AFSC Women's Workshop EncouragesSolutions to Local Problems

The American Friends Service Committee is starting its third session of the CAFFE (Community Advocates for Family Empowerment) Women's Leadership Development Workshop. Chrissie Rizzo, area director of the Syracuse AFSC office, says CAFFE began the program in February 2006 to give women a chance to share their expertise. The AFSC's CAFFE project provides advocacy for low-income families and over the years, most of its visitors have been women.

The leadership program operates on the idea that these women make the best advocates for themselves. By networking and learning to access community resources, women can use their voices powerfully to improve their situations. Cherise Hunter, who graduated from the first eight-week session, said she would love for all women to attend. The connections she made will be with her forever. Some of the guest speakers in this first session included a representative from SUN (Syracuse United Neighbors), who spoke about how to save money and energy, and a parent advocate, whom Cherise later contacted to help advocate for her daughter at school. The speakers enabled the women to discuss difficulties they face, and gave them connections to people and groups who can help them change their communities.

The second session organized a panel discussion on "Quality of Life in Syracuse." The women chose and contacted the panelists, including Deputy Chief Frank Fowler of the Syracuse Police Department, Vanessa Bogan, then with the Syracuse Community Health Center, and Linda Lopez of the Salvation Army. After completing the course, one woman contacted the police to find out what could be done about persistent violence in her neighborhood, and started a neighborhood watch.

Women who have completed the program and women still attending form a supportive network and assist each other in pursuing solutions to the many challenges they face. When women advocate for themselves, and when they are informed about the resources in their communities, many family and individual crises are able to be solved. And once personal specific issues are dealt with, Chrissie Rizzo hopes that people can begin to question the systemic issues - such as, "Why does the welfare system keep failing people over and over? Why is there a crack house on the corner of my street? How come we don't have access to clean energy? And why are our troops still fighting in Iraq?"

For more information on the Women's Leadership Development Course or the AFSC, contact Chrissie Rizzo at 475-4822, or

Julie Norman