When they married, Gloria White-Hammond and her husband considered becoming missionaries in Africa. Events—and children—intervened, and the two stayed in Boston, founding Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church and ministering to their flock and needy neighbors.
But the lean, elegant pediatrician still had a burden for Africa, and she periodically found her way there on humanitarian missions. In 2001, she traveled to Sudan to help redeem more than 2,000 women and girls taken as slaves during that country's civil war. The stories she heard there—of beatings, killings, and almost unimaginable sexual abuse—sickened her. But so did the grinding, dead-end lives the women were returning to. "You bring them back to their communities," White-Hammond says, "but then what?"
The doctor's answer to that question was to provide, in 2004, diesel-powered mills to relieve the women's traditional, all-day task of grinding grain—and to support a new school for girls, called My Sister's Keeper School. Her next stop: bloody Darfur in western Sudan, to learn what women there need.
*The name of this award was originally the Impact Award. In 2008, the awards were renamed as the Inspire Awards.