Women of Distinction

Earlier this month I attended the Cannon Valley Girl Scout Council’s 11th Annual “Women of Distinction Gala” where a number of women were recognized for their contributions. I was fortunate to be seated with four girlscouts who gave brief speeches introducing some of the recipients of the awards. They were bright and proud of their Girl Scout participation. Cindy and Yesinia Nieves and Kimberly and Stephanie Pozuelos, pictured here: 3411.jpg





I serve on the nominations committee for this region and have enjoyed learning about all the good things the organization is doing for young women in the area. 3399.jpg Coleen Rowley gave the keynote address pictured here with Shermayne Cross and Gary Gottfried.




Award recipients Marilyn Neuville, Maria Aguilar, Jessica Peterson, Paula Patton, Diane Hagen, Melissa Peterson, and Sara DuChene-Boyd treated us to speeches explaining their work and motivation. 3434.jpgThe sentiments of all were well expressed by Maria who said she was humbled and honored to receive the award. From work with non-English speakers to struggling readers and reaching out to girls whose moms are in prison, all the women were excellent examples of the important work done by people moved by passion and their values to be of service to others and the common good. We all need this kind of inspiration and hats off to the Girl Scouts for drawing attention and passing the torch to young girls.

A woman of distinction for me is my aunt Marjorie I. Bly who recently received a visit from the President of Taiwan to recognize her 50 years of service to the people of Taiwan. He used the visit to Penghu to announce the building of a park and commissioning of a statue dedicated to my aunt. Here she is pictured with one of her inspiring patients in Penghu: 3566.jpg

The Taiwan Central News Agency released the following story (the original story had a few errors and I have attempted correct them)

Penghu nurse to be honoredSunday, February 26, 2006/ CENTRAL NEWS AGENCY / President Chen Shui-bian traveled to the outlying island of Penghu yesterday to pay tribute to and express appreciation for an ailing American nurse who has dedicated her life to serving Taiwan's people, particularly leprosy patients, for several decades. Chen visited the government-run Penghu Hospital to extend his regards and concern for Marjorie Ingeleiv Bly, an 87-year-old public health nurse from the state of Minnesota, who has been hospitalized and is in poor health. Praising Bly as a spark of light in the darkness, Chen said Bly's loving heart and longstanding services for Taiwan's people are moving and memorable. Chen directed the Penghu County government to prepare to build a statue to commemorate her legacy. Bly came to Taiwan in late 1952. She first worked at a sanctuary on the outskirts of Taipei, caring for leprosy patients. As many of her most serious cases came from Penghu, she decided in 1953 to move to the outlying island county so that she could help diagnose patients as early as possible and raise public awareness of the disease. In Penghu, she is a household name. Even after her retirement a decade ago, she continued to concern herself with the county's medical service quality.

Some years ago my aunt was given recognition here in the states:

Marjorie Bly, a former Bethlehem sponsored missionary for many years, was awarded the sixth Christus Lux Mundi Award on May 21. The award is the highest honor bestowed by Luther Seminary recognizing the witness and service of persons who have manifested the light of Christ during a distinguished career. Known in Taiwan as "White Pearl" and "Auntie White" and described as the "lady with the sweet smile and kind face walking along with her simple medicine kit entering the smelly huts of fisherfolk," Marjorie has run leprosy clinics for 45 years. Although she retired as a missionary of the ELCA in 1989 at the age of 70, she continues to travel about the islands working with leprosy patients and their families.

I found the news story by doing an internet search which also produced the following version of the story from Jon Benda, a Taiwan blogger: Sunday, February 26, 2006 Marjorie Bly of Penghu

Earlier this evening I caught a story on the TV news about Pres. Chen's visit to Marjorie Bly, a retired American nurse who is in a Penghu hospital. The reason that I mention this is that I only first heard of her very recently when I was going through some archival documents for my dissertation and she was mentioned in a letter from the late 1950s. It was quite an interesting coincidence. Bly, whose Chinese name is Bai Baozhu, which means "White Precious Pearl", has lived in Taiwan since 1952 (most of those years in Penghu), helping people with leprosy. She is 87 years old and is in failing health, and the president's visit was to express the country's appreciation for her love and care for people with leprosy. There's an English-language story from 2002 that reports on a fund raised to help her in her retirement and to continue to help people with leprosy. Marjorie Bly honored for leprosy workPublished: May 7, 2002: Liberty Times The China Leprosy Service is establishing a fund to assist and honor Marjorie Bly, a U.S.-born woman who has spent nearly half a century caring for lepers in Penghu. The "Ms. Marjorie Bly Fund" aims to help Bly, 82, enjoy a peaceful life in her golden years and to set up a special fund for the lepers of Penghu. To this end, the China Leprosy Service held a fund-raising party Monday. Bly, who has always shunned the limelight, did not appear at the party, but many people who have responded to her benevolent efforts or have received her help in the past were in attendance. The items for sale Monday were almost entirely the donations of housewives, office workers and ordinary people. The fund-raising party's original revenue goal was NT$1 million (US$29,000), but the response was surprisingly enthusiastic, reaping a total of NT$1.2 million. China Leprosy Service Chairman Chang Ping-i said: "Marjorie Bly loves Taiwan so much. The Taiwanese people should show some love to her too." Successfully establishing this fund on the eve of Mother's Day is giving Bly the best possible Mother's Day present, because just like all other mothers in the world, she has given all the love of her life to her "children" — the leprosy victims of Taiwan, Chang said. Bly, an expert in public health, comes from the U.S. state of Minnesota. Because of the need of prevention, she moved on to Penghu, and led a public health crusade on this remote group of islands. Little did she know that she would spend 47 years there. The lepers of Penghu are in more difficult circumstances than their counterparts on the main island of Taiwan. If any home has a family member come down with leprosy, neighbors on all sides will inevitably move away from them. But Bly is not only not afraid of catching the disease, she also personally delivers her patients the medicine. In order to protect the privacy of patients, Bly stays far away from any notoriety. In the past she has been named an honorary citizen of Penghu County, has been selected as a candidate for the "Good People with Good Deeds" award, and has received many awards for her medical contributions. Yet every time a reporter asks her for an interview, she always replies in a low-key manner, "It's okay if you come to me for a medical exam, but an interview isn't convenient." Last year Bly fell ill and was hospitalized, and now must move around with the aid of a wheelchair. But she still has not given up her calling. One leprosy patient that has received her help now serves as her assistant, pushing her wheelchair and taking her all over for house calls.

All my life my aunt has been an inspiration and a constant reminder of the joy of service and dedication to a people and a place.

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