Donor Spotlight: Rev. Joyce Myers- Brown
“I remember driving with companions down a road in rural Angola filled with fear—the ground was full of landmines,” said Rev. Joyce Myers- Brown, who served as a missionary in Angola before and during the country’s bloody civil war. “We thanked God when we arrived safely.”
Rev. Myers-Brown is all too familiar with the devastating impact landmines have on their victims—and on the psyche of those forced to live among hidden killers. Rev. Myers-Brown had been a missionary in Angola before the war, which began in 1975, and she saw on subsequent mission visits how landmines transformed the country.
Friends had been injured or killed by landmines, sites she hoped to visit were off-limits due to contamination, and posters hung everywhere warning people–especially children–of the dangers of landmines. The landmine pollution in Angola was so significant, that even after surviving an accident, there was fear one might be struck again.
“One young seminarian I met was missing a leg from a landmine and planned to work in rural areas once he finished his studies,” said Rev. Myers-Brown. “It was a courageous decision because he knew much of the rural areas had not been cleared of mines.”
Putting her passion into action, Rev. Myers-Brown has spent almost 20 years as a tireless anti-landmine advocate and mine-clearance fundraiser. For ten years, she chaired the Adopt-A-Minefield effort of the United Nations Association Atlanta Chapter, raising nearly $250,000 for this former mine clearance program.
When the program ended, Rev. Myers-Brown looked for a new landmine clearance organization to support. “I did some research and found Handicap International,” said Rev. Myers-Brown. “I respected how the organization works, its low administrative costs, and the number of countries where it works to clear landmines and explosive remnants of war.”
Since 2009, she has raised funds for Handicap International’s mine action program through her church’s alternative gift fair. After years of giving donations to other charities in lieu of holiday gifts for her grandchildren, Rev. Myers-Brown worked with Handicap International staff to create holiday tribute cards to encourage attendees at the gift fair to support Handicap International.
She tells people: “If you want to really make a difference in the world, buy a tribute card.” And to date, her efforts have brought in more than $10,000, an amount that equates to roughly 20,000 square yards of mine-free land.
But it isn’t just about the money. Rev. Myers-Brown sees education and advocacy as an essential part of her efforts. She teaches children in her church’s Sunday School about landmines and recruits their help in educating others. “Roughly every two hours, someone somewhere on the face of the earth steps on a landmine, and if it is a child there is a good chance they will die,” said Rev. Myers-Brown. “However, we can do something to stop this. This is the message we try to share with as many people as possible.”
On November 22, Rev. Myers- Brown will once again set up her table in Atlanta at the Central Congregational United Church of Christ’s alternative gift fair. And once again she will tell people about the need for a mine-free world and Handicap International’s work to reach that goal. “It makes me feel that I’m making some kind of difference in a world full of war. This is one unseen terrorist that we can combat without arms, without violence. Few people need another necktie or scarf, and this gift has the power to save lives.”