Letter from the Executive Director
During this month of celebrating our nation’s independence, we are reflecting on access to justice as a foundation of American democracy.
It’s a principle we should never take for granted, as * Meaza’s story reminds me.
At age 8 in Ethiopia, her country of origin, Meaza was subjected to FGM (female genital mutilation), suffering lifelong complications since. As an adult – a mother and a devout Christian – Meaza worked for an organization coordinating travel for Christian groups on pilgrimages. As part of her role, she helped journalists and political opponents escape persecution by the Ethiopian government. But when she was caught, she was arrested and detained, beaten, and subjected to inhumane conditions before being released.
Meaza took her two daughters and fled to the United States to start a new life.
Here, pro bono attorneys from our grantee Torture and Abolition Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC)helped her assemble a defensive asylum application. Then, through the counsel and mentorship of our grantee’s attorneys, she successfully argued the merits of her case – and won. Last year Meaza was granted asylum in the U.S. She is now rebuilding a healthy, safe, happy life with her children.
The threat and reality of torture is an affront to equality, freedom, and fundamental human rights. And ensuring equal access to legal resources that protect basic human rights, regardless of ability to pay, is our mission. That means for the newest, the poorest, the most desperate and vulnerable in our community.
Because of the Foundation’s support for their uniquely integrated model, TASSC has been able to formalize and sustain an in-house legal program, scaling it to meet pressing needs at no cost to recipients. It’s why Meaza was able to access legal assistance, psychological counseling, case management, and community activities all in one place, backed by a trauma-informed staff in a home-like environment.
This is what your generous support makes possible. On behalf of our DC neighbors like Meaza, thank you! The fight for full realization of our nation’s democratic values continues.
Kirra L. Jarratt
* a pseudonym to protect client privacy
Tags: Issue 36 (July 2019)