July 24, 2002 News & Features » Cover Story

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WillieDell 

activist

That passion had its roots in her childhood when she was a welfare child who used to sit on her front stoop and wait for the case worker. She remembers walking up and down the block with the social worker telling her about her neighbors' needs.

The passion to help remains.

In 1985, she began working for the poor in Haiti, a country whose enormous needs she feels have been neglected — the country has no free education, she points out, and there is 80 percent unemployment. Each year, she goes there and stays from December until March, helping at two organizations: St. Joseph's, an orphanage for boys, and the Missionaries of Charity in Port au Prince. This missionaries' hospital for children was founded by Mother Teresa's organization. Here, Dell dispenses medicine, and feeds and bathes babies ill with AIDS, tuberculosis or malnourishment. She is also a member of the Heifer Project that sends livestock and seeds to people in poor countries.

But politics are still present in her life. She now works for the national NAACP as coordinator of voter empowerment for the state of Virginia. Her goal in this job: to increase voting, train local leaders, to educate African-American voters in the issues, and to look at local laws that are passed and consider their effect on African-Americans.

Her political and charitable work have always been of one piece. She once told Style: "I walk with folks who walk in the wilderness." She is still walking that walk. — Rozanne Epps

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