Text by Katharyn Tuten-Puckett, EdS
The month of March is a time to promote the achievements and history of women. Prior to the 1970's women's history was an unknown topic to the general public and to school curriculums in the United States. In 1978, a county task force on women in California initiated a successful "Women's History Week.". Women and women's groups around the country began to support Women's History Week celebrations and by 1981 a Congressional Resolution declared a National Women's History Week. In 1987, the National Women's History Project successfully petitioned Congress to expand the celebration to the entire month of March. Since that time, the National Women's History Resolution has been approved with bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.
"Recognizing the achievements of women in all facets of life - community, government, science, literature, art, sports, medicine, education, law - has a huge impact on the development of self respect and new opportunities for girls and young women." (National Women's History Project http://www.nwhp.org))
Women and girls draw inspiration and strength when they learn about other women and the accomplishments they have made as well as the challenges that they have faced. Everyone needs role models. When we are able to recognize the accomplishments of women in our community, it leads to higher self-esteem among other females and greater respect by males.
The CNMI is home to women from all over the world. . Women of every race, class and ethnic background have made contributions to the growth and strength of the CNMI. Every woman who has ever lived in the CNMI has played a critical role in the economic, cultural and social development of our island home. This month we recognize all of their contributions.
The following are just a few of the women who have brought their life experiences to contribute to the betterment of the CNMI and its people.
Ruth Aldan Coleman
Supporting the Veterans
Ruth Coleman is the Executive Officer of the CNMI Office of Veteran and Military Affairs located on Capital Hill, Saipan. Ruth has numerous duties including providing benefits and health assistance to all CNMI veterans and their dependants. In addition, she is the official representative of the Governor to liaison between federal and local military affairs; meets U.S. military ships for port calls where she meets and greets the captain, provides island briefings, schedules office calls with government officials an arranges for community projects upon request. Ruth also oversees funerals at the Veterans' Cemetery in her role as the CNMI Veterans Cemetery Representative and Director.
A tireless, enthusiastic, and well-organized contributor, Ruth provided extensive assistance to planning the 60 Commemoration of WWII, including the military logistics. She was a member of the Content Committee for the Visitors' Center at the American Memorial Park and was instrumental in the successful completion of the Veterans' Cemetery in Marpi on Saipan.
Her Chamorro mother and mainland American father raised Ruth on Saipan, her birthplace. Ruth joined the U.S. Air Force in 1978. During her military career, she was able to go to school part-time and received a diploma in accounting, an AA in Metallurgy and an AA in Instructor Technology.
Ruth was stationed in the Netherlands for ten years where she was the Chief of an Air Force Nondestructive Inspection Laboratory. She was able to travel around Europe on temporary duty and vacation time. During Operation Just Cause, Ruth was stationed in Panama where she was Deputy Chief of a Nondestructive Inspection Laboratory and performed peace time duties.
When she returned to the U.S., Ruth was assigned to an Air Force Education and Training Command at Shepherd Air Force Base in Texas. She was a student training advisor and later became a military training manager. Ruth was then assigned to Moody Air Force Base in Georgia as the Chief Officer of a Nondestructive Inspection Laboratory. She was sent to Kuwait on two separate missions in support of Operation Desert Storm war efforts.
In 1998, Ruth retired from the Air Force. She worked for four years as a correctional officer at a maximum security prison in Georgia before returning to the CNMI. Her husband also retired from the Air Force. They have three children (two sons currently in the armed forces) and four grandchildren.
Ruth believes that the military was very good to her. It provided her with an education, travel and varied work experiences. "Through all of that, I have become a better person." I brought my experiences back home in order to give back to the community."
Regula Antonia Gutzwiller-Malakút Traveling Educator
Regula currently teaches four classes at Kagman High School: two periods of Special Education, a period of Literature, and one period of Art. She also volunteers her talents and time on Saturdays to offer classes to B'ahai youth. Regula brought a variety of interesting work and travel experiences to her Saipan students when she moved to the CNMI.
Born and raised in Basel, Switzerland, Regula moved to Massachusetts in the U.S. when she was 29 to attend graduate school majoring in Expressive Therapies. She worked in mental health in Albuquerque, New Mexico where she met and married her husband. The couple moved to Switzerland where their son was born. Two years later, they volunteered to work in Australia before moving to China. Regula taught English and German for over five years in Inner Mongolia. She then taught school in a community near Bombay, India. After years of cold climates and large populations, Regula, her husband and two children were drawn to the tropics. They moved to Saipan in 2007.
Juanita Seman Malone "Eileghibwe"
Juanita "Lulu" Malone has been an advocate for people and families with extraordinary challenges for most of her adult life. Her contributions to individuals and groups have been innumerable and have helped to make the CNMI a better place to live for people with disabilities.
Born and raised on Guam, Lulu is the daughter of a Carolinian mother and a Chamolinian/Irish father. Lulu first moved to Saipan in 1979 and stayed for two years. She moved back to Saipan in 1984 and has lived here ever since. Her second child was born with tuberous scierosis, a genetic disorder that also affects her two youngest children. Having children with disabilities has provided Lulu with a life focused on families and people with special needs.
From 1984-1990, Lulu worked with the P&A Program at Catholic Social Services; from 1990-1997, the CNMI Developmental Disabilities Council; 1997-2004, Grace Christian Academy. During the 1990's, she also volunteered at Touched by Grace Girls' Home and the Gumata Shelter, now known as Guma Esperanza Domestic Violence Shelter. She was also a part-time parent trainer for the Ayuda Network.
Lulu returned to P&A, now NMPASI, as Deputy Director in 2004 and Executive Director in 2006. In her position, she puts her philosophies into action. She believes that ALL men and women are created equal, both able-bodied and those with challenges. ALL have equal opportunities to contribute to the world. Lulu tells her children and those around her, "If it needs to be improved, start with your self!"
Jacqueline A Nicole-Sablan
Fulfilling a Dream to Travel
When you check-in at Triage at the Commonwealth Health Center, you will often be greeted cheerfully by Jacqueline Nicole-Sablan, RN. Jacqueline was born, raised and educated in Paisley, Scotland. She received her nursing degrees in Psychiatric Nursing and General Nursing form Paisley's Royal College of Nursing. Following three years as an Orthopedic Nurse, she followed her dream to "travel and see the world."
When she was only 24, Jacqueline took a job in Saudi Arabia where she worked for 15 years. As head VIP Nurse and Unit Manager, Jacqueline worked with the Royal Family and many famous Saudis. The unit was culturally diverse and her colleagues came from Russia, Egypt, the Netherlands, England, Sweden and the Philippines. Jacqueline loved the work and the respect that she was given. In addition to her other duties, Jacqueline provided staff development and organized the first Saudi International Nurse's Day.
With her goal to "travel the world," Jacqueline visited 46 countries. An avid diver, she has seen the underwater worlds of the Maldives, Comoros, Saudi Arabia and the Egyptian Red Sea. Jacqueline met her Chamorro husband while diving. He had retired from the Air Force and was working at bases in Saudi Arabia. The two married in Comores.
Although her husband hadn't been to Saipan in over twenty years, the two decided to relocate to his family home and have lived here for seven years. Jacqueline worked as a surgical nurse at CHC before spending the last year in Triage. Her work and travel experiences have provided Jacqueline with a diverse medical background which benefits the community, including medical knowledge about tropical diseases and bird flu.
Jacqueline recently completed a seminar on Tobacco Cessation which was sponsored and presented by the American Cancer Society. She plans on utilizing these skills to educate people in the CNMI. During the Seminar, she realized the importance of people recognizing and follow their passion. Her passion is her 22 cats and 3 dogs. To follow her passion, Jacqueline plans on becoming involved with animal welfare on Saipan.
Marja Messo Onni
Protecting the Environment
Protecting the birds in the CNMI from brown tree snakes is vitally important to Marja Onni, and she believes it has been her biggest contribution to the Commonwealth. Marja moved to Saipan in 1996 and was contracted by the CNMI Department of Natural Resources, Division of Fish and Wildlife to train dogs to indicate brown tree snakes from cargo coming from Guam. In 2004, Marja began working with the agency full-time. Prior to Marja's arrival, there were no snake indicator dogs on Saipan. During the 11 years Marja has been on Saipan, she has trained and worked with numerous dogs including one for Tinian. Next year, she will train a snake indicator dog for Rota.
Marja has spent the past 31 years training work dogs. She worked as a trainer in Atlanta, Georgia from 1976-1991 then moved to Africa. For almost two years, Marja worked at a large government dog school in Pretoria, South Africa. Dogs were trained as police dogs, drug dogs and sheep dogs that helped farmers to control sheep thieves. Marja brought her skills to Micronesia when she left South Africa. Before moving to Saipan, she trained drug dogs in American Samoa for two years, and spent two months on both Palau and Pohnpei training drug dogs.
Born and raised in Kalanti, Finland, Marja appreciates the weather and natural beauty of her island home. She believes that Saipan is a unique place, a beautiful island and that its natural beauty and wildlife need to be protected. Attempting to keep brown tree snakes off the island takes long, irregular hours but Marja finds the work to be very rewarding. Marja has two adult sons and a daughter in high school.
Ellen J. Rayphand
Supporting Children's Potential
Ellen Rayphand was born on Weno, Chuuk to a mainland American mother and a Chuukese father. She lived on the islands of Weno and Lukanor until she was fourteen. Then she had the opportunity to live on Saipan for one year and in the state of Virginia for two years. She also spent time in Hawaii.
During the eleven years that Ellen has lived on Saipan, she has had numerous accomplishments. She completed her AS and BS degrees at Northern Marianas College and is currently completing her master' degree. Ellen has taught third grade for the past four years. In addition, she has provided after school reading and art classes for elementary school students. She enjoys writing about her youth in Chuuk and recently published an article about one of her childhood experiences.
Valuing her Chuukese culture, Ellen speaks Chuukese with her children and teaches them to be proud of their heritage. In the future, she would like to return to Chuuk to assist with the development of the people there, especially the children.
Ellen believes that all children can learn and that it is up to the adults around children to help to maximize the potential of teach child. As a parent of four children, Ellen knows the importance of parents and the extended family in nourishing both the physical and the intellect of children. As a teacher, she believes it is her job to support each child in her classroom to help them to reach their educational best.
Rose Sugut Smith
Sharing with the Less Fortunate
Rose Smith is the founder and director of Empty Vessel Ministry, a nonprofit, interdenominational organization formed in 2003. Empty Vessel helps people living in villages in Kenya in Western Africa. The organization provides numerous orphans and street children with housing, food, clothing, school and health care; widows and single women are given small loans to start small businesses; villages are given assistance to help build churches.
Growing up in a Christian family in Western Kenya, Rose was taught about sharing both inside and outside of her family. Her father, a farmer, his two wives and 14 children lived in one house along with other family members - a total of 25 people. When they were inside, the males spent their time in one room and the females spent their time in the kitchen. In their culture, the women belong to the kitchen and they spend time there when they aren't outside doing chores. At night, her mothers and the other females slept on the kitchen floor on cow hides with blankets made from old clothes. The village did not have running water or electricity and children spent their time helping their parents when they weren't in school.
In the village community where Rose grew up, people depend on one another and sharing is a way of life. Rose learned from her father to give to the less fortunate. As a child, her family felt privileged to be able to help others because they had land, corn and cows. As she grew up, Rose vowed to live the lesson her father had taught her.
An elder brother assisted Rose with high school expenses. Her brother also help Rose to get her first job working at UNICEF where she received donations from different organizations and oversaw the airport loading and unloading of donated goods to go to Sudan. As soon as she started working, Rose tithed her salary to the church that her father helped to start in her village. Rose worked for UNICEF for three years.
Rose then worked for World Vision for four years. She was in charge of coordinating the movement of passengers and cargo from Nairobi, Lokichoggio to Sudan. She also coordinated security evacuations from Sudan during fighting. In Sudan, Rose distributed food and provided logistics and commodity training to the Sudanese with the goal of providing opportunities and empowering local people. Rose met her husband in Sudan where he was working with World Vision as a physician. They married in 1999 and had weddings in both Kenya and Seattle.
When Rose moved to Seattle, she was overwhelmed by the enormous wealth of the United States. "In America, even on Saipan, everything a person desires is there, especially to people from third world countries." She compared the way people live in the U.S. to the way that most people in rural Kenya live - at a subsistence level without jobs and no market for their produce. Rose, with the support of her husband, became determined help with the desperate needs of Kenya.
Rose believes that she is the most privileged person in her village. Although she lives a great distance from Kenya, her heart is always there. Her husband is willing to be part of that which is most important to Rose, sharing their blessings with others. Together, they have made a difference in numerous lives with Empty Vessel Ministry projects. Rose believes that the churches they have helped to build are one of the most important accomplishments because people's lives are changed.
In addition to outreach to Kenya, Rose receives donations on Saipan which are used to assist those in need in our local community. For more information about Empty Vessel Ministry Foundation email firstname.lastname@example.org. or phone (670) 322-0157.
Marja Lee Czechowicz Taitano
A Legacy of Service
In 1972, Marja Lee was taking classes in English as a Second Language at the University of Hawaii, Manoa. She was invited to Saipan to train Trust Territory teachers to teach English. Marja Lee accepted the invitation and arrived on Saipan in December, 1972. She has been making contributions to the CNMI ever since.
Marja Lee's call to public service came about following a difficult childhood and coming in contact with people who made a difference in her life. Those people included her parents who instilled the ethics of hard work, service, helpfulness, and befriending others. She is also thankful to the Salvation Army for experiences they provided to her as a child.
Marja Lee was born of Polish parents who were in a labor camp near Hanover in Nazi, Germany. Her early years were spent in East German refugee camps with her parents and siblings. It was a difficult time and her two-year old brother died in a camp from lack of medical attention. When Marja Lee was nine years old, her family immigrated to the United States with only the clothes on their backs and Marja Lee's doll.
Growing up poor in a rough immigrant neighborhood in upstate New York was filled with hardships. Her parents didn't speak English, when her father was only 28 he had an accident at work and became disabled. Her mother became the major breadwinner and worked three jobs to keep the family together. Marja Lee and her brothers held a variety of jobs including paper routes, yard maintenance and snow shoveling in the winter months to help the family. Marja Lee's parents were determined that they would not seek government assistance and taught their children that they were responsible to one another. Her parents also taught their children that love, respect and social responsibility were paramount in keeping the family together.
The neighborhood where she grew up was rough and Marja Lee had to learn to defend herself at an early age. She believes her life could gone a very different direction except for her family and other positive influences. The Salvation Army made a big difference to her with their center where she could go after school and on Saturdays for snacks and a safe place to study and play. The Salvation Army also sponsored a summer camp for disadvantaged children near Lake Ontario on the St. Lawrence River. Marja Lee's first paid job was between ninth and tenth grade as a junior counselor at the camp. There she learned responsibility and the spirit of helping others.
During the 35 years that Marja Lee has lived in the CNMI (Saipan 1972-77, Rota 1977-2007), she has used her early lessons to make innumerable contributions to students, to education and to the community. Her twelve years as Rota's member on the CNMI Board of Education were filled with accomplishments.
Marja Lee believes that "while some changes in a person's life can be very painful and difficult, they can provide positive direction both personally and professionally." Her greatest experience while living in the CNMI has been "the care, love and trust that our people have extended to me as a member of the community." Marja Lee is both proud and honored to have been able to work with the children of the CNMI. She says that her daughters and the children of the CNMI are her legacy.
Nursing the World's Poor
An RN and nursing instructor who has worked in 35 countries, Cyndy Tice brought a wealth of experiences to the Northern Marianas College Nursing Program when she moved here in August, 1997.
Ms. Tice was born in Los Angeles, California. She worked in San Francisco for several years after she earned her nursing degree. When she decided to join the Peace Corps, Cyndy was assigned to a school of nursing in Bangladesh where she was an instructor in the pediatric clinic. Upon her return to the U.S., Cyndy returned to school and earned her master's degree in nursing at Wayne State University, Detroit. She then taught at Arizona State University in the Nursing School where she was able to apply the knowledge that she had received from her master's program to help with curriculum revisions.
Following her need to work with underdeveloped countries, Cyndy worked for CARE, a nonprofit, non-government, relief and development agency for 16 years. She found work interesting and rewarding as she traveled to Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Uganda, and Sudan developing women's programs. Her duties included immunizations, child growth monitoring, and women's income generation, including small loan programs. Cyndy returned to Bangladesh with WHO (World Health Organization) where she continued her work with women and income generating groups. Cyndy enjoyed the people, the work the impact of the projects on the lives of the people.
Working for Project HOPE, Cyndy helped pediatric nurses in Kazakstan to update their knowledge and skills. As a member of the International Medical Corps, she spent two years in Sudan supervising and supporting local nurses who ran village clinics in areas that were under the control of rebel forces.
With her diversity of work experiences in differing environments around the world, Cyndy had never worked with island populations so she accepted a position with NMC. During her years at the college, Cyndy has worked with approximately 200 nursing students. She has also been active in the community with the CNMI Girl Scouts and teaching CPR classes for the American Red Cross.
Cyndy Tice is glad she became a professional nurse and appreciates the many opportunities that nursing has provided her. She has been able to travel the world "working with the poorest of the poor in underdeveloped countries." She has also been able to train young people to go into the nursing profession. Her life work has provided Cyndy Tice with innumerable rewards as she thinks of all of the people she has had the privilege to meet and to work with.
Teny Topalian, PhD
A Passion to Preserve Coral Reefs
2008 is the International Year of the Coral Reef and Dr. Teny Topalian would like people to think about the importance of coral reefs on a world-wide basis. Dr. Topalian is the Coral Reef Ecologist for the Pacific Islands Regional Office of NOAA (National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration). Her office is located at Fish and Wildlife, Lower Base, Saipan.
Pursuing her dream to become a university professor, Teny Topalian received a PhD from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William and Mary in 1986.
She went on to teach at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina and California State University, Long Beach. It was while teaching college in Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean in 1986 that she had fallen in love with coral reef ecosystems. She asked, "How can anything so beautiful be destroyed by humans?" At that point, Dr. Topalian developed her goal to protect and save the coral reef ecosystems of the world. She also realized that in order to protect coral reefs, particularly in developing countries, she had to go where the reefs are located.
Working as the coordinator for the Public Marine Education Program at the University of the South Pacific (USP) in Suva, Fiji, Dr. Topalian initiated and implemented a Marine Education program for the 15 island nations affiliated with USP. She found it an incredible experience being able to go to all of those islands and meeting with the Ministers of Environment and Education, visiting with schools and villages, and meeting with the traditional chiefs.
Dr. Topalian developed the Marine Science Program at the College of Micronesia in Pohnpei, Federated State of Micronesia (FSM). The program began with 5 students and had 50 by the time she left. While she was there, she also coordinated the 1997 Pacific Year of the Coral Reef campaign.
While teaching Marine Science at the University of Belize, Dr. Topalian was able to study the second largest barrier reef in the world. She was appointed Secretary General for the Belize National Commission for UNESCO. In that capacity, she was a liaison with the Paris headquarters working on education, scientific and cultural programs.
In Tanzania, East Africa, Dr. Topalian worked with the (WWW) World Wildlife Fund's East African EcoRegion Project to develop and implement a marine conservation plan for the region.
The coral reefs in the CNMI attracted Dr. Topalian to move to Saipan. "As a marine scientist, it is exciting to work near the Marianas Trench." Dr. Topalian has been very active in the CNMI. She has developed and printed resource materials (posters, brochures, calendars); conducted fishing forms for fishermen; provided workshops for teachers and students on marine traditional practices; talked about coral reef preservation at schools; conducted a radio program "Voice of the Pacific Ocean"; and taught Biology and Mathematics at Northern Marianas College. Dr. Topalian is also involved in regional projects such as CAP (Conservation Action Planning) and the Micronesian Challenge.
Each place that she has worked or visited has provided unique opportunities for Dr. Topalian which has given her a global perspective on coral reef ecosystems and the human impact on them. Throughout her career, Dr. Topalian has been passionate about preserving both marine biodiversity and cultural diversity. Reviewing her years working with coral reef ecosystems, Dr. Topalian is able to see the impact and consequences of her work. She is particularly proud of being part of two delegations: the 1992 Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Dr. Topalian has contributed enormously to protecting the coral reefs of the world through education, resource managements and research but she is not finished...Dr. Topalian would like to work with the United Nations in the area of coral reef conservation on a global basis.
Angelina Grijalva Yobech
Living a Life of Purpose
The first thing you notice about Angelina Yobech is the aura of gentleness and peace that surrounds her.
Angelina is a second generation Mexican-American born in Los Angeles, California. When she was nineteen, she knew she wanted to do something useful with her life. She was debating about going to college full-time when a friend gave her information about Youth with a Mission. On her 20th birthday, Angelina joined Youth with a Mission for a short training session in Hawaii. At that time, she thought she would be involved with the program for six months. Today, Angelina realizes that Youth with a Mission has become a lifelong commitment.
Her commitment to Youth with a Mission has taken Angelina to Hawaii, Guam, Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, Palau, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, Indonesia and the Philippines. She has received intensive training in Counseling, Mentoring and Leadership and has engaged in outreaches throughout the Pacific and Asia region.
Angelina, her husband and three children have been based on Saipan since 1997. Their focus is championing children and young people. They believe in providing practical, significant service to the community.
A full-time Youth with a Mission volunteer, Angelina teaches a preschool class two mornings a week in Garapan with 12-16 students. She also assists a monthly club for youngsters twelve and under, facilitates youth camps and retreats, hosts visiting teams, and is a volunteer trainer with the Motheread literacy program. Angelina is currently attending Northern Marianas College with the goal of becoming a junior high school teacher.