SARAH VERBIEST

Looking Forward , Sarah Verbiest, founder of Every Woman Southeast, reflects on the new year and what it holds.

Blog Post by Caroline Brazeel from Louisiana

Every Woman Southeast is having an incredibly positive impact on my personal and professional life through its meaningful webinars and support from my colleagues in other states. It’s the fact that we are a regional organization of local people that makes us uniquely poised to impact change. Here’s one example of how EWSE pops into my life at random and opportune moments:

I spent some of the last moments of 2013 talking about Jamila Batts and Dr. Kimberlle Wyche-Etheridge’s October EWSE webinar. After a great NYE dinner, one of the guests, an architect, began describing his most recent work project – a redesign of some of New Orleans’ public schools. In an effort to design a building that met the needs of the students, parents, teachers and school board, he had immersed himself in the lives of the people that flowed into and out of the school. He found old pictures of the building’s façade from the early twentieth century and attended community meetings where neighbors voiced concerns and parents expressed their hopes for the new building. He took that information and thoughtfully proposed options to the school board for adapting the existing structure to meet the current and future needs of those who use it.

His process of reaching into archives for an explanation of how the school became what it is today evoked Dr. Wyche-Etheridge’s work on the Nashville CityMatCH Racial Healing project. When I told him about how they worked in Nashville to map the history of one neighborhood’s development, he couldn’t wait to get home and look it up on the EWSE site. To him, the Nashville project was a combination of his interest in urban planning, architecture, and social justice. To me, his work was a window into how the physical infrastructure for school health and wellness is shaped. At work, I don’t spend any time talking to architects, but our conversation made me realize I needed to reexamine my definition of non-traditional partners.

I’m not sure I would have seen the connection between architecture, education and public health as clearly had I not heard Dr. Wyche-Etheridge and Ms. Batts speak about their work in Tennessee. What I know for sure is we have to ask the right questions of the right people to know how to go about doing our work differently. In 2014, I’m hoping to work on the expansion of my definition of non-traditional partners, and I know my EWSE colleagues will help guide me in that pursuit.

Caroline works at the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals in the Office of Public Health. She is a member of the EWSE Leadership Team.

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