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We are thankful for those who have made an estate gift to Oxfam America. Here are their stories.

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“Overcoming barriers.”

Oxfam donor Dr. Dorothea Simmons, who recently passed away at age 99, broke through barriers during her lifetime while also helping others to succeed. Despite significant financial challenges, in 1949, she graduated from Howard University Medical School and was among a small number of Black women to become physicians at that time. After residency training in child psychiatry, she joined the staff at Worcester Youth Guidance Center in Massachusetts, where her clinical work focused on low-income families, while also providing training and supervision, and consultation to schools and agencies. She also enjoyed experiencing different cultures. Her travels took her to China, Kenya and Cuba, as well as St. Kitts, her mother’s homeland and Bermuda, her father’s birthplace.

Dorothea was a social and environmental advocate throughout her life. In retirement, she often took two college courses a semester to enhance her knowledge. She continued to volunteer into her mid-eighties as a literacy volunteer and at an immunization program where she counseled new mothers.

In her own words: “Within my professional role, but possibly more in my civic and community activities, I made an investment in advocating for children and families to reduce the barriers to survival and success.” She also said “Life has ups and downs. I have had more ups than downs.”

Dorothea extended her concern for others through an Oxfam charitable gift annuity and by putting Oxfam in her estate plans, for which we are grateful.

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“Oxfam can speak for me to a large audience.”

Retired schoolteacher and avid hiker Wanda Shirk states, “I have liked the mission objectives of Oxfam, and I have also found that Oxfam has done its homework—has researched the problems and speaks publicly about systemic inequalities in societies.” She adds that it’s important to educate people about those matters and to develop awareness among people who have advantages. Oxfam “is one of the best organizations for doing that.”

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“Striving for justice.”

Longtime Oxfam contributor Marjorie Rachlin left a legacy in more ways than one. A month before her passing in August of 2021 she updated her gift plans to include our work with partners assisting families in war-torn Yemen. According to nephew Douglas Allchin she was an “audacious and outspoken advocate for truth and social justice.” Besides working in the labor union movement for 50 years, she supported women’s rights, the environment and the arts. He adds, “Marjorie’s final gift for Yemen was very much about helping those who suffered misfortune not of their own making.”

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“Making a better world.”

Teddy Bowman spent his entire life living off the grid. He didn’t drive a car nor heat his home for decades. According to sister Bonnie Henson, “He wanted to limit his earthly carbon footprint and attempt in a small way to reduce climate change for future generations.” He retired in 2013 after working 42 years as a software engineer. As his pension plan savings and unspent monthly salaries increased, he searched for deserving causes. According to Bonnie, “Teddy chose Oxfam because he believed deeply in your core mission of fighting inequality to help eliminate injustice and poverty to make this a better world.”

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“Life is short; do what you can when you can.”

Divya Singh, M.D., says: “My trips to the developing world have taught me how fragile life can be. I’m a strong believer in paying it forward; it’s important to create opportunities for others. That’s why I became a member of the Legacy Circle.” Thanks to Divya’s commitment, the ideals that attracted her to Oxfam—social justice, women’s empowerment, and access to education for girls around the world—will be supported well into the future.

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“Oxfam is our first and greatest love.”

Legacy Circle members Stephen and Jane Land listed Oxfam as a beneficiary of their retirement account. They are preserving the ideals that attracted them to Oxfam in 1973: self-reliance, local control, focus on social justice, and willingness to self-question. The Lands also appreciate Oxfam’s ability to act independently and speak truth to power. Stephen says, “Oxfam amplifies the voices of marginalized people. We can’t think of a better way to reflect our values.”

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“Always looking out for those less fortunate.”

California donor Ida Wheeler, who died at 105, left Oxfam in her plans. Over her lifetime, she took numerous trips overseas and gained an appreciation for the challenges facing women in India, South Africa, and elsewhere. According to her niece Connie Waldeck, Ida was frugal and not concerned about comfort in her golden years—all she cared about was giving to others. “I didn’t save for myself,” Connie recalls Ida saying, and she adds, “Auntie quietly gave to many different charities. She cared very deeply about the charities that she supported.”

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“Advocating for systemic change.”

Tito and Laura Meyer say: “We support Oxfam because of the important work it does all over the world. Not only does Oxfam provide emergency relief, Oxfam concentrates on bringing long-term solutions to hunger and poverty. The thing that convinced us to become legacy donors is that Oxfam also advocates for change at the governmental level.”

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