VOA Today: Diversity Committee Corner
Our VOA Mid-States Diversity Committee is led by Jessica Martinez who works as a Service Coordinator in our Florence, KY office. They are planning to start sharing fun background information with us about traditions and holidays here on VOA Today.
Diversity Committee Mission Statement
Volunteers of America Mid States is dedicated to creating an inclusive workplace that promotes and values diversity. We approach establishing a diverse working environment fearlessly and celebrate our differences. We are comfortable being authentic and embracing our differences. We know that by being mindful of our differences; whether it is age, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical and mental ability, ethnicity, religious belief and perspectives, we are a better agency. We realize and take seriously that we need to be leaders in promoting understanding, acceptance and compassion when it comes to inclusion not just in our agency, but also the communities we serve.
June is Gay Pride Month and throughout the month we will be sharing articles from our staff and friends who are part of the LGBTQ community. In their articles they will be sharing what it means to them to be YOU-niquely You.
Help us celebrate their pride by reading their stories in our YOU-niquely You series.
This is HIV/AIDS Outreach Prevention Specialist, Rhonda Cowan's Story:
Rhonda Cowan is a beautiful African American woman who is originally from Monticello, Kentucky. She currently lives in Louisville and works for Volunteers of America as a HIV/AIDS Outreach Prevention Specialist. She is on the board of the Kentucky AIDS Alliance (KAA) and is an Usher at her church, Saint John Missionary Baptist Church.
When Rhonda was 6 years-old, she would fantasize about being like all the other little girls in her class at school. She would look in the mirror and wonder why she was not a girl. Her journey has been difficult. She came out in the 70s in her small hometown-- things did not go so well. It has taken her a long time to be able to love herself and realize her self-worth. Being a transgender woman has come with adversity. Since she came out with her identity, Rhonda has lost a lot of her family and friends-- they would not have anything to do with her. She knew that she was still the same person and couldn't understand why they could not accept and love her the same as they always did. “In the 21st century I find that the younger generation is more accepting of transgender folks. I try not to let peoples’ close mindedness bother me.”
Rhonda shines a light on the many hardships that come with being a part of the LGBT community-- the lack of acceptance from family, homelessness, addiction issues, being at high risk for HIV and the decimation for jobs are all things that the LGBT community and their allies are forced to battle. They struggle to combat the common misconceptions that people in the LGBT community are promiscuous and that they should not be parents because a child raised within the community is harmful to their early development. These stigmas prevent society from seeing transgender individuals as humans. They have the same wants and needs as everyone else. Rhonda wants society to be more cohesive and not tear each other down.
“I do not want to be judged by what I am, but for who I am on the inside. A loving God fearing person who tries to treat people like I want to be treated myself.”