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G.O.A.L. oriented: Isla Roona. Photo by John Whipple.

Triumph of the Spirit

Local activist Isla Roona was awarded the Go On And Live! award Oct. 24 at a luncheon ceremony in New York City. Roona was just one of 10 recipients nationally to receive the honor.

The G.O.A.L.! award is bestowed on those who have demonstrated their ability to succeed, through volunteer work and community service, despite the crippling effects of depression.

“I am 36 years of age and this is the first time that I have been willing to speak about such issues publicly,” said Roona. “I am doing this because I am committed to serving the needs of others that have been victims of crime and abuse, particularly sexual abuse, which remains a hidden problem in many communities.”

Roona said she began suffering from depression as a teenager after she was the victim of repeated sexual abuse that started at the age of 11. At 18, her misery began to interfere with her ability to function, and she soon found it hard to remain in school. She dropped out of college and moved to New York City to start anew, only to face a severe traumatic setback when she was attacked and raped at gunpoint. For years thereafter, she struggled to overcome her painful symptoms. She had trouble holding jobs, and became temporarily homeless.

When Roona met her husband-to-be in 1991, her life began to take a turn for the better. With his support, she said she was able to go back to school, complete her degree in social work, and graduate with honors.

Roona has since been trying to use her experience to help others and has poured her energy into Albany Restorative Justice, a program where the victim and offender sit down face-to-face and work out an alternative sentence to repair the damage done by the crime. In addition, Restorative Justice has organized healing circles for communities of victims and their families after a violent crime has been committed. Roona has also supported communal projects in the inner city, such as creating gardens and painting large murals that depict personal and communal healing.

“Volunteer work and finding a strong spiritual foundation has been what has helped me get through my depression,” said Roona. “Most important is the spiritual component. I now feel that I am at a point where I really have that. I am honored to have won the G.O.A.L.! Award because it represents how far I’ve come since my depression and how my recovery has benefited the community.”

The G.O.A.L.! Award is given by the Points of Light Foundation. It is an extension of a national depression awareness campaign that was launched last April by actress Delta Burke.


Cruel Advice

Is it possible that the state Department of Environmental Conservation recommends that people drown pesky wildlife as a way of getting rid of the unwanted visitors? According to a recorded telephone conversation between an undercover investigator for the People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals and a state wildlife official, the answer is yes.

At a press conference held last Thursday, PETA released a taped conversation in which Doug Little, a biologist working for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation at Stony Brook, Long Island, told a PETA representative, who was posing as a concerned citizen having trouble with a stray cat, to capture the animal in a garbage bag and hold it under water for several minutes.

Stephanie Boyles, a wildlife biologist for PETA, said that the practice is illegal under the New York state anti-cruelty law.

“The terror experienced by animals—whether cats or raccoons—trapped and submerged in water is unimaginable,” said Boyles, “No government agency should be endorsing such needless cruelty in this, the 21st century. We are asking the DEC and Gov. George Pataki to act immediately to stop this barbaric behavior.”

Jennifer Post, spokeswoman for the DEC, said that her organization does not oversee cats but rather wildlife, which include mice, rats, raccoons and rabbits. Therefore, she said, Little was wrong to suggest such a method to dispose of the animal. She explained that at the DEC’s regional office there is a brochure that makes suggestions, including drowning, for disposing of animals caught in live traps. However, she adds that the DEC is in the process of rewriting these guidelines to exclude such a method.

“The person who suggested this has been reprimanded.” said Post. “We do not advocate the drowning of cats.”

The DEC admitted it was wrong and has agreed to draft a policy that forbids NYDEC representatives from promoting drowning and other lethal methods for controlling wildlife. Boyles said that a new policy, which will be distributed to environmental agency staffers throughout New York once it’s completed, will encourage people to keep garbage containers covered and seal crevices in houses to deter wildlife. If these methods fail, the policy will suggest that people contact animal control to handle the problem.

“The DEC can’t give back the lives that ended in panic and horror,” said Boyles. “But we are very pleased that the agency is taking steps to prevent future cruelty.”


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