By: Kingsley East
“No matter where we’re at, we can still help someone less fortunate than ourselves.” Many people claim this statement, but few have twenty-eight years of imprisonment to stand behind it. Ndume Olatushani spent over half of his life in prison for a murder that he didn’t commit, yet he never saw himself as worse off than the people around him. Not only that, but Ndume spent his jail time putting this statement into action, as he reached out to help his fellow inmates and educate himself about the legal system.
A harsh environment and a series of bad choices growing up led Ndume into the wrong circumstances, which incarcerated him for a murder-robbery that occurred in Tennessee. Before his trial date, Ndume had never even stepped foot in Tennessee. While the legal system failed Ndume in many ways, it did not defeat him. Ndume believes, “Whatever fires we go through in life, if we get through to the other side, that adversity is not meant for us, it is meant for other people.”
Ndume used his time in jail to serve others and show people that we all have a responsibility to help those around us. Now, Ndume uses his experiences to reach out to men in jail and youths who are subject to follow his path into prison. He does this by volunteering at after school programs for local high schools and partnering with organizations like Project Return and the Martha O’Bryan Center.
Looking back, Ndume sees that his home life was a foundational place for his life of service, but his social environment failed to encourage him to rise above stereotypes and keep away from the pathway to jail. Now, Ndume strives to give children and incarcerated men hope. His story is proof that anything is possible, and any situation can be turned into an opportunity to care for others.
Pastor Marc Hewlett Stopping Human Trafficking
Like many in Music City, Marc Hewlett began as a musician. Yet he was also an alcoholic, drug addict, and general trainwreck. On one particular morning, he woke up underneath a bush in the pouring rain. After hitting his rock bottom, he turned his life around.
Today, his life includes ending human trafficking, a global industry of over $249 billion. Yet his approach is to Prevent, Reach, Love, and Rescue each man and woman, one at a time. He achieves his goal by volunteering with several, local organizations including the INSPIRE Freedom Project, INSPIRE Kids Nashville, and MDHA, Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency, of Nashville.
“It is in my heart. I love everybody – I don’t pick and choose.”
He’s “seen it all,” from those who’ve been on the streets for years to children unknowingly being recruited as future drug dealers. It is only “the tip of the iceberg,” he says. It starts when a drug dealer befriends a group of children and coaches them to sell candy bars “for their basketball team” in a parking lot. Each child who brings in $100 is fed a meal and given $20. This seemingly simple treat is a proven recruiting tool to find, train, and gain the trust of future drug dealers.
To reach both children and adults, he is one of two men and two women with the INSPIRE Freedom Project who go out two nights each week to the most highly trafficked areas around – including Murfreesboro Pike, West Trinity Lane, and Harding Place. The four visit those who are most at risk of being trafficked, homeless, or addicts and build relationships through love. They arrive armed – with hand-written cards, words of encouragement, open hearts, and a rose.
Despite local dangers in this worldwide issue, Marc is one man in Nashville tackling this overwhelming issue right at home – one person at a time.
“We are our brother’s keeper. What we do matters because it (how we treat others) does affect others,” says Lynn Ewing.
In Hebrew, “keeper” means more than “protector” or “defender.” Fortunately, Lynn exemplifies this every day. She lives out her definition of “protector” and “defender” through her volunteerism.
Lynn is a local mediator who uses her gift of communication to serve children throughout the community. She volunteers as a hands-on volunteer for Nashville Conflict Resolution Center and CASA Nashville as well as on the citizen volunteer Board of Directors for the Davidson County Foster Care Review. While each agency is separate and different, they share the same cause – assisting children in crisis.
“I want to share and ignite a passion and encourage people to volunteer!” she happily says.
As the daughter of Holocaust survivors, Felicia Anchor has come to understand that we live in a world where the random circumstances of our birth, location or class may have a significant influence on the outcome of our lives. Life isn’t always fair. As a result, she says, “I volunteer because I have no patience for injustice. I believe it is the obligation of those who have overcome challenges to work to level the playing field for all.”
Felicia has volunteered with numerous Nashville and national organizations in leadership positions to create a better life for all of us by using her strategic planning and advocacy skills to assess community needs, educate the greater community about the challenge and develop programs to meet those needs. “I have used my voice and organizational skills to develop networks and advocate for women, children and the memory of those lost in the Holocaust. My priority has been to help girls and women learn to empower themselves so they make positive, healthy, constructive decisions for themselves,” she says. “The purpose of my work with the Tennessee Holocaust Commission and the Anne Frank in the World Exhibit has been to give a face to the people who died in the Holocaust and to remember they were real people with real hopes and dreams who were subjected to unthinkable atrocities. We must never forget them.
“It’s easy to not speak up, easy to make excuses and tolerate different standards for ourselves and others,” Felicia added. “Everyone deserves justice and dignity. Providing justice and dignity for those who can’t speak for themselves has been my goal ever since I can remember. I hope that my work has been a catalyst in creating a better life for all of us.”
Local organizations benefiting from Felicia’s leadership include the Nashville Section of the National Council of Jewish Women, President of Crittenton Services, President of Jewish Family Services, Chair of the Metro Human Relations Commission, Chair of the Tennessee Holocaust Commission and Chair of the Anne Frank in the World Exhibit. She has also served on the Boards of the United Way of Middle Tennessee, National Conference of Community and Justice, Tennessee Women’s Economic Council Foundation and the Jewish Federation of Nashville. She was a founding member of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Nashville and helped create the “Children’s First” license plate for child abuse prevention. Felicia is also involved in several national and international organizations.
Personal Benefits of Volunteering
Felicia says that she has gained much more from volunteering than she has ever given. She credits her mentors who trained her with the skills to see herself as a leader, and has accepted that role with determination and humility. Her husband has even suggested that she has received a free MBA as a result of on-the-job training and experiences. “I feel that I am a dedicated stakeholder in working for the future success of our community,” Felicia added.
Doing Good is proud to recognize Felicia Anchor as November’s Volunteer of the Month. Megan McInnis, founder of Doing Good, says “Felicia’s talent and executive leadership skills are as important to the success of a non-profit agency as executive leadership skills are to the success of a large or small corporation.”
Join the Conversation: What are you doing to eliminate injustice, to add dignity and to make life better in and around Nashville? Please add your comments.
Blog Written by: Karen E. Williams, a volunteer with Doing Good, an organization dedicated to promoting volunteerism. The website is www.DoingGood.tv. Nashville’s Volunteer of the Month is a free program which educates and inspires others to volunteer by sharing stories of local volunteers through media partners.