Keoma L. Hamer, Founder and President of The KeLaHa Projects Foundation was named VIP Woman of the Year by the National Association of Professional Women

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The National Association of Professional Women recognizes Keoma Hamer as a VIP Woman of the Year for her outstanding leadership and commitment within her profession.

My mom died of cervical cancer in October 2011. After watching her suffer, I didn’t want other women and families to have to go through that.

NAPW honors Keoma L. Hamer, Founder and President of The KeLaHa Projects Foundation, as 2013/2014 Professional Woman of the Year for leadership with this prestigious distinction. As the largest, most-recognized organization of women in the United States, spanning virtually every industry and profession, the National Association of Professional Women is a networking community with over 500,000 members and nearly 400 Local Chapters throughout the country. Star Jones, acclaimed attorney, TV personality, business woman and best-selling author, is NAPW’s national spokesperson.

“My mom died of cervical cancer in October 2011. After watching her suffer, I didn’t want other women and families to have to go through that,” says Ms. Hamer. Combining a desire to do community work with her quest to bring about cervical cancer/HPV awareness, she drafted objectives of the organization, recruited members for the board and incorporated KeLaHa Projects Foundation on March 29, 2012.

The nonprofit organization, based on the island of St. Maarten, strives to help those battling cervical cancer on St. Maarten and other neighboring islands, and raise awareness about healthcare, provide educational initiatives and create youth development programs. One of Ms. Hamer’s first initiatives was to produce a documentary, “In their Own Words.” In this riveting film, three women, including Ms. Hamer’s late mother, tell their stories about their battles with cervical cancer. The film has helped raise awareness about the disease and the need for improved access to the HPV vaccine, pap smears, etc.

KeLaHa Projects continues its efforts by hosting various workshops, conducting home visits, etc., throughout the year and hopes to raise funds to assist uninsured women and provide counseling and support groups. Ms. Hamer plans to soon establish a dedicated office where “we’ll be able to operate fully and be even more available to community members.” KeLaHa Projects is a member and supporting organization of the Healthy Caribbean Coalition’s first regional cervical cancer e-petition, aiming to send a message to government to make cervical cancer screening more affordable for Caribbean women.

Through its unrelenting efforts to bring awareness of cervical cancer and HPV to its community, the nonprofit has positively influenced legislation. The St. Maarten government launched the HPV Vaccine for young girls in September 2013. Working with young people is another important facet of the foundation, says Ms. Hamer, and an initiative they are continuing to expand.

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Lisa Mancuso
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