As a teen, Johanna Justin-Jinichlaunched a letter-writing campaign for Planned Parenthood aimed at fighting attempts to block female San Franciscans from getting reproductive counseling and prenatal care.
While at Wesleyan University, Justin-Jinich volunteered as an escort at a local abortion clinic and worked at the Meriden Health Center, where she translated for Spanish-speaking patients in the obstetrics unit.
"She did more in her 20 years than most people do in a lifetime," her uncle, Sam Jinich, said in a recent telephone interview.
Nearly three years after Justin-Jinich's slaying at the age of 21, the Wesleyan student's work promoting social justice and human rights continues in a slum in Kenya'scapital city, thousands of miles from the small Connecticut liberal arts university.
At theJohanna Justin-JinichCommunity Clinic in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, impoverished women and children receive quality health care in one of Africa's largest and poorest slums, where electricity and running water are scarce.
"This is not just a name on a clinic," Jinich said. "Having her name on that building is very much in keeping with what Johanna believed in."
Born into a family of physicians — her mother, father, maternal grandmother and paternal grandfather are all doctors — Justin-Jinich learned early about the need for access to universal health care.
"She believed that people, particularly women, needed to have access to health care," said Jinich, who is a psychologist. "These are things she grew up with, these are things that mattered to her. She would have loved the fact that this clinic was named after her."
Justin-Jinich had planned to intern in the summer of 2009 at the Institute for Women's Policy Research, a Washington D.C.-based organization that specializes in researching and promoting women's issues. After her graduation, she planned to continue her education at graduate school, focusing on international public health.
But that work would never happen. Stephen Morgan, ruled criminally insane by a panel of Superior Court judges last year, shot Justin-Jinich to death on May 6, 2009, inside a college bookstore and café two blocks from the Wesleyan campus in Middletown.
A hearing to discuss whether Morgan, 32, will be held at a maximum-security psychiatric hospital and the length of his stay at a facility will be held Wednesday in Superior Court in Middletown. He could be committed for up to 75 years.
Vaccines And Clean Water
Shining Hope for Communities is a grassroots, community-led organization co-founded by Kennedy Odede, who grew up in Kibera and is now a senior at Wesleyan University, and Jessica Posner, a 2009 Wesleyan graduate. Shining Hope received a grant from Newman's Own Foundation in 2010 to help pay to build the clinic in Justin-Jinich's memory.
Two years later, the community clinic in Kibera is flourishing, and recent developments in its pediatric health care program help ensure children receive vaccines and are monitored for malnutrition and common diseases.
Katherine Kitfield Bascom, Shining Hope's associate managing director, said the clinic is now able to handle 80 to 100 visits a week by children under age 5, not including the children with diarrhea, malaria and other diseases it already treats.
The clinic is next to the Kibera School for Girls, founded in 2009 as the first free school for girls in Kibera; a community center that provides social services, including an adult literacy program, and The Shining Hope water tower.
The tower, Kibera's largest single water point, opened last month and aims to provide clean water to 2,000 households or 12,000 people per day in its pilot phase.
"The whole site is really incredible," Kitfield Bascom said.
Kitfield Bascom said Justin-Jinich's classmates at Wesleyan, including Leah Lucid — Justin-Jinich's best friend — and Ari Tolman and Inslee Coddington teamed up with Shining Hope to make the clinic happen, volunteering their time while juggling demanding senior year course loads.
"This was very much a way for the Wesleyan community to heal and for something positive to be done in the face of such a tragedy," Kitfield Bascom said.
When she learned Shining Hope was considering building a health clinic, Lucid immediately thought of Justin-Jinich.
"I thought, she needs to be a part of this. This is exactly what her dreams were. It would be such a fitting tribute," Lucid said.
Her idea to name the clinic after Justin-Jinich was met with approval from her Shining Hope colleagues and Justin-Jinich's family.
For Lucid, the trip to Kenya and the long hours working to get the clinic up and running helped her deal with the tragedy of losing her best friend. Though the days were long and the work was tough, it helped being away from Wesleyan at such a tough time, she said.
"I needed something to throw myself into for her. Everyone kind of did," she said. "Everyone involved in the project felt impacted by her death."
Lucid said the brightly colored blue and pink clinic is one of the only permanent structures in Kibera where people live in mud huts and ditches.
"I think she'd be amazed at how it stands out like a beacon of hope in the middle of this slum," Lucid said. " I think she'd be honored that we took all of this time working on this. It would have meant the world to her."
Sam Jinich said knowing that the clinic and the neighboring school are giving women and girls in Kibera significant opportunities in life they did not have before would have given his niece great joy. He said she would have been proud of her friends who helped make it happen.
"This would have really thrilled Johanna to no end," he said.
As a young girl, her uncle said, Justin-Jinich learned about the destructiveness of prejudice and how some in the world — in the face of such discrimination — could offer hope in their efforts to gain equality for others.
Her grandmother had survived the Holocaust and her mother's family was able to gain entry into the United States after World War II with the help of the American Quakers, Sam Jinich said. Justin-Jinich attended the Westtown School in Pennsylvania, a Quaker preparatory school.
Her upbringing among physicians, her exposure to the Quaker tradition and its commitment to peace, and Justin-Jinich's Jewish roots "played a big part in framing Johanna's ideas about empowering women," Sam Jinich said.
When Morgan's father, James Morgan, was interviewed by police after the shooting, he told police that his son kept a journal and was known "to make anti-Jewish comments," according to court records. Police later found a journal belonging to Morgan that contained such writings as Justin-Jinich "must die" and that Morgan thought it was "OK to kill Jews and go on a killing spree" at Wesleyan.
Police also found the anti-Jewish publication, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," in the Middletown motel room that Morgan rented the night before the deadly shooting. The book, a 19th-century hoax by the Russian secret police that alleged a Jewish conspiracy to rule the world, is embraced by neo-Nazis, anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers.
Last December, The Courant published a story about how Justin-Jinich at age 15 wrote and illustrated a book about religious tolerance called "Julia's Star."
Justin-Jinich's paternal grandmother, Sonia Jinich, found the book in a desk after her granddaughter's death and the family had it published. "Julia's Star" is being used in classrooms, book groups and community programs in Connecticut coordinated by the Anti-Defamation League to educate students about Judaism and overcoming prejudice.
In the book's epilogue, Renate Gabriela Justin-Lieberg, Justin-Jinich's grandmother who survived the Holocaust, writes that her granddaughter "became a victim of prejudice and destruction, the very scourge she struggled to eliminate."
Sam Jinich said the prophetic book and the clinic in Justin-Jinich's name are fitting examples of his niece's legacy, tributes that have brought comfort to her family and friends. He said the family looks forward to someday visiting the clinic.
"It's only been three years for us. We're just beginning to come out of the darkness of the clouds," Jinich said. "Who knows how many more ways there will be to give meaning to her life?"