An important part of good support is keeping in touch with community issues, and we Yeomen make every effort to know what’s going out there. Most recently, a group of us attended the TEDxRVA convention in Richmond, VA. Our team member Erica has shared her experiences and takeaways from the event. Here’s what she has to say:
On April 8th, several Yeomen and I had the pleasure of attending TedxRVA 2016. The event brought local and national speakers together in Richmond with the goal to inspire and motivate community members. This year’s theme was “Artful,” and the diverse group of speakers really exemplified this idea.
As with any event, there were a handful of presenters who really left an impression on me. John D. Freyer, an Interdisciplinary artist and Assistant Professor of Cross-Disciplinary Media in the School of the Arts at VCU, helped begin The Free Ice Water project. The project encourages folks to do something very simple; share a glass of free ice water and have a talk. We often forget how encouraging a real connection with others can be, and it was great to be reminded of how important engaging with new people really is for the growth of community. It was a good reminder to call that friend you’ve been meaning to reconnect with and invite them out for coffee (or ice water)? Do it!
Activism and giving back to our community was a theme that ran deep throughout this year’s event. For me, no one drove this home more than local mom, Pam Mines. When her son was diagnosed with Autism, she started to worry about how the justice system wasn’t equipped to interact with those with special needs. She helped to create and implement a new law called “JP’s law” (after her son), that created a voluntary designation on state issued licenses and identification cards for people with Autism or an intellectual disability. This gives police officers the ability to quickly identify those with special needs and adjust their responses accordingly. She reminded us all that we are often given difficult circumstances in life and it’s up to us to turn them into a positive for the rest of the world.
I’m fairly confident that I wasn’t the only one getting emotional listening to John Dau, one of the “Lost Boys of Sudan,” speak about the horrors he experienced during his childhood. As one of the 27,000 refugees who escaped war-torn Sudan in the late 80s, he survived unthinkable famine, disease, and violence. In 2001, he was fortunate enough to be selected to immigrate to the US, where his fierce sense of survival, and unwavering positivity, propelled him to success. He is now President of the Dau Foundation and the South Sudan Institute; both dedicated to helping others in situations similar to his. His passion and activism were contagious and reminded us again, how important it is to give back to our communities and to those groups who helped us get where we are today.
I left that day feeling like I could do anything. I’m excited and honored to work for a company that sees the value in these types of events. It’s through personal exploration and development that we grow and become better community members. The Yeomen is a community filled with outstanding leaders, artists, activists, and helpers, and I’m lucky to be a part of that every day.
Also published on Medium.