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Humanitarian Deepa Willingham Wins Santa Barbara U.N. Association Peace Prize

Deepa Willingham.
Deepa Willingham.

The United Nations Association of Santa Barbara & Tri Counties has awarded its 2018 Santa Barbara Peace Prize to humanitarian Deepa Willingham, a Rotarian who started a nonprofit to fight poverty, injustice and human trafficking.

The UNA of Santa Barbara will honor Willingham, a Solvang resident, with its Second Annual Santa Barbara Peace Prize on World Peace Day, Friday, Sept. 21, at a 6 p.m. dinner at the Goleta Hilton Garden Inn, 6878 Hollister Ave.

Tickets available at unasb.org or call 805-680-9445.

A naturalized U.S. citizen, Willingham was born and raised in Calcutta, India, where she received her primary and secondary education under the stewardship of Mother Teresa, who was her teacher.

Willingham saw the poverty that crippled her community. In the U.S., Willingham pursued higher education opportunities and enjoyed a professional career in healthcare management.

She has been an active Rotarian, serving as the district rovernor for Rotary District 5240 in 2010-11.

She is a past president of the Rotary Club of Santa Ynez Valley, a former Rotarian of the Year, and has been honored with humanitarian awards including receiving Santa Barbara’s Gutsy Gals You Inspire Me Award in 2013.

Willingham was a Women of Action honoree at the White House in 2014 and received a Time Now – Global Amazing Indian award from the Times of India in 2015.

She was further named one of three Inspiring Women of Action at the World Bank’s celebration of International Women’s Day in Washington, D.C., in 2016.

Willingham firmly believes in Rotary's principles and helps to recruit and retain Rotary members. In her year as club president, she added 12 members to her club, chartered a new club, and helped her daughter establish a community-based Rotaract Club in Santa Barbara.

Believing peace is not just the absence of war but a means to help others, Willingham founded PACE Universal, a not-for-profit organization based in Santa Barbara.

PACE Universal spearheads programs that fight poverty, injustice and human trafficking through the education of girls and women worldwide; provide adult education, vocational training and micro-loans; and upgrade living conditions through holistic village rehabilitation.

Willingham said she hopes to make the first PACE school she started in India — the Piyali Junction Learning Center — a model for duplication around the world on a pathway to peace.

The United Nations Association (UNA) of Santa Barbara & Tri Counties was started in 1947 and is the oldest chapter in the nation.

UNA has engaged locally with key global topics such as the Fukushima nuclear disaster, youth in peril, climate change, and educating the community about human trafficking and the plight of refugees internationally.

Last year in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the United Nations Association Santa Barbara, the organization wanted to honor and acknowledge contributions by local people working toward a more peaceful world and created the Santa Barbara UNA Peace Prize.

Nominees must live in the community and have achieved demonstrable progress in creating peace in the world, advancing the cause of human rights internationally, and/or advancing the progress of developing nations.

The first winner of the Santa Barbara UNA Peace Prize was Rinaldo S. Brutocco, founding president of the World Business Academy, a think tank in Santa Barbara.

— Jennifer Goddard Combs for Santa Barbara United Nations Association.


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