Daily Archives: May 23, 2018

Melissa Fitzgerald:From Hollywood Actress to Passionate Activist

Melissa Fitzgerald is a former Hollywood actress. She starred as Carol Fitzpatrick on the hit TV show The West Wing, from September 22, 1999, to May 14, 2006.

In 2011, fellow “West Wing” actor Martin Sheen invited Fitzgerald to speak with him at the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) Conference in Washington, D.C. Fitzgerald found that the organization’s work and its mission resonated with her.

Now, Fitzgerald is senior director of the nonprofit organization, Justice for Vets. The organization is a part of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP). She says what inspires her to serve is a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

There’s a quote that has inspired me for many years, and my old friends will know it is the Martin Luther King Jr. quote, which is everybody can be great because everybody can serve.

Justice for Vets helps to grow the number of veterans’ treatment courts and to expand their role. These courts were created to meet the special needs of veterans involved in the criminal justice system.

Many veterans return from combat with mental health problems related to their service. Some suffer Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Some abuse drugs. These difficulties can lead to unemployment, homelessness and arrest. The veterans’ treatment courts help soldiers find solutions to break the cycle of drug abuse and crime.

Melissa Fitzgerald knows that every veteran’s journey back into civilian life after active duty military life is not the same.

The vast majority of our veterans are returning home as leaders in our communities. They’re living incredibly productive lives and they are truly civic assets,” she says. Some of our veterans are struggling and when they come home they are struggling and they get in trouble with the law because of a substance use disorder or mental health condition or trauma. Our mission at Justice for Vets is to put Veterans Treatment Courts within reach of every veteran in need so they can receive treatment instead of incarceration.

Fitzgerald has visited many veterans in courts across the country. She says the programs are very rigorous and are part of the court system.

You know it’s an interdisciplinary court team that includes a judge, prosecutor, defense lawyer, mental health care providers among others. They work together as a team and they are specially trained by us to assess and treat the veterans who appear before them,” she says.

Not only are the veterans treatment courts effective, Melissa says they are also places of hope and healing.

“And it is amazing to support the work that’s going on

there because it’s remarkable. They are returning healthy veterans to our communities. And you know I think one of the things that really struck me when I have visited the courts around the country is that all of our veterans including the ones who are struggling are of our nation’s greatest and most valuable civic assets, she says.Fitzgerald has always helped people in need. Fitzgerald is also co-founder of the nonprofit group Voices in Harmony. The organization uses the theater arts to mentor at risk teens.

I started Voices in Harmony in 1995 with several other actors and we kept working on that program as volunteers while we were still having our acting careers and we were struggling like crazy as actors but Voices in Harmony was flourishing and we just kept getting inspired to do more and more.

In 2007, Melissa Fitzgerald traveled to Africa with several others to be of service.

During the West Wing you have a good chunk of time off in the summer. So I one summer went to South Africa and volunteered and as a result I had the opportunity to go somewhere else to through international medical corps and I chose to go to Northern Uganda because I’ve been working with teens and there was the child soldier issue where children were being abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army there,” she says. “And I think that experience really opened my eyes to the effect of war on communities. That really inspired me to feel like we actually have the ability to make change. All of us do if we work together.

Fitzgerald also helped produce the documentary film, Halfway Home. The film features U.S. veterans from wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam. The soldiers recount their experiences in war and in their transitions to civilian life.

There are approximately 23.2 million military veterans in the United States. They are the ones who have fought, sacrifice and served this country. Now, Melissa Fitzgerald says we all owe them everything.

I think our country owes our military veterans to embrace them when they come home, be there for them with the programs that work for them and for their families. A lesson that I learned in acting is when you want to know who your character is when you’re reading a new script or a new play, what do you do? Do you look at what they say, that’s one way. Do you look at what other people say about them. That’s another way and maybe even a better way than what they say. But the real way you know who your character is Is what do they do,” She says. “So, I think that’s very true about life. And I think that if we say and use the words that we honor our veteran’s thank you for your service and we are a grateful nation, those must be backed up by actions real actions. And I think real actions are supporting programs that work. And that’s why I feel like justice for vets and the work that we are doing in Veterans Treatment courts is important powerful necessary and essential to really expressing our true gratitude because I do feel like the American people are grateful for the service of our veterans. And I think we need to express it through our actions as well as our words.

Source: Voice of America


PRETORIA– Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies is leading the South African delegation to participate in the Viva Technology Conference and Exhibition (VivaTech) dedicated to innovation and digital transformation focused on start-ups to be held in Paris from Thursday to Saturday.

The event will have a strong focus on Africa, with more than 200 start-ups and French groups committed to digitalization in Africa from across the globe. For the first time, up to 50 African start-ups from four key sectors will gather in a dedicated zone with local incubators and accelerators. Selected start-ups will pitch their solutions.

Davies says the the objective of the event is to provide an opportunity for start-up companies to meet and collaborate with executives in their industry, connect with top investors to raise funds and develop partnerships with other start-up companies.

VivaTech provides a good platform and opportunity for South African companies to engage with Information Communication Technology (ICT), innovation start-ups and experts in the field from around the globe.

Participation of South African companies is critical as this is a platform that presents great opportunities for start-up companies. Our start-ups can learn, work closely, and advance their skills to develop innovative new applications through knowledge sharing from experts across the globe in the ICT field.

Through participating in this trade mission, South Africa envisages that the small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) will gain a competitive edge in international markets.


President Cyril Ramaphosa addreses Annual African Renaissance Conference, 24 May

President Cyril Ramaphosa will tomorrow, Thursday 24 May 2018, deliver the keynote address at the 20th African Renaissance Conference at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre (Durban ICC), KwaZulu-Natal.

The 20th annual African Renaissance Conference organised by the Kwa-Zulu Natal Growth Coalition, the Durban Chamber of Commerce and non-profit organisation, African Renaissance, brings together various stakeholders across the African continent such as business, civic leaders and government representatives to focus on strategies for implementation of inclusive social economic transformation.

The African Renaissance celebrations are held in May each year as part of the Africa Day celebrations. Held over two days, the celebrations will include a wide-range of activities, a banquet, and a concert.

The conference will further provide valuable information to young people on study opportunities at home and abroad through a variety of international exchange opportunities that are offered by foreign governments and other regional and international institutions.

The year 2018 also marks the centenary of the birth of an international icon and legendary struggle veteran, late President Nelson Mandela. It also marks the centenary birth of freedom fighter and liberation stalwart, Mrs Albertina Nontsikelelo Sisulu. In honour of their memory, government has called on all our citizens to join hands in fighting the scourge of poverty, inequality and unemployment. Government remains committed to the task of building a united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society.

President Ramaphosa will be accompanied by Cabinet Ministers, the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Mr Willies Mchunu, and other senior government officials.

Source: Government of South Africa

MEC Ismail Vadi shuts down Tsakane Taxi Rank

Gauteng MEC for Roads and Transport, Ismail Vadi, has announced the shutting down of the Tsakane Taxi Rank in Ekurhuleni with immediate effect.

No taxis will be allowed to operate from the Tsakane taxi rank and law enforcement personnel will be deployed to the affected area tonight, said Vadi.

The taxi rank will remain closed until the security situation relating to the taxi industry in the area stabilises.

This unprecedented measure follows the taxi violence this morning that led to the killing of four taxi drivers and seriously injuring six others.

Vadi urged commuters in the Tsakane/Brakpan area to make alternative transport arrangements.

This drastic administrative measure is necessary to protect the lives of commuters and taxi drivers. It’s in the interest of public safety, said Vadi.

He, together with the MEC for Community Safety, Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane, condemned in the strongest possible terms the taxi killings in Brakpan.

Both Vadi and Nkosi-Malobane welcomed the arrest by the SAPS of eight people, believed to be six private security guards and two taxi owners, that are allegedly linked to this morning’s shootings.

The police confiscated nine firearms – four pistols and five heavy calibre rifles during the arrests.

We are deeply saddened by these senseless killings and would like to convey our heartfelt condolences to the families of the deceased. We wish those injured a speedy recovery, said Vadi and Nkosi-Malobane.

Both MECs applauded the South African Police Service for their swift action in apprehending the eight suspects allegedly linked to the shootings and for confiscating the firearms.

The MECs also echoed the call by the Minister of Transport for the members of the Greater Brakpan Taxi Association to work together to find non-violent solutions to their internal challenges without endangering the lives of commuters and their members.

They reiterated the statement of Minister Nzimande, who said, It is the responsibility of the taxi industry to redeem itself and isolate all those individuals who are hell-bent to tarnish the taxi industry, which transport almost 68 percent of the daily commuting public.

Source: Government of South Africa