Shonali Choudhury Fund
Organized by: Kiara Alvarez
October 21, 2017
Update, November 2016: In 2015, your donations online and by mail totaled $5,379, making a new grant possible. This year, the Shonali Choudhury Fund's second grant was awarded to Casa Protegida Julia de Burgos, which is the oldest shelter established in Puerto Rico for victims of domestic violence. Our grant will help to implement an educational project for women in the shelter called "Aprendiendo juntas a través del arte". This program will offer dance therapy (based on the Puerto Rican bomba tradition), as well as water color painting and sculpture workshops, to women who have suffered domestic violence. The main objective of these workshops is to stimulate women to reconnect with their emotional and physical strength and reinstall hope and resilience through promoting self-expression and sharing of stories through art.
Please join us in supporting a new grant in 2017 by the Shonali Choudhury Fund, established within the Fundación Comunitaria de Puerto Rico/Puerto Rico Community Foundation by Shonali's family. It has been two years since Shonali died of brain cancer and the fund is a continuation of her work. The fund furthers Shonali's goals of advancing women's rights, health and education via grants to community-based organizations on her home island of Puerto Rico. In 2016, non-profit organizations were invited to submit detailed proposals for programs fitting the fund's mission and grant decisions were made by four reviewers led by Shonali's mother and the fund's principal representative, Barbara Southard Choudhury. We aim to open another grant cycle in 2017.
In Barbara's words, "Shonali was a brilliant researcher in the field of women’s reproductive health, a great teacher, and a tireless advocate for the elimination of health disparities. As a child studying in Saint John's School, Shonali wanted to be a doctor, and then during her years at Bard College she decided to explore the social problems that affect health, particularly the plight of disadvantaged populations. For her doctoral dissertation in public health at UCLA she studied the health of female sex workers in Tijuana, trying to open spaces for these women to be heard, while working in a city considered very dangerous, with no thought of personal safety. After graduation from the public health program at UCLA, she worked with the Hispanic Health Council and the Institute for Community Research in Hartford, and in the School of Nursing and Health Studies of the University of Miami.
In her memory, we have established the Shonali Choudhury Fund within the Puerto Rico Community Foundation (the leading community-based non-profit organization on the island). Puerto Rico, the land where Shonali grew up, is undergoing a major fiscal crisis, which will result in severe cuts of government funds to non-profits who serve disadvantaged groups. Under these circumstances it is vital to collect private funds to support community efforts to promote women’s health and education, and protect women from domestic violence, date rape and other forms of sexual aggression.
Our first grant was given in 2015 to Taller Salud (Health Workshop, www.tallersalud.com), a community organization that protects the well-being of women, particularly those who suffer economic deprivation. This grant supported a program of sexual education and prevention of sexual aggression designed for adolescents. Our plan is to award a new grant to an organization that has made its mark in improving the status of women every year. Please help us to achieve the goal of making a yearly donation to a deserving organization that has made an outstanding contribution to women’s rights. We count on your support in this effort to advance the causes that Shonali fought for."
Join us by donating here (all contributions will be sent to the fund, regardless of whether we meet our goal) or by mailing a donation directly to the fund at the address below. For direct mail contributions, please be sure to write "Shonali Choudhury Fund" on the "for" line of the check, make the check out to the Fundación Comunitaria de Puerto Rico, and include your name, address and contact information with the check.
Fundación Comunitaria de Puerto Rico
Shonali Choudhury Fund
PO Box 70362
San Juan, PR 00936-8362
Thank you for your support of the causes Shonali held dear and your contribution to continuing her legacy.
Yvette Valdés Smith and Kiara Alvarez
About us: We are childhood friends and St. John's school classmates of Shonali's. Despite our early plans on the first-grade playground to open a flower shop together when we grew up, all of us ended up pursuing careers related to health and education with underserved populations. Kiara has a PhD in school psychology from the University of Texas at Austin and is a researcher in health and mental health disparities, with a focus on the well-being of Latino/a youth and their families. Yvette holds master's degrees in early childhood and bilingual education from Sarah Lawrence College and City University of New York. She has been a public middle school teacher in New York City and is currently a stay at home mom.
Photos are courtesy of Shonali's family and include Shonali receiving the Elizabeth Blackwell Award for the best work on women's health in 2009 at UCLA, Shonali presenting her research, Shonali with friends in El Yunque, and Shonali with her beloved dog Sheena.