The Peace Corps Volunteer: Suze Rutherford
Watch a short video about the Pankisi Women's Council, including a brief interview with Suze, on Suze's blog, SuzeGeorgia.
|The Pankisi Women's Stories Project||
Who is Suze?
"I am a 64 year old Peace Corps volunteer serving for 27 months in the Republic of Georgia. Georgia is a land of paradox, nowhere more so than in the Pankisi Gorge where I work with the Kist and Chechen refugee populations. I wrote this after about 3 months at my permanent site, wondering if in 2 short years I could make any difference here at all, the issues being so immense, the extremes being so great. My sister-in-law Donna in response suggested that rather than worrying about making a difference, to consider the power of 'accompanying another in a difficult world'.
"It is as I began to accompany the people of Pankisi, rather than look for ways I could make a difference, for things that needed fixing; that I began to really listen and see. I discovered that crushing poverty and stinging prejudice don't hide behind the spectacular beauty and natural abundance of the Gorge; they live right along side each other in the tension of the paradox, where the Kists and Chechen people live. This is the place their stories talk about. I listened to those stories; to what was and wasn't said. I continue to listen and to accompany."
-- Suze Rutherford, 2014
What's her role in the project?
"Not too long ago, I asked the women of Pankisi who serve on the Women's Council as a voice for women's rights and issues to the all-male Council of Elders, what they want. And they said they wanted to tell their stories – to the people of Georgia, to other Muslim women's groups, to the world. They didn't want a hand-out or even a hand-up. They wanted to be heard, to matter.
"So we put out the word and got an immediate response, first from a documentary film maker in Seattle and her author friend from Minneapolis, who offered to come and make a documentary film this year of the women and stories of Pankisi at no charge to us if we could gather the funds to help with their travel expenses. A generous offer.
"Then from my brother Rusten and his Gleaning Stories Project, who offered to set up a web site for us and explore crowd-source funding for our story/film project.
"And so it is now to you we turn to ask for your help; to invite you to accompany the women of Pankisi in a difficult but amazing world, as they tell their stories."