Apr 10 2011
Human Rights Advocate
My passions are photography, documenting the lives of people, traveling and humanitarian work. I had an opportunity to combine all three on a first visit to Haiti in 1996.
I lived in St. Thomas, working on St. John as a wedding photographer in the Virgin Islands, for 16 years, to support my travels and humanitarian endeavors. I recently, relocated to Virginia, closer to Washington DC area. I can be more active in Human Rights Issues concerning women and children in war conflict areas. I am a member of the National Professional Photographers Associations, International Freelance Photographers Org., US Press Photographers Org. Nov. 18, 2009 I was inducted into the Freelance Photographers “Hall of Fame” for Humanitarian Achievements in Photography.
2001, I began a series of visits to the Dominican Republic. I have helped the Dominican women and children with food and shelter. I did volunteer work and made donations at a Haitian Refugee Camps in the Dominican Republic, where many live in extreme poverty with AIDS.
2002 I traveled to Cuba, again in September 2003 crossing the country from Santiago de Cuba to Havana. I helped several families that had very little. I went to the hospital in Havana and saw the children’s ward, with children dying of cancer. Due to the US embargo, these children were not able to get the medicine they needed.
2003 I began sponsoring four women through “Women for Women International”, I still sponsor 4 women a year today. I also sponsor four children thru “Keep a Child Alive”. I am also an active advocate for, Equality Now, Amnesty International, US Women without Borders, Enough Project, Anti Slavery International, Human Rights Campaign, United Nations High Commission of Refugees, and others.
2005, I volunteered at an orphanage in Thailand, that was also a monastery. I volunteered in the prison in Bangkok with women prisoners, who had children ages
2–6 years old living on the prison grounds. I then traveled to Dharamsala India, where the Tibetan government in exile resides. I worked with the Tibetan Women’s Association, teaching English, and worked with ex-political prisoners of Tibet in exile. I studied Buddhist Philosophy six days a week. I volunteered at a halfway house for Tibetan alcoholics and addicts out of rehab. I was very influential in getting Alcoholics Anonymous active for Tibetans, working with the Secretary, and translator to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I sponsor several monks and women in Dharamsala.
2006 & 2007 I went to Rwanda to meet the four women I sponsor in Rwanda. I saw a high number of women and children that could not read or write. I was asked to help Alcoholics Anonymous get started in Rwanda, as many people, trying to forget the genocide, were dying of this disease. Every weekday I went into different villages, with “Women for Women International.” I sat in on discussions about family law, personal hygiene, prevention of AIDS, how to deal with stress, and many other topics. On the weekends, I spent time in orphanages.
I took an orphan and put her into a boarding school, Denise is her name, she is my Rwandan daughter. Denise is now working as a secretary, for the Minister of Education for Rwanda, her life has changed dramatically.
Today I want to be a voice for the orphans, and the women of extreme poverty in our world, who have experienced atrocities from war and genocide we can’t imagine as Americans. I feel my purpose in life is to use my camera as a tool to elevate awareness to the living conditions I have witnessed. I have done all this on my income as a wedding photographer. It doesn’t seem fair that anyone should have to die of hunger from poverty, war, genocide, or AIDS.
I realize how fortunate I am to be an American woman, and I hope that other Americans will realize how fortunate they are. Yes, there is much to do in America, but my determination and passion is to be a voice for the orphans and women survivors of war and genocide that many of you will never meet or see. We can make a difference and change the world is my dream.
2007 back to Rwanda for 4 months. I fundraised for orphanages with a DVD I made of my previous trip in Dec. 2006 and Jan. 2007. I raised over $15,000. This made a substantial difference in the lives of many orphans in Rwanda. I became a member of RAUW (Rwanda Association of University Women). I have a son, Gadi, now in Rwanda. Gadi was orphaned at 2 years old during the genocide. He is 18 years old, and an honor student.
I have traveled Rwanda extensively. I went to many orphanages, many villages, and schools. I also helped Alcoholic’s Anonymous get started again. On my first trip it didn’t continue after I left. This time World Services in New York sent Big Books and literature. Today AA is active in Rwanda. Lives are being saved.
2007 I went to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) E. Congo. I went to meet 1 of the women I sponsor in Walunga. The Rebels were everywhere and fighting everyday. People’s faces were full of fear, confusion, and helplessness, many people were displaced, as Rebels raided their villages.
I went to 2 Trauma Centers one in Remera, at the Panzi Hospital where Doctor Denis Mukwege is the Director. In the Trauma Center women and girls that are survivors of sexual violence, were being treated and given hope. Dr. Denis Mukwege does hundreds of fistula operations yearly.
He is also trying to educate the men on the crime of sexual violence. In the Congo sexual violence is used as a weapon of war. I assisted with whatever was asked of me. Some days it was just holding a woman’s hand.
There was death and destruction everywhere I looked. You couldn’t escape it. These are the women and children I wants to be a voice for. My hopes and prays are that, one day someone will see and hear their desperate cries for help, through my photography, and documentaries of their stories.
I not only photograph the horrors these women and children have endured, but their achievements as survivors of war and genocide.
2009 & 2010 I returned to the E. Congo. I interviewed 17 women, having 6 ½ hours of footage. Made a 5 minute DVD that has brought a lot of awareness to many people, especially students at universities studying International Law, Gender Equality etc.
In my community, I am a supporter and member of the Community ACTION Coalition of Suffolk, Va. Founded by Robert E. Stephens. The mission is to take action that responses to local social challenges. Bringing Community Leaders, Business Executives, Non Profit Directors, and Philanthropists together.
2011 I met Olga Crupper founder of Human Relief Organization, she knew I had a purpose, and offered me the position to be International Advisor for The Human Relief Organization. I will travel to Guatemala this summer to document the Latin American women and their struggles. I will help in facilitating support groups as I have been successful in this field. I will be an advocate for the Rights of Women and Children worldwide.
Thank you and please do what you can to make a difference in the lives of others.
Human Relief Organization
46 Towler Dr.
Hampton, Va. 23666
(757) 838-1749 (HRO) www.humanrelief.net
(340) 513-3973 (USA cell)
(250) 0783605237 (Africa)
www.sonya-melescu.blogspot.com “Countries Unite” (2010)
www.virginislandsphoto.com (Wedding Website)
www.sonyamelescu.com (under construction)
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