Category: Community Partners

A Habitat Story: “There is no more fear”

Thank you to Habitat for Humanity of Durham for sharing the following story with us about Lal and her family. They’ve now been in their Habitat home for over a year. Over the next few weeks, you’ll be able to read more inspiring Habitat stories. We hope that you will support LUEWWD IX: Nailin’ It! which is raising funds for the 2013 Women Build.

Lal Mawi/Thuam has experienced different types of homes throughout her life. The now 45-year old mother of two (son Gideon, 28 and daughter Naomi, 25) was born and raised in Burma. Officially called the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, Burma is located in South Asia, bordered by India, Bangladesh, China, Laos, and Thailand.

For many years, Lal and her children lived in Burma with her parents. They all shared a room. Food was scarce. There was no electricity. The family would have to line up every day for a small rice portion, given by the government. Because of long-standing racial issues in the country, Lal and her family were identified as illegal aliens, unable to leave the area.

To help her family’s financial situation, Lal moved to Egypt to work and sent the money back to Burma. She stayed for six years, only returning once. Shortly after returning from Egypt, Lal and her children escaped the country and immigrated to Thailand.

The family stayed in a refugee camp for three years. Ten people to a room, they slept on a cot on the floor with mosquito nets. Every so often, the Thai police would enter the camp and line up the refugees, asking for identification. While the conditions may sound abhorrent to Americans, Lal and her family were grateful to be in Thailand because, for the first time, they had enough food to satisfy their hunger.

The family applied for refugee status in the United States in 2008 and was able to leave the refugee camp. The non-profit World Relief sponsored the immigration process and offered legal support, job training and English classes to the family.

“It felt a little bit like heaven,” Lal explains of her family’s first day in the U.S. “For the first time, we got to sleep on a bed. In Burma and Thailand, only the rich have beds. Here, even refugees have these things: a bed, a car, a job.”

Since arriving, Lal and her children have had various types of employment. Lal currently works at UNC-Chapel Hill in Housekeeping, Gideon is a translator for other refugees, and Naomi is a full time student at Durham Tech. They were selected for a Habitat home in 2011 and worked with the organization to rehab their home in Northeast Central Durham.


Lal and her son Gideon

Lal and her family moved into their home in May of last year. It was the first time that each member of the family could have his or her own room.  When they first moved in, they were excited to decorate the home and plant trees in the yard.

“There is no more fear,” Lal says. “We won’t have to move again, because the home belongs to us.”

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Industrial Strength! The Results!

Thank you to everyone who attended LUEWWD VIII: Industrial Strength, a record-breaking fundraising event that benefited Liberty Arts and The Scrap Exchange. We’d like to share the results… and here’s a link to the photos and a VIDEO (a first!) of the event.

Total Money Raised: $10,082.

That breaks the previous record by more than $2,000! (not sure we say it enough how much we love our town and all of the people who support LUEWWD, the wrestlers and the beneficiaries — you are stupendous!)

Champion: Betty Rumble


Madame Moneymaker: Lotta Doe


Durham Diva: Trashley the Treasure Troll


Queen of the Losers: Kit “The Killer” Kellar


King of the Bucks: Lupa


Individual Contestant Fundraising Totals:

Lotta Doe: $1,343

Steel Magnolia: $1,064.10

Scrappy Sally: $602.85

Betty Rumble: $405.01

Lisa “Left Arm” Lopes: $198.50

Pippi Strongstockings: $162.15

Trashley the Treasure Troll: $104

Kit “The Killer” Kellar: $70


The Stage Crew: Hostess Marilyn Manho, Bouncer Rebecca/Sassy McKlassy, Round Boy Fur Pelton John and Round Girl Madame Muscle

The Judges: Mike Waller (representing Liberty Arts), Kaferine De Nerve and Robert Bland

The Volunteers, with a special thanks to Lupa (& co) from Liberty Arts and Jess (& co) from the Scrap Exchange for helping with both volunteer coordination and creation of an amazing outdoor venue. The event volunteers did everything from letting you into the main event and testing your luck with raffle ticket sales to counting your incredible donations and serving you drinks.

Sponsors and Donors

Twisted Tea/Boston Beer Company

Bull McCabe’s Irish Pub

The Casbah

MAYDNEW DJ and Event Planning


Jewelsmith (in support of Steel Magnolia)

Adorn Boutique

CrossFit Durham

Morgan Imports (in support of Lotta Doe)

Bull City Co-Working (in support of Lotta Doe)

Boy Scouts Troop 332 OLL (Raleigh)


Blend Cafe

The event space was provided courtesy of Cordoba Center for the Arts and Re-Use Warehouse.

Additional in-kind support came from The Rock Shop, Studio Xavier and Mr. Trim, Inc. (919.697.5076). Photographers BJ Council, Megan Morr, and Christine Nguyen also shared their talents in-kind.


Or would you like to just WATCH THE VIDEO?

[The sculpture shown in the featured image for this post was created by Tim Werrell. The artists at Liberty Arts each debuted a new piece in time for LUEWWD VIII and to commemorate the first anniversary of being in the new studio space.]


We promised to give you an additional look at the positive role LUEWWD VIII’s beneficiary organizations, Liberty Arts and the Scrap Exchange, play in the Durham community.

LUEWWD thanks artist and Liberty Arts board member Renee Leverty for describing her delightful and enriching experience with Y.E. Smith Elementary students. Leverty and colleague Mike Waller created a wireframe armature of the school’s mascot, a tiger (hence the “rawr” above), in a style inspired by Alexander Calder. All photos included below were taken by Duke Photography, and were initially posted through the Nasher Museum blogs. It seems like it was an inspiring day!

We hope to see you readers at LUEWWD VIII: Industrial Strength on Saturday, April 20th  — help us help other budding artists discover their true creative talents. Every $100 dollars you raise will cover one scholarship for a workshop at Liberty Arts and every $55 you raise will provide one scholarship for a class at the Scrap Exchange.

More from Renee below…



“Working on the collaborative project for YE Smith Elementary in East Durham was incredibly rewarding.

Many groups came together to make this project successful, including the staff and faculty at the school, and Mike Waller, a colleague at Liberty Arts.

We brought the large metal 3 dimensional frame of a tiger to the school in the morning, and placed it near the entrance.


My goal was that each child at the school had the opportunity to be a hands-on participant in the project.

Classrooms of kids would be ushered out to the tiger. After I introduced myself, I would ask, ‘Who here is an artist?’  I noticed in the younger classes most of the kids would raise their hands, and jump up and down – they were all artists!

Yet as I would ask the older kids in the 5th grade, it changed. Fewer kids identified themselves at artists. I would say, ‘You are all artists! You all make beautiful things every day and now together we are going to create this sculpture for your school.’


The Scrap Exchange had generously donated items for us to place on the tiger, keys, slides, bottle caps, and little tubes that could hold notes. I watched a little girl write on a piece of note paper, ‘I love tiger.’ She then put it in the tube, and hung it on the frame. Another little girl put the heart sticker near the tiger’s nose. I think these young girls loved what the tiger meant, a group coming together to create something special.”


Raising a Roof: A Community Partner Update

Thank you to the DCRC staff for providing this update. And, to supporters of LUEWWD, thanks for helping DCRC with your donations at SuperCLAW.

As the only agency in Durham that serves and advocates solely for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, Durham Crisis Response Center (DCRC) often finds that its needs easily outpace its capacity. With that said, community collaboration and support has been crucial to the ongoing success of the agency and its mission. The partnership with the League of Upper Extremity Wrestling Women of Durham (LUEWWD) is a key of example of how community support (and a fun event) can make a huge difference in accomplishing the goals of an organization.

The alliance between DCRC and LUEWWD was in response to the repair work the agency needed on the dilapidated roof of the main office. The high cost of maintenance combined with limited resources and funds, made the task of repairing the office roof impossible for DCRC to handle on its own.

Thanks to the extraordinary people at LUEWWD and their generous donations from their SuperCLAW event on June 16, 2012, DCRC was able to make the much needed repairs to the roof.

SuperCLAW, held at the Fullsteam Brewery, was nothing short of entertaining and innovative. The audience enjoyed a competitive arm wrestling championship and participated in a raffle and auction to raise funds for DCRC. The folks at Fullsteam also donated a dollar for every pint sold at the event.

Most of the services we offer at DCRC are held in our main office. Without a safe and functional work environment we would not be able to offer counseling sessions, group therapy sessions, community meetings and events, educational trainings and workshops, and the like.

With a newly repaired roof, DCRC can now continue its mission of ending domestic and sexual violence through advocacy, education, support and prevention.

LUEWWD gives fortitude and empowerment a new meaning. To see strong women having fun, while impacting their community is inspiring. At DCRC, we serve many women who have been marginalized and degraded, and to collaborate with an organization that celebrates strong women was a perfect match.

Here are some photos of our renovated roof:

Smart Sparks Fly: A Community Partner Update

Thanks so much to Christine Schindler, founder of Girls Engineering Change, for providing this update.

Since participating in the LUEWWD VII: LUEWWD Science event, Girls Engineering Change has made huge strides toward the initial goal of developing a mentorship network between Duke University and the Durham community by hosting workshops and sharing the field of engineering with young girls. We have hosted 12 girls so far and with great success (the parents, students, and volunteers were all smiles at the end of the event!).

Photo courtesy of Girls Engineering Change

Photo courtesy of Girls Engineering Change

Some highlights from our first ever event include a girl saying she had decided not only go to college, but also to study engineering! It was very inspiring to see the excitement the girls had when they watched their electro surgery unit testers light up which showed that they were working. Thanks to the funds from the generous donors of the LUEWWD event, they made this session possible and many more in the future! We are fortunate to have 4 girls’ engineering change sessions scheduled for the months of March and April, impacting over 50 girls in the Durham area.

Photo courtesy of Girls Engineering Change

Photo courtesy of Girls Engineering Change

[And another thing! Christine was mentioned in an article written by Chelsea Clinton: Getting to the STEM of Gender Inequality. Nice work!]


Game Changer: A Community Partner Update


Thank you to Schoolhouse of Wonder for sharing this update!

On March 24th of 2012, Schoolhouse of Wonder was honored to participate in a LUEWWD event to raise scholarship money for young girls who would not otherwise be able to attend camp.  Aside from being an incredible gift to many young people, it was a great time.

The scholarship money LUEWWD raised at last year’s event was a game changer for Schoolhouse of Wonder.  We were not only able to offer scholarship opportunities to deserving children on a new scale, but the experience also inspired our entire organization to further action.

After the event, we asked the teachers at one of our neighborhood schools, Holt Elementary, to identify young women with true leadership inclinations.  We  hoped to find a group of girls in whom we could continue to nurture the desire to benefit not just themselves but also those around them.  We could not have imagined how well this group of young people would fit that description.

These girls were incredible, joining our camp community with grace, happiness, and enthusiasm. Every single one was truly a young leader of merit, sharing freely both their strengths and their weaknesses.

Our favorite story from this experience began at river playtime.  A group of children were playing in the wading pool, an area of the river about waist deep, and a couple of the kids had brought goggles and were “swimming” back and forth looking at the bottom. The children all began talking about how much they enjoyed swimming.

We watched with deep respect as one of our scholarship girls looked directly at a group of her peers and said, “I don’t know how to swim.” This admission in and of itself was incredibly brave and humble, but she followed it up by asking, “Would you teach me?”

The story of this moment spread through our whole staff. When faced with such courage, mustered by a child, we all must reassess our own strength of character, and that is an incredible gift.

This year, Schoolhouse of Wonder has pledged to raise enough money to offer 100 camp scholarships.  We simply can’t stop now.  Keep up with the great things happening at