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The Family at the Backbone of The Advocates: Celebrating Twenty-Six Years of Volunteering

Date: June 16, 2021
Country: United States of America
Type: Profile
Issues: Human Rights Defenders

They say family is everything and Robin Phillips’ family is a case in point. Not only has Robin, the Executive Director and fearless leader of The Advocates, been able to engage volunteers throughout the world in the efforts of The Advocates, she has also engaged her family members who have now become some of the organization’s most loyal, dedicated, and long-standing volunteers. Robin’s mother Dotty Bieurance and Robin’s sister Rhonda Phillips have been volunteering for The Advocates for twenty-six years.

When talking about their volunteer work, Dotty and Rhonda explain that since they are not lawyers, they try to help in other ways including “addressing envelopes, stuffing envelopes, taking people to the airport, and picking up office supplies and doing whatever to give them [The Advocates] more time to get their other work done.” Dotty is a mother of seven, a grandmother of fourteen and a great grandmother of three. Her family functions as a team – helping to support The Advocates in any way possible. Dotty has helped to make volunteering with The Advocates a family and neighborhood activity. She recounted a time where she and her grandson went to go pick up balloons for one of The Advocates’ Human Rights Awards Dinners. The balloons were flying everywhere, and they struggled to get them into the car. Nevertheless, Dotty and her grandson were on a mission and would not be deterred by the wind and sheer volume of balloons. The two of them managed to deliver the balloons safely to the event, providing beautiful decorations for the Human Rights Awards Dinner. “That was an exciting time,” Dotty recalled. Dotty even enlisted the help of her neighbor down the street to stuff and address envelopes with the family during the late 1980s and 1990s. “Volunteering is social”, Rhonda piped in.

Rhonda, Robin’s older sister, has an MBA in finance and a background in sales. Like her mother, Rhonda is a strong supporter of The Advocates and works tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that organization’s functions run smoothly, that letters are neatly addressed, and even stays up at night to help her sister practice her speeches. “We just try and be available for what they need us to do,” Rhonda noted, to explain her role as a volunteer. During the pandemic, The Advocates has hosted several virtual house parties and so, as Rhonda explained, “there have been a lot of envelopes to write on.” She recalled the early days of the pandemic when Robin would bring her a list of addresses and the two of them would sit at the kitchen table watching baking shows and addressing envelopes together. “It has been fun”, Rhonda recalled fondly.

If you have ever received a letter from The Advocates, you have most likely been on the receiving end of Dotty and Rhonda’s handwritten work. If you have ever attended a function of The Advocates, you have probably sat in a beautifully decorated room with flowers, balloons, and table settings handpicked by Dotty and Rhonda. During our interview, they repeatedly mentioned how in awe they were of the work of Robin and The Advocates and the number of people their work has impacted. Everyone at The Advocates is similarly in awe of Dotty and Rhonda’s selfless dedication to the organization. Thank you, Dotty and Rhonda. You both serve as a great inspiration to The Advocates and your work has had a tremendous impact on the organization and community. It is with a great honor that we present to you a 2021 Volunteer award for your twenty-six years of steadfast service.

Please join us on Thursday, June 24 for the Human Rights Awards Dinner to celebrate Dotty, Rhonda, and all of our 2021 award recipients. RSVP on our website to receive access information.

By Jenna Schulman, Advocates for Human Rights intern and student at the University of Pennsylvania