The Women of Waymakers

Women. They are educators, entrepreneurs, scientists, healers, physicians, caretakers, affecting every aspect of our society. Our history is replete with women who have made a huge impact on the development of society and culture as a whole. To recognize the trailblazing women Congress and the President of the United States designated March “Women’s History Month” in 1987, and our nation has made it a tradition to honor incredible women each year since then.

As Waymakers spent the month of March honoring women in history, we also wanted to honor women who are important in our history. These are the incredible women who are behind the services and programs Waymakers provides, influencing communities and neighborhoods, and making a difference every day.

The following are just a few of the incredible women of Waymakers:

Esmeralda Fernandez is a Victim Advocate for Waymakers’ Family Violence Victim Services and in her everyday role, she ensures women don’t have to be intimidated or confused by the justice system. Esmeralda has seen first-hand that by being informed, women can gain confidence and grow their self-esteem, and therefore, become a positive influence in the community. The women she works with, in the office or in the community, inspire Esmeralda because of the strength, resiliency and willingness to change their lives for the better. She has many moments that have shaped who she is as a victim advocate, but her ultimate favorite moment is when a criminal case finally resolves. At this point, she is able to notify the victim of the disposition of the case and give the victim and their family closure and calm.

Esmeralda is inspired by any woman that puts it all on the line to create a better life for herself, and for the people she cares for; any woman that starts a business, writes a book, creates a website, works for NASA or just breaks the stereotype of what a woman should be but instead turns it into what a woman can be. She is reminded of the countless women that sacrificed so much during certain historical events—who selflessly took care of the country and their families during World War II—who were the unsung heroes that kept our country and families together.

Maria Nguyen, PHR® works in in Human Resources for Waymakers and values working in a predominately female staff and witnessing Waymakers women’s unlimited willingness to give their all both at work and outside of work. She continues to be grateful to serve in a role where she can support staff and their needs directly. Much of the agency’s work and focus is on the clients, communities, and collaboratives, making it easy to forget the importance of prioritizing Waymakers staff needs. Whether it’s providing technical support, processing benefits enrollments, informing them of their options if time off is needed, or working to make administrative tasks easier, Maria finds fulfillment in knowing she is able to support incredible people doing incredible work in the community.

Maria looks to Malala Yousifazi as a woman making history, who is overcoming significant adversities to work toward making education available to all girls and women, everywhere. Her cousin, Rosemary, is another role model and inspiration, as she mothers six children under the age of 14, is committed to her husband, and works part-time jobs, all while juggling volunteer work. Rosemary maintains calm, positivity, and humor that many of us cannot achieve—even on our best days.

Viridiana Rios, ACSW, a Division Counselor noticed right away the high number of women at Waymakers who held leadership positions. Seeing women in positions of power was personally inspiring to Viridiana, and this motivated her to work hard and advance herself in the field, eventually returning to graduate school in order to obtain a Master of Social Work degree. The female role models she had at Waymakers made Viridiana believe in herself.

Viridiana has always love the “Whatever it Takes” approach of Waymakers because it allows opportunities to do things that fall outside of the box. One of her favorite memories is of taking a client on a Metrolink ride to Los Angeles. The client needed to learn to utilize the Metrolink for weekly home visits, but didn’t feel comfortable going it on without assistance. It was an adventure, a learning opportunity, and a wonderful way to build rapport with the client.

Female role models surround Viridiana’s work life and personal life. Lucille Ball is her favorite historical woman role model, not only because of the laughter she brings, but because of Ball’s past. Lucille Ball came from humble beginnings and was told she would not make it in show business. “Lucy” broke many barriers for women in her time and she remains an inspirational icon to this day for Viridiana.

Roxana Despoiu is a Budget and Financial Control Manager and sees Waymakers as a place that builds safer communities where women of all ages can find the support they need to reach their highest potential. As such, Waymakers women are working for a noble cause and they believe in the work they do. Their work builds safer communities, helps women live happier and healthier lives. Roxana feels fortunate to be working with amazing women at Waymakers, who put a lot of energy and soul in their work. Roxana is honored to be working for an amazing organization that does wonderful things for the community in Orange County. For the past eight years, she has witnessed the organization’s growth and development, always looking for innovative ways to expand services and secure funding. The “Way team” is continuously working together towards a common goal: to build safer communities. Roxana is passionate about helping people in need and is honored to be “a small piece in a big puzzle.”

Inspired by her mother, for her ambition and hard work, Roxana has always felt encouraged to follow her dreams and believe in herself. She learned from her many valuable life lessons—that women don’t have to be perfect to be happy and succeed, and that women have the power to shape lives through their actions.

When it comes to inspirational women in history, Roxana looks to Queen Marie of Romania, also known as Marie de Edinburg. She was born into the British royal family and she became the wife of Crown Prince Ferdinand of Romania. After the outbreak of World War I she and her three daughters volunteered as nurses in the military hospitals taking care of the soldiers who were injured or affected by cholera. Taking care of those in need, she would put on her old nurse uniform and head out to meet the injured and sick servicemen arriving from the front lines and transport them to hospitals. She had diplomatic skills which brought her power and influence.

Laura Criss is a Victim Advocate that works out of the OC Sheriff’s Department for Waymakers. Motivated by the culture of empowerment on the Waymakers staff, Laura enjoys working collaboratively with other women, whether on teams, projects, or committees, doing the hard work together and celebrating the finished outcome together, too. After 30-some years of working at Waymakers, Laura is part of the “village” that works together to provide what people need. Every person who works on the Waymakers staff is part of that “village” and is an advocate, no matter what their job title.

A tragic domestic violence and sexual assault case is one of Laura’s most memorable cases she has worked on. All of the leaders in the case were women – including the district attorney, OCSD investigator, other-county canine officer, and victim advocates – who came together in support of a women who needed them. The primary female victim was hardly recognizable when she was rescued, but in the end, her abuser received a sentence of 130 years to life, and her grandchild was born shortly thereafter—they named her Justice.

When it comes to celebrating women in history, Laura’s favorite historical woman role model is Rosa Parks. Laura had the privilege of meeting Parks and it was, of course, unforgettable. Her favorite living-woman role model is Michelle Obama, primarily because of her approachable presence, and her work to inspire women and girls. Her willingness to share her story and tell other women to live without shame is both challenging and inspiring.

Each one of these women are inspired by other women—but are just a few of the women at Waymakers who play a fundamental role in helping individuals of all ages find their way past conflict and crisis to strength and stability.

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