Dr. Angie Vredeveld is a clinical psychologist living in Cincinnati. A specialist in working with immigrants and refugees, Vredeveld met an acid attack survivor while on a trip to Uganda in 2014.
The woman, named, Christine Nakato, hadn’t left her home in over two years because of the shame she felt about her physical appearance. After meeting her, Vredeveld knew she needed to help. She was able to help Christine overcome her fears of being in public before returning to the States, where she helped organize a series of pro bono reconstructive plastic surgeries for Christine in Los Angeles.
While helping Christine on the West Coast, Vredeveld was introduced to another acid survivor from Uganda, Hanifa Nakiryowa.
Nakiryowa was the founder of CERESAV, a nonprofit located in Uganda that was dedicated to ending acid violence.
“CERESAV was in its infancy at the time and Hanifa asked me if I would be willing to sit on the board of CERESAV and help grow the organization,” says Vredeveld. “I agreed, and after a few months, had gathered a small team of people in Cincinnati who were interested in helping out with the cause.”
From there, Vredeveld and her Cincinnati-based team were able to develop a nonprofit to more formally support the growth of CERESAV, called the Acid Survivors Network.
According to Vredeveld, the Acid Survivors Network is a US-based 501c3 organization that is working to end acid violence on an international level.
The team behind Acid Survivors Network includes Vredeveld, Talon Billow, Ellen Galloway, Will Wagner, and Carla Walker. “We also have a small but strong base of support in Cincinnati, including nurses at Shriner’s Hospital and medical students at the University of Cincinnati,” she adds.
Vredeveld says the main message for people in the United States is that you really can make a difference in the world.
“We often think human rights issues, especially those that happen internationally, are too far beyond our reach – that although we may be very saddened by stories about them, there is nothing we can do to make a difference,” she says. “At Acid Survivors Network, we provide those interested in volunteering with specific and meaningful difference. And then, of course, we are changing communities internationally in big ways, including through legislative change in Uganda, feeding starving patients at the burns unit, and providing job training services to survivors in Uganda.”
Those who are interested in helping to support the mission of Acid Survivors Network can donate money, miles, medical supplies, craft materials, and expertise. You can find a full list of opportunities available at www.acidsurvivorsnetwork.com. Vredeveld says you can also send an email to email@example.com.
Currently, Acid Survivors Network is making the shift from CERESAV, which includes expanding focus from Uganda to additional countries where acid violence occurs.