International Women's Organization Honors Women With Cash Awards

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Soroptimist distributes more than $1.5 million in award money

Soroptimist, an international volunteer organization for business and professional women who work to improve the lives of women and girls, recently honored the 2009 finalists of its Women's Opportunity, Violet Richardson and Ruby awards. In total, more than $1.5 million was disbursed through these programs at various levels of the organization.

Soroptimist Women's Opportunity Awards:

Lisa Wuthrich Curless of Bountiful, Utah; Xiu Man Huang of TaiChung County, Taiwan; and Miki Kitamura of Otsu City, Shiga, Japan, were the three women chosen to receive the finalist 2009 Women's Opportunity Awards, Soroptimist's major program. The finalists each received $10,000. The awards can be used for tuition, books, childcare, car fare or other education-related expenses.

Lisa Wuthrich Curless' husband committed suicide, leaving her with four young children, a mountain of debt, and no way to earn a living. Curless was forced to start her life over. With no formal education above high school, she had not been in the workforce for 13 years. Thanks to the Women's Opportunity Award, Curless is now working toward a degree in dental hygiene at Salt Lake Community College.

Xiu Man Huang of TaiChung County, Taiwan, is the sole support of her chronically ill husband and two children with autism and multiple disabilities. Because of her care-giving responsibilities, she was unable to work outside the home and was struggling financially. To support herself, Xiu Man learned how to make handicrafts but was unsuccessful marketing them. She used the Women's Opportunity Awards to set up an Internet marketing firm to sell her wares.

Miki Kitamura of Otsu City, Shiga, Japan, suddenly became the primary wage-earner for her family when her father died unexpectedly. Working part-time and struggling to support her mother and sisters, Kitamura was trying to complete her studies at medical school. She is using her award to finish medical school and plans to graduate in March 2010.

Soroptimist Making a Difference for Women Award:

Edelvira Goes Ramos of Brazil is the recipient of Soroptimist's 2009 Making a Difference for Women Award, which acknowledges the efforts of women who through their personal or professional activities work to improve the lives of women and girls. As the federation finalist, Ramos received a $5,000 donation to her charitable organization. Since 1985, Ramos has been devoting her life to helping the women in the Uberaba de Cima district of the Curitiba municipal district of Brazil. She founded a day care center for the community's working mothers; she assists domestic violence victims, and provides support to pregnant girls.

Soroptimist Violet Richardson Award:

Stephanie Davis of Trumbull, Connecticut, is the recipient of Soroptimist's 2009 Violet Richardson Award, which recognizes young women between the ages of 14 and 17 for volunteer service to their communities. As Soroptimist's Northeastern Region recipient, Davis received $1,000 for herself and $1,000 for The Lighthouse Program, where she volunteers. The Lighthouse Program offers children in financially strapped communities a safe after-school environment where they can do homework and receive tutoring. The program received an additional $2,500 in Davis' name from the international level of Soroptimist.

Read more about these inspirational women on the Soroptimist website at

Headquartered in Philadelphia, Pa., Soroptimist offers programs that improve the lives of women and girls through three distinct platforms: economic empowerment, elimination of violence, and gender equality. Its major program, the Soroptimist Women's Opportunity Awards, provides cash grants for women seeking to improve their lives with the help of additional education and training. Each year, more than $1 million is disbursed to deserving women through this award-winning program. Soroptimist, a 501(c)(3) organization that relies on charitable donations to support its programs, also sponsors the Live Your Dream campaign in recognition of the power of women and their dreams. Visit the campaign's online home at: For more information on Soroptimist, visit


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Jessica Levinson
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