For the first interview of our new series, Get to Know ZBC Partners, we spoke with Helaine Alon, ZBC’s Communications Coordinator. Helaine started working with ZBC in October 2017. In her time with us, she has helped to overhaul the website, revitalize our social media pages, and write numerous book reviews and blog articles. We wish her well as she is moving on to new opportunities and are very grateful for the important work she has accomplished during her time with ZBC.
Q: What is your professional background?
A: My background is in environmental public health. I have an MA in Environmental Science and Policy from Clark University and have worked with community organizations in the U.S. and in Israel. I worked for an organization called EcoPeace Middle East focused on environmental conflict resolution between Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians. In addition to communications work for ZBC, I recently worked for Health Care Without Harm on their Safer Chemicals Campaign greening the healthcare industry. I enjoy working with communities and nonprofits on environmental health issues.
Q: What do you consider your top 3 professional skills?
A: I do communications work, so social media, writing, and photography. I work on getting important information out there to people in the best way, whether through blogs or social media postings. I am also skilled at event planning and coordination, like with EcoPeace where I helped coordinate different events happening with neighboring Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian communities. Along with that, I have done a lot of community organizing and networking.
Q: What attracted you to working with ZBC when you first heard about the organization?
A: My mom had breast cancer when she was 44, when I was in 5th grade, so breast cancer has always been on my radar and in my heart as something that is important to learn more about. She always said I shouldn’t worry about breast cancer because by the time I’m old enough to get it, there will be a cure and everything will be fine. Obviously that’s not the case. Over the years, breast cancer has really been what introduced me to the concept of environmental health where I learned about more risk factors and things that we could do for prevention. There’s so many organizations that focus on fundraising for the cure or events for the cure or rally for the cure. I’ve always wanted to scream “What about prevention! There’s things we can do!” I really appreciate that ZBC focuses so much on education and outreach for prevention. They pay attention to root causes across the lifespan and really meeting people where they’re at. I was really excited to learn about a breast cancer organizations out there with such an holistic perspective.
Q: What did you learn about breast cancer while working with ZBC that you did not already know?
A: There were a couple of things that really stood out to me. The first was how important exercise is from prevention to survivorship. It doesn’t have to be working out really intensely and going to the gym, but it makes a difference if you integrate some exercise into your life by even just walking thirty minutes a day or something like that. It’s seems kind of obvious that exercise is good for everything in health but it really re-emphasized it for me. Second, with the Girls’ New Puberty campaign, a lot of the general themes were familiar to me, but I saw how much concrete evidence exists to support healthy things you can do like avoid certain chemicals or mindfulness. Working on the social media side of things, including research and information dissemination, I saw how much material is out there is and how it continues to grow. Also, it surprised me that in spite of how much evidence there is, I still don’t see enough of a mainstream awareness yet.
Q: Which of the projects that you worked on did you enjoy the most?
A: I loved coming down for the Dipsea Hike and getting to see everybody on the ground rather than only working remotely. [Click here for Helaine’s blog on the hike.] Also, it was really enriching to have the opportunity to read different books for recommendations, like delving into Being Mortal and opening up that conversation for the ZBC community. [Check out Helaine’s book review for Being Mortal here.]
Q: What has been rewarding and what has been challenging about working with ZBC?
A: It means a lot to me to be able to work for ZBC because of my mom and the mission that the organization has. I think ZBC’s overall goals and intention is very powerful and very important. It has feels really great to be part of the team. While it has been wonderful to have the opportunity to work remotely from Southern Oregon and to be a part of the team, it has also been a little challenging at times as far as feeling part of the flow of what’s going on and making sure what I do is relevant.
Q: What do see as your biggest contribution to ZBC?
A: I was able to increase ZBC’s liveliness on different social media sites by finding and posting interesting material. Also, as part of the Dipesea Hike event, I loved being an event photographer and taking a lot of fun photos that I was able to use on social media to share with supporters, new and old, just what a special event it is!
Q: What passion or hobby do you enjoy that is separate from your work?
A: I really enjoy singing! I’m taking a little break right now, but I’ve been a part of a choir called the Rogue World Ensemble where we sing world music and bring musical community building events to the Rogue Valley in Southern Oregon.
Interview conducted and written up by Lianna Hartmour, ZBC Program Director