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Houston Honorees

“A smile,” an old adage goes, “is a light in the window of the soul.”

Three dentists in Houston are working hard to help brighten that light for women and girls who refuse to be victims of horrific violence, including domestic violence, human trafficking, and forced marriage.

These dentists are among many unsung heroes working behind the scenes with Tahirih Justice Center to help create a world where women and girls enjoy equality and live in safety and with dignity.

This Saturday at The Houstonian Hotel, Dr. Marjaneh Azad, Dr. Helen Jafari, and Dr. Paul Lee will be honored with Pro Bono of the Year Awards at the 4th Annual Houston Gala, “The Goodfellas: Recognizing the Critical Role of Men in Ending Violence Against Women,” for their selfless service to survivors.

“Dentists are a critical part of our Pro Bono Network,” said Tahirih Houston Director Anne Chandler.

“We see a lot of courageous women and girls who have intense dental needs, sometimes as a result of the violence they’ve suffered in the past,” Chandler said. “Some of our clients have actually never received dental work due to extreme poverty and years of persecution.”

Before seeing Dr. Jafari, one Tahirih client had been plagued by tooth pain for years. Now, thanks to Dr. Jafari’s expert, donated care, the client is able to rebuild her life free from violence and also free from pain.

“You don’t often think of dentists as heroes, but that’s exactly what they are to every woman and girl who they help,” said Nasim Hoomanrad, Tahirih Houston’s Social Services Program Manager.

“They’re changing lives, one smile at a time,” Hoomanrad said.

Tahirih’s Pro Bono Medical Network is comprised of physicians, dentists, and mental health professionals who are devoted to serving Tahirih clients free of charge. They have become an integral part of allowing courageous women and girls access to justice by providing free or low-cost preventative and emergency care, as well as expert testimony on behalf of clients in court.

At the gala, Tahirih will also proudly recognize Deputy Edwin Chapuseaux with the 2015 Advocacy Award. Since 2004, Deputy Chapuseaux has served as an investigator with the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance (HTRA), assigned to the Houston FBI Office, and he has demonstrated exceptional advocacy in his field through leadership and his consistent focus on the needs of survivors.

Additional gala honorees include: Courageous Voice Honoree Leila,* a survivor of female genital mutilation/cutting and forced marriage, and Baker & McKenzie, Pro Bono Firm of the Year. Emmy-nominated actor Rainn Wilson will serve as the evening’s emcee.

The annual Houston gala raises vital funds for Tahirih to continue its lifesaving work to protect immigrant women and girls fleeing violence through free legal and social services, policy advocacy, and training and education. More information is available at