Upon being named the first “CNN Hero” of 2010, Wynona Ward, the founder of Have Justice Will Travel, said:”I think it’s wonderful to get the exposure for our program, but it’s even more important that people realize domestic violence is an epidemic and so many people need help. It’s a society-wide problem, but we’re making progress in helping people to start their lives over.” View a short video about Wynona Ward’s personal story and exceptional advocacy here.
A survivor of childhood domestic abuse, Wynona Ward had worked for 15 years as a long-haul truck driver when she enrolled at Vermont Law School and worked on domestic violence cases in its legal clinic. In her third year of law school, with funding from a NAPIL Fellowship (now Equal Justice Works) and a grant from the Vermont Women’s Fund, she founded Have Justice Will Travel in order to provide legal and social services for victims of domestic violence in rural areas, as well as transportation to court hearings and social services appointments.
Another core component she developed is a Women in Transition program that, as noted here, “provides life skills knowledge such as balancing a checkbook, preparing a resume, furthering their education, obtaining study skills, gaining further parenting skills, learning to network, finding out how to access services, and assuring that they register to vote.”
Ms Magazine’s Uppity Women story about Wynona Ward and her work notes some of what women in domestic violence situations face in rural areas:
For women who live on the back roads, with unreliable cars, no telephones, and no money to hire attorneys, there’s often nowhere to turn. Wynona Ward is determined to change that.
In 1998, after graduating from Vermont Law School, Ward won a grant to start “Have Justice–Will Travel,” a law office on wheels. Today, in her four-wheel-drive Dodge Ram Charger, Ward visits battered women who are too isolated to get legal help and finds assistance for their abused children. The vehicle is outfitted with a CB radio, scanner, and cellular phone, as well as a computer and printer–all equipped with batteries, in the event a woman she is visiting has no electricity.
Wynona Ward hopes that her organization’s approach may serve as a successful working model for providing domestic violence services throughout rural America. A chart showing her working model is available here.