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New Executive Director for Open Arms!
We conducted a lengthy and careful search process which yielded candidates from around the community and the country. Prior to beginning this search, we identified the most important characteristics and skill sets we were looking for in a new leader to move Open Arms forward. Dila exemplifies all that we were looking for in our next leader for the organization. We are confident that she will be a great new partner for the Board, a creative and supportive leader for the staff and an engaging representative of Open Arms with all our community partners and donors.
Dila has worked in public health and advocacy locally and internationally, including time spent as a doula for Open Arms. She earned both a Master of Public Health and a Master of Social Work at the University of Washington, after starting her career as a health educator at 19. She went on to spend twelve years helping to build and manage innovative and complex programs designed to improve the health of vulnerable populations, including mothers, children, families, and people living with or affected by HIV. Most recently she led the Washington State Training Program at the Northwest AIDS Education and Training Center.
Dila has managed several large-scale federally funded interventions, but believes that small organizations, even when working with minimal resources, are still the most effective at creating lasting and transformational change. She has been a program manager, a grant maker, a board member and a trainer. However, Dila considers working with pregnant woman before birth, during birth, and supporting new mothers and infants to be the most rewarding work she has ever done.
I first witnessed the birth of a child as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Madagascar, one of the poorest countries in the world. When I returned to Seattle, I received a scholarship to work with women in need of culturally sensitive labor support. I had the honor of welcoming other babies here in well-equipped hospitals in Seattle, including my own.
The settings were literally worlds apart, but the power of that moment – when a woman becomes a mother and a new being full of hope and possibility is born – remains universal. As a longtime supporter of Open Arms, I can think of no other local organization that has been able to leverage public, private, and community will specifically to provide pregnant women with culturally appropriate support.
The mission of Open Arms resonates with me very deeply. It will be an honor to lead Open Arms in our next phase of development, as we continue to lift up women and children right at that moment when there is so much opportunity to help a child start on a loving and healthy path into the world.
We plan to introduce Dila to the Open Arms community over the late summer and into the fall, and she will be reaching out to many of you directly as well. We hope that you will take the opportunity to get to know her better and also that you will help her become familiar with all the partners and friends who make up our essential network of support for families in our community.
In the meantime, Michelle Sarju will continue as our Acting Executive Director until she returns to her role as Program Director at the beginning of August. The Board wishes to express our deep appreciation to all our staff for their dedicated work on behalf of Open Arms throughout this period of transition. We know Dila is fortunate to have partners like them to grow the impact of this organization.
More Exciting News at Open Arms!
Katie Silvett, will re-join Open Arms on July 16th as our Program Manager. Katie will be taking over for Yvette McKee who will be going to MultiCare Health System as a care coodinator. Katie completed her practicum at Open Arms and graduated this June with a Master in Social Work from the University of Washington. Katie is a full-spectrum doula and has five years of experience working with survivors of violence, most recently at the Northwest Network of Bi, Trans, Lesbian and Gay Survivors of Abuse. Katie knows Open Arms and our clients very well as she has worked closely with Yvette on our birth doula services team.
We would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to Yvette for more than 10 years of dedication to Open Arms and our clients. With Yvette’s leadership and hard work, Open Arms’ programs have experienced tremendous growth and many mothers have been able to access important prenatal, birth, and postpartum services. Yvette’s last day at Open Arms will be June 25th and Annie Moffat will be managing birth doula services until Katie joins us on July 16th.
Please join us in wishing Yvette the best on her new venture and in congratulating Katie on her new role at Open Arms!
Congratulations Margarita Celis!
Margarita, our Community-based Outreach Doula for the Spanish-speaking community in South King County, was recently selected by Health Connect One to be one of two organizational representatives to the U. S. Breastfeeding Committee (USBC). The USBC is a multisectoral national breastfeeding committee comprised of representatives from government departments, non-governmental organizations, and health professional associations. Its mission is to drive collaborative efforts for policy and practices that create a landscape of breastfeeding support across the United States.
Read more here.
Margarita will travel to Washington, D.C. this August and in January 2016 to represent Community Health Workers/Providers, connect with other advocates in the field, and share her insights. One of the requirements is that Margarita has to blog–so stay tuned!
Every new year brings with it new opportunities and changes, and this is the case for Open Arms in 2015. Sheila Capestany, the Executive Director of Open Arms since 2007 and a founding mother of the organization, stepped down from her position in January. She is transitioning leadership slowly over the next few months and will remain an active supporter of Open Arms. The Open Arms Board has already begun planning for the transition ahead. Michelle Sarju is serving as Acting Executive Director during the transition period. Michelle has been with Open Arms since 2007 and has been instrumental in developing and growing our programs as well as the agency as a whole. She is a well-respected leader in our community and has represented the organization’s work locally, nationally and internationally. The Board has formed a Search Committee and is already beginning the work of identifying the traits we will look for in our next leader. Throughout our search we will be guided by the values that have always been and will continue to be at the heart of Open Arms: a strong commitment to community, social justice and equity work, along with a deep belief in the dignity and potential of every human being.
Open Arms Outreach Doula Program First in Nation to Receive Accreditation
We are proud to announce that the Open Arms Perinatal Services Outreach Doula Program has received national accreditation from HealthConnect One. Our Outreach Doula Program—which has offered strong support in the Somali and Latina communities in Seattle since 2008—is the first community doula program in the nation to achieve accreditation. National accreditation validates our community-centered approach to providing services to women and families. It affirms the excellence and quality of our program.
For more information, see our In the News page.