974, prompted by her longing to connect with women in a vibrant, proactive community. She had always identified as a feminist and been passionate about women’s issues, and since becoming the mother of two girls she says it became “increasingly important to ensure equal opportunities for girls, and give a hand up to those who might need it.” She is now the president of a federation of 19 countries, with representation from North, South, and Central America, as well as Japan, the Philippines, Korea, and Taiwan.
The group’s Heart to Heart project, which she spearheaded, is especially dear to her heart. The initiative involved mentoring roughly 300 girls who were left without family in the wake of the 2011 Japanese tsunami, and providing them with shelter, education and guidance. “These girls would have faced bleak futures,” explains Donohue. “It’s very possible they would have been ensnared by human trafficking networks and been forced into sex slavery. Instead, now they can stay safe, finish school, and develop careers.” She says it is stories of hope and triumph like these that keep her and her Soroptimist sisters dedicated.
To learn more about their altruistic activities, or to join them, visit soroptimist.org.