One of our mottos here at Aunt Bertha is a quote by Margaret Mead:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
In that spirit and in honor of the New Year, we’re highlighting six of our direct service providers’ powerful missions and showcasing how they were there for their communities in 2017. These are the people whose work fuels ours, and we hope their stories inspire you as we begin 2018 with this special series.
“Overall, our biggest wins are our client victories — numerous cases where the work of Her Justice, our network of volunteer lawyers, and the resilience of our clients have resulted in positive outcomes and life altering consequences for the women we serve.” —Sharon Rainey, Her Justice (New York City, NY)
In the current political climate, the threat of deportation of undocumented immigrants has spread panic in vulnerable communities. Many immigrants are afraid to reach out for help or engage with the courts or law enforcement. Her Justice stands with women living in poverty in New York City by recruiting and mentoring volunteer lawyers to provide free legal help and by addressing individual and systemic legal barriers. Her Justice fills a unique gap in NYC — providing legal assistance to women living in poverty facing high-stakes legal needs but cannot get help elsewhere.
We serve women in all five boroughs in NYC, with the majority of our clients residing in Queens. Brooklyn is a close second. “More than one out of every four Her Justice clients cannot access the legal system without an interpreter,” said Rainey. Sixty four percent of Her Justice clients are mothers and 80% are survivors of domestic violence.
In 2017, their goal could be summed up simply: Expand access to the legal system in family, matrimonial, and immigration matters for more women living in poverty in NYC. Accomplishing this, however, was no simple task. To reach more women in need, Her Justice ) relaunched their live Legal Help Line; 2) increased outreach into communities to provide information on immigrant rights under the Trump administration; 3) celebrated the one-year anniversary of their Urgent Legal Care Project, where women with high-stakes legal needs received immediate representation; and 4) launched an innovative medical-legal partnership with NYU Langone Hospital to help medical professionals identify victims of intimate partner violence.
All in all, nearly 8,000 women and children living in poverty received free legal help thanks to Her Justice. The organization’s Pro Bono First model, where volunteer attorneys are trained and mentored to provide free legal help in family, matrimonial, and immigration matters to clients efficiently “brings the power of the private bar to serve some of the City’s most vulnerable women and children,” said Rainey.
How You Can Help
By Emily Storozuk, Community Engagement Manager