USA: Southwest Region Launch of the Global Women’s Peace Network

by Kiyomi Schmidt, WFWP USA

Do you think that women need to play a role in peace-making? This was one big question answered at the Global Women’s Peace Network (GWPN), a project of Women’s Federation for World Peace (WFWP) International.

WFWP USA is currently in the process of launching the GWPN in all five regions across the United States, identifying key contributors in communities to ignite the GWPN from the ground up. The launch of the Southwest region, titled “Women as the Turning Point for Peace,” was held from June 21 to 22 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in conjunction with the Peace Starts With Me movement and Unity Festival featuring keynote speaker Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, WFWP Co-Founder.

A total of 90 women and supporting gentlemen from the Southwest region and beyond arrived bright-eyed with anticipation to take part in this significant and momentous occasion. Mistress of Ceremonies for the opening session, Laura Hornbeck, Southwest Region Co-Director of WFWP USA, authentically infused southern flavor into the program with her sweet Texas charm.

The magnitude of the occasion was marked by congratulatory remarks and proclamations throughout the Southwest region. Hon. Joy I. Garratt of the New Mexico House of Representatives emphasized the need for women’s voices to rise, and how one’s experiences as a woman and mother equips them to build this needed network for the sake of their families and communities. She quoted Dr. Moon, in saying, “Women’s Federation for World Peace recognizes that the moral and spiritual roots of this great nation are still alive. Let us help each other. Let us commit our time, let us share our ideas and our strengths to accomplish this noble cause.”

This was followed by the foundational explanation of the purpose, goals, heart, and spirit of GWPN, as presented with divine depth and clarity by WFWP USA President Angelika Selle. President Selle unearthed how women play a central role in God’s providence, to use their motherly hearts to build a heavenly family and community, and to ultimately realize the goal of one global family. To do this, women must be guided towards interdependence and shifting their consciousness from ‘me’ to ‘we,’ mutual prosperity void of poverty and with access to essentials and education for all, and universally-shared values of living for the sake of others and affirming the Creator as the source of peace.

The evening culminated with the honoring of three HerStory awardees and one special recognition, each for their outstanding contributions to peace, and for reminding the group that every woman is capable of extraordinary things. After receiving her HerStory Award, Ms. Garratt shared quick empowering stories on perseverance and not letting anyone dim her voice. Even though she lost her first election, she won the second time around, and those who wouldn’t give her the time of day began treating her with respect and listening to her.

HerStory recipient Dr. Ayele Amavigan Labante, founder and CEO of the Hidden Talent Foundation, attributed the award to her parents who never received an education. As a mother and educator, she shares how her son, who came from another country and did not know English, was bullied in school. She convinced him to pray for the bullies, and told him they were singling him out because they were not as smart as him. Overtime he believed that he really was smart and worked to become his high school valedictorian, a graduate of Stanford University, and is now pursuing his masters at Harvard University.

The final HerStory awardee, Ms. Judi Moreo, President of Turning Point International, Inc., shared incredible life lessons, including the following anecdote that captured the whole audience:

“If you can do these five things in life, you can do anything: Drink, swear, steal, bet and lie. Drink from the fountain of opportunity, as opportunity often disguises itself as a challenge in life. Swear to make each day a little better by saying positive things to those around you. Steal a little time for family and positive people, giving them the best version of you. Bet on yourself, as God didn’t create any of us for failure. We were designed to be ourselves and to make a difference in this world. And if you do that, it will be easy to lie down at night.”

Shirley Chimes, Southwest Region Co-Director of WFWP USA, received a special recognition for her continuous support for WFWP since its founding in 1992. Upon acceptance she shared a moving story imprinted from childhood that has lasted a lifetime. After watching the movie Bambi, she could never forget the scene where he lost his mother and was knocked down amidst a fire, but his father urged him to get up, and he did. Many years later, Mrs. Chimes experienced the misfortune and blessing of being in a coma for five days. When she awoke, all she could do was lay and pray, day after day, month after month. But she kept hearing this voice inside her that said she must get up! To this day she does not let anybody or anything blow out her light.

The following morning everyone was refreshed inside and out, ready to take the next steps. Mistress of Ceremonies, WFWP USA Schools of Africa Coordinator, Fannie Smith guided the program and conversation.

Participants were graced with the presence of Dr. Gayle Anderson, International Protocol Officer from the City of Las Vegas, who read Congratulatory Remarks from Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman. Mayor Goodman’s message acknowledged the worthwhile goal and endeavor of WFWP and GWPN to bring together people from all over the world from different sectors of life, to promote peaceful cooperation, mutual respect, and prosperity for all.

This greeting was followed by a special message from Dr. Ki Hoon Kim, Regional Chairman of Family Federation North America. He shared stories of traveling across many continents with Dr. Moon, and how she spoke on the fundamental foundation for world peace, which is to create loving families connected with God.

President Selle highlighted three points that inspire her and keep her energized in WFWP; first, the vision of one global family based on interdependence, mutual prosperity and universal values; second, the philosophy of Living for the Sake of Others centering on God, and the feminine versus feminist type of leadership; third, the founders’ example and lifestyle. Based on their example of peace leadership through their lifestyle, President Selle has experienced that peace is actually possible beginning with ‘me’ and ‘us.’

The four accomplished women panelists expanded further on the deep heart and motive of the founders based on their respective fields. Activist Alisa Ellis of the Utah State Board of Education presented on “Mothers as Peace Leaders in Marriage and the Family.” Mrs. Ellis empowered WFWP to continue their work to protect children and families no matter how unpopular the opinion may be. She shared a story about being mocked and scorned as a minority standing for the family, but she continues on, encouraging everyone to remember the power that God gave them. She sees, more than ever, mothers and families are needed to provide a refuge from the storm of current culture. America continues to make policies that disrupt the family, instead of building up the family and providing resources for parents to empower, engage, and educate their kids. She encouraged everyone to stand strong and teach our children their divine destiny.

Many guests were inspired by the self-less work of the second panelist, Natalie Larrison of the Syrian Emergency Task Force. She presented on “Raising the Next Generation of Peace.” A few years ago, a documentary on Syria called “Red Lines” hit her heart deeply, and she felt called by God to do something about it. She shared how 11 million Syrians, half of the population, have been displaced over the past eight and a half years, making it one of the worst devastations in our lifetime. Ms. Larrison helped in founding the Wisdom House Working Group that has built an underground kindergarten for orphans, as well as a women’s center. She works with students in Arkansas to provide Letters of Hope, videos and more for the families in Syria, and her students learn that no matter where they are, they are not helpless. They have the power and desire to make a difference, and for that she continues to have faith in the next generation.

Dr. Ayele E. Amavigan Labante, an African born activist, American citizen, social justice advocate, international social worker, international educator, coach and business consultant, was asked to share about self-care based on her experience as a social worker. In her presentation, she highlights how to invest in the mind through regulation and maintenance, the need to treat one’s body well through exercise and nutrition, and to be courageous in one’s actions through honesty and standing up for what one believes in.

The fourth and final panelist was WFWP USA Special Liaison Officer, Aimmee Kodachian, host of the “Empowering Humanity” TV Show, who has made it her life’s work to inspire and show others they can achieve anything they put their minds to. Not only did she speak during the conference, but she also promoted the festivities to her friends and contacts through social media and hosted interviews with President Selle on her TV show, resulting in an incredible reach to women leaders in Las Vegas. Mrs. Kodachian spoke on the Importance of feminine leadership and allowing feminine energy to shine. Instead of allowing unsupportive women, colleagues, or family members keeping you down, you have to remember to step up and shine.

The conference concluded with an inaugural declaration signing, followed by a musical performance of “Colors of the Wind” by Maya Jackson, who has received both a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree in Music. Her performance brought everyone to their feet in a standing ovation.

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