Naomi Tutu, the daughter of South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, visited the Twin City last week to help honor some of the city’s most prominent female community servants.
Tutu, an internationally known speaker and consultant for two human rights organizations, keynoted the the YWCA’s annual Women of Vision Awards Luncheon last Thursday at Winston-Salem State University’s Anderson Center.
Her theme, “What Gift Do You Bring?,” urged everyone to be all that they can be.
“I think for many of us, particularly us women, it is a question that we need to ask ourselves over and over because we are so good at recognizing the gifts of others oftentimes and so bad at recognizing that we ourselves bring tremendous gifts to our communities,” she said. “There is a gift in you. It is a gift that you have been given and have been asked to nurture and share with the world.”
Tutu, a resident of Nashville, Tenn., urged the audience to focus on efforts they could be passionate about.
“The gift that we are given is most often the thing that gives you most joy when you are doing it,” Tutu said. “It doesn’t feel like work … it feels like what you were brought on this planet to do.”
In a reverent address peppered with tidbits of humor and wisdom, the mother of three drew from Gregory Norbet’s poem, “There is a Pearl of Great Price” to illustrate the importance of each human being’s contributions to the world. She told the group not to shy away from obstacles they may encounter.
“Challenges come into our lives whether we are looking for them or not. It is often in those times of challenge that we are able to show our real gifts,” Tutu said. “…We need your gift and we need you to nurture the gift and yourself. I ask you to always remember there is ‘a pearl of great price within you.’”
Tutu reminded the women present to make their own health and well being a priority.
“As women … one of the things we do so well is care for others and forget to care about ourselves, but how can you nurture others if you cannot honor and nurture that gift yourselves?” she questioned. “If we want to be role models for those who are coming after us, it is important that we teach them how to care for themselves.”
Atkins Academic and Technology High School senior Tierra Wallace was the youngest of seven Women of Vision honored. Wallace, the recipient of the Student Leadership Award, has lent her support to a variety of community-driven efforts over the course of her high school career, including volunteering at the Bethesda Center, Samaritan Ministries, the YWCA Prom Give Away and as a Young Life leader.
“Before you can go into the world and make a difference in their lives, you have to start with home first,” surmised Wallace, the oldest of four children.
Wallace has also worked for the past three summers at the YWCA Best Choice Center, and volunteers weekly at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
“My favorite community service effort is definitely (volunteering at) Baptist Hospital,” said the aspiring physical therapist. “I’ve always wanted to be in the medical field. Not only does that give me inspiration and motivation … but it also gives me an opportunity to give back.”
Wallace, who is headed to UNCG next year, is also active in a variety of initiatives at her school. She says she often tells her peers about the value of community service work.
“Not only does it look good on your college application, but it helps you as a person,” she said. “…I know people have given to me. That’s why I’m here right now.”
YWCA CEO Florence Corpening was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Corpening, who will retire June 8, listed the creation of the Gateway Y among her crowning achievements. She thanked her staff and supporters for making her more than 17 years at the YW’s helm a success.
“I’ve been honored in my years to have some great people to work with,” she said. “I want to congratulate every single one of our community pearls. Thank you for the work that you do, thank you for being the gift-givers that you are. I am truly blessed to be a part of this community and share the stage with you.”
Though she is excited about the future, Corpening said leaving behind an organization she loves so deeply was bittersweet.
“It’s kind of like a double-edged sword. I’m really glad … but oh gosh, it’s all over,” she declared. “It’s really been a great journey – I have no regrets.”
Corpening, who was honored with a standing ovation, reflected the praise back unto the audience.
“My many years of service to this community has been my pleasure,” she declared. “I have been rewarded much more than I have given.”
Middle school teacher Iris Mudd; Prodigals Community Development Director Sally Dudley Harper; community volunteer Cheryl Lindsay; City Council Member Denise “DD” Adams; and Dr. Mary Lou Voytko, director of the Women’s Health Center of Excellence for Research, Leadership and Education (WHCOE) at Wake Forest School of Medicine, were also honored with 2012 Women of Vision Awards.