Guest Speaker - Pennye Nixon

Pennye Nixon

Smith County TN holds the unique honor of producing two Nobel Peace Prize winners. Every year Smith County Celebrates recognizes these native heroes and keeps local accomplishments in the forefront of our minds by celebrating these peace makers.

A little further away in Washington State, The Greater Tacoma Peace Prize also celebrates peace. This prize is modeled after the Nobel Prize for Peace and has been awarded to peacemakers from the Tacoma/Pierce County Washington region since 2005, when the Sons and Daughters of Norway teamed up with Pacific Lutheran University.

Both these organizations speak volumes about what their communities value.

Every year the GTPP board works on ways to promote peace through research and skills training. But the most visible contribution is honoring “champions of peace,” as Swedish inventor and tycoon Alfred Nobel once called them.

Tacoma is one of a few cities in the U.S. that gives out the prize, and the only one that has a relationship with the Nobel Peace Committee in Norway and sends its annual winner to the award ceremony.

It’s in Norway where these two celebrations come together. In 2017 Pennye Nixon, born and raised in Smith County, received The Greater Tacoma Peace Prize as founder of Etta Projects. Etta Projects is a Tacoma based organization that works for access to clean water, sanitation and basic health care in the poorest country in South America, Bolivia.

Pennye Nixon founded Etta Projects in 2003 after the tragic death of her daughter, Etta, a Rotary international exchange student, in a bus crash in Bolivia. During her short time in Bolivia, Etta recognized the injustice of poverty and challenged others to think and respond with compassion and action in some rather bold ways. After her death, the locals asked to name a dining hall for malnourished children after her and with that center Etta Projects was born. Six years later that project was turned over to a local women’s organization and Pennye led Etta Projects to remote rural Bolivia where it now works with communities with clean water, safe sanitation and basic healthcare.

The philosophy of Etta Projects has always been one of sustainable development; the conviction that local people know their needs best and that they have the skills and knowledge to meet those needs. Our projects are designed based on the interests and recommendations of community members and completed with the help of the community as a whole. The core of all projects is training and education to empower participants with the tools to make sustainable changes in their lives. Etta Projects recently added a Community Transformation Center to further development in rural villages. The center provides a forum for building community-based leadership skills for villagers and coordinates with other NGOs and universities to connect them and communities to work on grassroots development together and research into diseases that rarely touch the developed world.

Prior to founding Etta Projects, Pennye practiced as a child, family and marriage therapist. She holds an M.A. in Psychology from Pacific Lutheran University and a B.A. in Human Services from the University of Tennessee. Pennye was awarded the RESULTS Kitsap Peninsula Global Humanitarian Award for her work with global poverty and the International Woman of the Year Award by the city of Montero, Bolivia. After being named as The Greater Tacoma Peace Prize Laureate, Pennye was honored to participate in the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Ceremonies in Oslo Norway.

Pennye Nixon will be the guest speaker at the Smith County Celebrates award banquet on Saturday August 17, 2019.