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'Run for Congo' Activist, Author Among October Speakers at Doane

'Run for Congo' Activist, Author Among October Speakers at Doane

When Lisa Shannon saw an Oprah episode on the atrocities befalling Congolese women she chose not to ignore it, and became an international activist for the cause, named by SHAPE magazine as one of the "Top 8 Women Who Care" and a 2010 member of the "O Power List."

Curt and Christie Brungardt lost their college-aged daughter to domestic violence - the very issue their daughter spent a portion of her young life fighting.

Doane's Hansen Leadership Program will bring Shannon in conjunction with this year's LAR common book, "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide." Both the Hansen Leadership Program and Social Sciences Department will bring the Brungardts in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

The events are free and open to the public. Lisa Shannon will spend a day on campus meeting with students, before delivering her lecture at 7 p.m. Oct. 10 in Heckman Auditorium.

The Brungardts will speak in Heckman Auditorium Oct. 3, beginning at 7 p.m.

For more information on the events, contact Carrie Petr, director of the Hansen Leadership Program, at or 402.826.8271

Lisa Shannon - October 10, 7 p.m. in Heckman Auditorium

Lisa Shannon's journey to change the lives of thousands of Congolese women began with a case of strep throat. Not feeling well, she sprawled on her couch and watched an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, which featured a journalist who called Congo "the worst place on earth...and the most ignored."

The next week, Shannon read a companion story in O, The Oprah Magazine with personal accounts of abuse of Congolese women. She read how a woman was attacked by militia, who told her: "Even if I kill you, what would it matter? You are not human. You are like an animal."

Suddenly, it mattered to Lisa Shannon. "I was awakened to the atrocities," Shannon said. "...The millions who had died, the women being raped and tortured, the children starving and dying in shocking numbers."

She founded Run for Congo Women and became the first national grassroots activist in the United States working to raise awareness of the Democratic Republic of the Congo's forgotten humanitarian crisis.

"Lisa was selected as a Hansen Leadership Assembly speaker because her leadership is an excellent example of an ordinary person discovering an extraordinary problem, and finding an extraordinary solution," said Carrie Petr, director of the Hansen Leadership Program. "...The incredible thing about her is that she had no business doing this, she just decided to get it done."

According to an estimate by the International Rescue Committee (IRC), nearly 3.9 million people in Congo have died from war-related causes since the beginning of the conflict in 1998.

At first, Shannon decided to sponsor two survivors, or "sisters," as she called them, through Women for Women International. She soon wanted to do more and undertook a 30-mile run, where 80 sponsors gave $28,000 to support women in Congo. 

Eventually, Shannon left her job and her fiancé to raise more money, and found her organization, called Run for Congo Women. Currently, Run for Congo Women has raised more than $600,000 and sponsored over 1,200 women. From her work, multiple organizations have emerged, including A Thousand Sisters, an advocacy organization aimed at empowering women and men to become leaders and to end the violence in the Congo. 

Shannon has written a book about her work, entitled "A Thousand Sisters," and it has been profiled in The New York Times, Runner's World Magazine, National Public Radio, O (The Oprah Magazine), as well as ABC World News Tonight, Voice of America, CNN international, Fitness Magazine, Time Magazine, Venus and Marie Claire.

In her visits to the Congo, she met the women she sponsored and women who have changed her life.

"It's not my job to measure the results," Shannon said. "It's my job, as it is anyone's job, to show up."

Curt and Christie Brungardt - 7 p.m. Oct. 3 in Heckman Auditorium

Curt and Christie Brungardt, parents of Jana Mackey, will speak at 7 p.m. on Oct. 3 in Heckman Auditorium. Jana was a victim of domestic violence, found dead in her ex-boyfriend's home in 2008.

Jana was a law student at the University of Kansas who received her undergraduate in Women's Studies. She served as a sexual assault and domestic violence advocate, as well as working as a lobbyist to promote public policy that supported women's rights.

Jana's Campaign is a community-based educational and advocacy effort developed to reduce domestic violence. This campaign encourages the development of public awareness campaigns, educational programs and advocacy in an effort to reduce domestic violence. The campaign's goal is to move the issues of domestic violence to the top of the national agenda and support activities that ensure effective victim services, prevention and treatment programs. At the heart of the movement is Christie Brungardt (Jana's mother) and Curt Brungardt (Jana's stepfather). Both Christie and Curt are professors' of leadership studies at Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas. Dr. Christie Brungardt's expertise includes women and leadership and women's studies, while Dr. Curt Brungardt specializes in political leadership, social change, and community organizing. 

In Jana's memory, they travel worldwide to share Jana's story and raise awareness of the dangers of domestic violence. Their lecture is hosted by Doane's Social Sciences Department and sponsored by HLP.

"The Brungardts will share their tragedy, but they will also share how the legacy of Jana...has started a national campaign and movement to stop domestic violence that has gained national and international attention," said Heather Lambert, Associate Professor of Psychology at Doane. "Too often, people associate domestic violence with married adults. Although this is very common, domestic violence is relationship violence which is, unfortunately, very common among middle school, high school and college students. The Brungardts' message is powerful and is relevant for any aspect of social justice and creating social change."