At this year’s Healthy Women, Healthy World Luncheon, the joy and passion in the room were palpable. Spirits were high — our keynote speaker, Nikki Lerner, gave an incredible speech about the gifts we each carry — and our compassionate community came together in an incredible show of support for women and children around the world.

Every year, our Healthy Women, Healthy World community joins hands at our annual luncheon to care for the caregivers of the world. We know that when women have education and access to health care, they go on to share with their children and communities. By focusing on women and children — who face higher rates of disease and death from preventable causes — we’re working toward a healthier world.

Nikki Lerner’s inspirational speech about the power of women moved hearts and minds. And our President and CEO, Martha Holley Newsome, also shared an emotional message before introducing our Humanitarian Woman of the Year Award, Margri Blanco.

Read on for more about the Healthy Women, Healthy World luncheon!

Martha Holley Newsome’s message of hope

Martha Holley Newsome at a podium speaking
Martha Holley Newsome, our President and CEO, shared an inspirational message of hope.

Our President and CEO, Martha Holley Newsome, took the stage to welcome guests with a message that was both heartbreaking and hopeful. She introduced our Humanitarian Woman of the Year, then handed the mic over to Nikki Lerner to shine in the spotlight.

But first, Martha began by sharing just a few data points that illustrated a grim picture. For example, 1 in 5 refugee women experience sexual violence. Additionally, women and children are at a higher risk of dying from malnutrition and malaria. And more than half of all refugees are women and girls.

It’s a stark reality. But happily, Martha was speaking to a group of compassionate champions for women and girls who are working together to change that.

She says,

“In the last few years, I’ve borne witness to the fact that when you help a woman, you help the world. Women are the caregivers of a community.”

Martha ended by emphasizing the strength and power of the Healthy Women, Healthy World community. They’re the people who know that behind every sobering statistic is a woman or child, just like the ones we know and love in our own lives. They go on to help others.

She shared, “When every person in this room — men and women alike — join hands and unites on behalf of women and children everywhere, we can make a difference.”

Recognizing Margri Blanco in Colombia

Margri holds hands with one of the children in the community in Colombia. Nikki Lerner is inspired by women like Margri!
Margri Blanco, our Humanitarian Woman of the Year, holds the hand of a child in Colombia.

Then, Martha announced our Humanitarian Woman of the Year. Each year, a woman is chosen who reflects the values and the purpose of Healthy Women, Healthy World. They’re someone who is compelled by compassion, committed to women, and called to action.

Margri Blanco, one of our community health workers in Colombia, was a natural fit for this honor. She left Venezuela because she wasn’t able to get medicine for her son after the economy crashed. Once in Colombia, she wanted to give back to other Venezuelan women like herself. She began working with Medical Teams to help connect her neighbors to care.

Her immense courage and tenacity makes her an easy choice. Martha met Margri on a recent trip to Colombia. Their personal connection made this a particularly moving moment during the luncheon.

Though Margri couldn’t be there in person, she recorded a video thanking everyone for the honor. There wasn’t a dry eye in the audience afterward!

Congratulations to Margri Blanco, our Humanitarian Woman of the Year!

Nikki Lerner takes the stage

Nikki Lerner speaks to our Healthy Women Healthy World luncheon
Nikki Lerner shared an inspirational speech about how we can each act, heal, and love.

Nikki Lerner — a culture coach, singer, and author — took the stage after Martha and immediately captured hearts and minds. Her work in helping organizations embrace and encourage multiculturality in the workplace have helped Medical Teams lean into our strengths in the past. We were humbled to have her speak to our Healthy Women, Healthy World community.

She began by referencing something that Margri said in her video. She likes Medical Teams. It’s a simple statement, but Nikki celebrated the power of Margri’s words.

She said, “There’s something about the simplicity of ‘I like it.’ Sometimes you’re involved with an organization because it does great work – and Medical Teams does great work. But honestly, it’s really hard to put together an organization where someday says, ‘you know what, I just like it.’ I think that’s extraordinary.”

Then, Nikki challenged the audience to think how they think about themselves. She pointed out that so much of the messaging around Healthy Women, Healthy World focuses on the strength and power of women. For many people, she reflected, discovering their strength takes a long time. Much of the way we value within ourselves comes from outside sources.

She says,

“Some of the messages you’ve been given from the outside have affected how you see yourself today on the inside. I’m saying this because it’s so important for all of you in the room, men too, to realize what you have been given.”

As Nikki points out, the way we feel about ourselves changes how we relate to others. That’s particularly true when we think about giving.

Celebrating what we carry

Nikki shared the Parable of the Talents, urging the audience to consider the first two men who invest their money. So often readers come to the text and only think of the third man, who wastes his gift. But instead, she says, we need to know what we have…and then, like the first two men, know what to do with it.

Nikki says, “Look intentionally at what you have. When I talk about what you have, I don’t mean the numbers on your balance sheet. It’s such a small part of who you are – it’s not even who you are,” she said, smiling widely at the audience.

She continued, “What is on your asset sheet? Is joy on your asset sheet? Is that on the list of things you have? Is your smile on your asset sheet? Are your babies on your asset sheet? What do you have in order to share?”

Nikki reminded our audience that money is a small part of what we give to the world. She showed quite clearly how, within us, we carry so many gifts — no matter what outside messages we’ve received about who we are and what we’re capable of.

Nikki asked,

“Next year, how many more women have a story like we saw today, because of something that you did and something that you gave?”

It was an inspirational final note, and a good reminder that we all have gifts to share. Even if it’s just a hug, there is no act of giving that’s too small.

Join Healthy Women, Healthy World!

Clearly, this was a luncheon for the books. Nikki Lerner’s powerful and moving message highlighted the difference Martha knows we can make. In fact, at the luncheon we passed our fundraising goal!

Together, this incredible community raised more than $130,000 for women and children around the world.

If you’d like to join a movement of people passionate about caring for women, check out Healthy Women, Healthy World! From book clubs to kitting parties, you can help the world heal, one woman at a time.

photo of Lauren Hobson


Lauren Hobson
Copywriter & Editor