Dienna Howard on “Why I volunteered with EWI”.

29 Jun

Dienna Howard has been volunteering with EWI consistently over the past year, and has dedicated her time to help continue our mission. She worked in our office weekly assisting in newsletter, blog, and directory updates. Her last day was last week. We thank Dienna for her hard work and commitment, and wish her the best as she moves on to empower more women throughout the world!

Dienna Howard, former EWI Volunteer

To get to the point where I got involved with Empowered Women International, I need to take a quick trip to the past first.

I have a background in journalism starting in high school, where I wrote pieces that ranged from bios on exchange students, articles on body image, a piece where I called the administration out on their favoritism towards specific student groups, as well as my personal experience with being considered an “oreo” by other black people (i.e., a black person who is accused of “acting white”). This continued on in college, where I wrote a piece on the immaturity of some college students, a piece urging people to stop saying n-word, and a feature on the student government president. I got sidetracked by switching from journalism to theater, a move I sometimes feel may have hindered me from being taken seriously as an article writer, but a move I don’t regret. (I have written theatrical pieces and was recruited after graduating college to do a collaborative piece called Amistad: Recapturing the Spirit, combining some original work with researched work to expose the audience to the trials and tribulations of what the slaves aboard the Amistad ship had gone through.)

After years doing admin support work and research at my former job, I wanted to build my writing portfolio again. I wanted to know that I was still capable of doing more than sitting quietly at a cubicle minding my business. Last summer, I found out about EWI through VolunteerMatch.org, where they had a writing position advertised. The fact that EWI focused on working with women who were artists strongly appealed to me, so I was determined to get involved with them. I got to interview great women such as bath and body product creator Brigitta Kral, jewelry artist Kata Witorsch, and sculptor Alicia Meza. Hearing about the many things they’ve accomplished since getting involved with EWI was an uplifting experience.

As my six-year tenure at my former job came to a surprising end this February, I was left confused and wanting to figure things out. What was my purpose? What was my passion? I was working to live as opposed to just living, and I wanted to figure out what really made me tick. I wanted to get more involved with EWI, so I contacted Marga Fripp and was welcomed with open arms to get more involved in the office as a volunteer.

My first task in the sunny yellow office was to help with spring cleaning. Though I was continuously apologized to for cleaning not being a “fun” or “interesting” task, I was excited regardless because I had something to do as opposed to sitting at home stressing about my current situation.

As my time in the office continued, my duties expanded. I got to help a few clients find things in storage that they could take home for free (one found a complete paint set with a palette and brushes!), I got to help another client set up a profile on a website focused on matching sitters with clients (as well as helped her do a basic job search), and I even got to help produce EWI’s first newsletter – a daunting task but one that got wonderfully accomplished!

While I enjoyed my time at EWI, I realized I still hadn’t figured out who I was. EWI is not the only organization I volunteer at. I provide coverage at Doorways for Women and Families, I read to kids at the same organization through The Reading Connection, I sometimes help with food deliveries at Food For All DC, I have spoken at events regarding street harassment (as well as participated in the first ever DC community safety audit as a team leader!), and by the way, did I mention I went to orientation to get involved with Miriam’s Kitchen? (I haven’t been called to volunteer there yet, but when that time comes…) All that said, I’ve been so busy with these different organizations that I hardly took time for myself, so I knew I needed to scale back on my volunteering and start working on me.

Though my time volunteering at EWI’s office is coming to an end, my connection to it won’t. The staff is amazing and the clients are the most diverse and wonderful women I’ve ever met. I’ll still be involved with EWI in a smaller capacity, and I will continue to follow these women and watch them continue to aim high and achieve their goals.

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