Sunday, March 24
The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts presents:
Small Stories in Hidden Places, with Pauline Dongala, Vera Kalm and Carla Oleska
Lichtenstein Center for the Arts, 28 Renne Avenue, Pittsfield, 1–3 p.m.

This March the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts (WFWM) presents its first Standing on Her Shoulders Award to women leaders over the age of seventy. In interviewing women for this award, WFWM executive director Carla Oleska noticed that women have a tendency to view their personal stories as being comparatively small and, thus, to keep them hidden—depriving younger women of the benefit of their often groundbreaking life experiences. Along with Standing on Her Shoulders Award recipient Vera Kalm, Pauline Dongala and Carla Oleska will share and discuss their own far-from-small stories.

Pauline Dongala worked for many years at the American embassy in her native country, Congo-Brazzaville, before she was forced to emigrate to the United States with her husband due to civil unrest. She earned a BA in gender studies and cultural relations from Bard College at Simon’s Rock in 2011, and is coeditor of the recent anthology African Women Writing Resistance: Contemporary Voices. She is a 2011 graduate of the Leadership Institute for Public and Political Impact, sponsored by the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts. She has worked actively on African women’s issues since 1987 and currently serves as vice president of Forum des Femmes pour le Developpement, a Congolese NGO that trains and equips unemployed women, promoting self-sufficiency.

Vera Kalm began her career with the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Europe in Geneva. During the Hungarian Uprising in 1956, she was sent to work with an international refugee agency in Vienna and on the Austro-Hungarian border. Later, in New York City, she was responsible for facilitating the resettlement of a large group of Hungarian refugees in the United States. Recruited by the World Health Organization for its New York office with the United Nations, she retired as the director of that office—the first nonmedical woman to hold that position. Upon retirement, she served as president of the statewide New Jersey Center for Food Action; vice president of the Bergen Museum of Arts and Sciences; and as an Advisory Group member of the Englewood Health Department. In the Berkshires, she served as tutor and board member of the Southern Berkshire Literacy Network; Board member of the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts; and as a founding board member and two-term vice president for Programs of Berkshire Women for Women Worldwide, a local organization supporting the work of the United Nations Development Fund for Women. She was a cofounder and served for ten years on the organizing committee of the annual International Women’s Day Conferences held at Bard College at Simon’s Rock. Vera’s love of language (in addition to her mother tongue, Hungarian, and English, she speaks Slovak, German, French, and Russian) led her to undertake literary translations of works into English, including Hungarian Folktales: The Art of Zsuzsanna Palko; Coccioli’s The White Stone; and Tell Me About the United Nations.

Carla Oleska, PhD, has held the position of chief executive officer of the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts since 2006. Prior to joining the fund, Carla had a long and varied career in administration and teaching at Elms College, Chicopee, MA. She has over twenty years of professional experience in creatively addressing the needs of women and girls, specializing in the design of programs enhancing academic preparation, higher education access, degree completion, and leadership development. Her work on behalf of women and girls has been recognized both regionally and nationally. Most recently she was selected as one of one hundred women across the United States to participate in Vision 20/20, a national initiative with the goal of achieving leadership parity in all professional and public sectors.