Ann Roth, a 2002 graduate from IU who studied Sociology and Nonprofit Management, has worked and volunteered in Bloomington and Central and South America over the past few years. Upon graduation, she worked full-time at the Shalom Community Center on Fourth Street, a soup kitchen, day service center and place to be for the hungry, homeless and poor of Bloomington.
She spent a year as Volunteer/Resource Coordinator at Shalom Community Center and also, during that time, volunteered with the Nonprofit Alliance for Monroe County. For the past two years she has spent half of her time in the US and half abroad.
While in the US, Roth has worked in low-wage and unpaid labor like temp work, day labor and caring for family members, which she feels has "aided me in a search for authenticity I felt I lacked as a woman from the middle-class working in anti-poverty programs."
While abroad, Roth has worked and volunteered in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Ecuador doing everything from waiting tables and nannying in the Costa Rican jungle to working in a Mayan village daycare in the Guatemalan highlands to educational street outreach for working children in Quito. She also became a full-time Spanish student in Nicaragua.
"Through these experiences, I have been trying to understand how our perceptions of poverty and inequality shape our individual and collective choices, where we place blame for inequality, who we feel is responsible, if anyone, for addressing inequality and how to address it. Being out of paid social service work has been extremely humbling and eye-opening. Being on 'the other side of the desk' has given me a greater perspective into what we mean by social welfare and has made me more open to exploring different options on how to reach a greater state of well-being in our human society," said Roth.
Roth goes on to explain the role of North Americans in creating and solving problems in the rest of this hemisphere, "Many of the problems that Central and South Americans face are connected to US actions and foreign policies. In general, there is not much support from civic society and the general publlic in the Americas for US backed economic policies in the region. The US has a history of supporting military coups, overthrowing democratically elected officials, many of whose platforms involved focusing on the poor majority rather than allowing the foreign, corporate control of land and natural resources."
"I would recommend that when people purchase coffee and products from Latin America, they look for fair-trade items," suggests Roth. "It is a small gesture. But, after staying on a coffee cooperative in Guatemala, I got to see first-hand the effects. More power and money in the hands of farmers themselves, with which they can better support their families and communities."
"In Guatemala, I stayed on a coffee cooperative run by indigenous Mayans who had been persecuted during the civil war. Hearing the personal stories of survivors of massacres, of how soldiers killed babies in front of their mothers, of how adults starved themselves so that children could eat has shaped my views of war and how misguided intentions can have absolutely horrific consequences. Generals and political leaders, backed by the US, said they thought they were protecting Guatemala and its people from 'liberal, leftist' influences, while killing hundreds of thousands of their own citizens.", laments Roth.
For the next six months, Roth will be volunteering in Ecuador with SERPAJ (Peace and Justice Services), which focuses on human rights, demilitarization and nonviolence education for progressive social change.
"From anarchists to socialists to capitalist leaders, I truly believe that most everyone desires the highest well-being as possible for their fellow human beings. We just quibble on how best to do it. That we all agree is a starting point and I believe that we must merely bridge ideological gaps and can work together in harmony to explore the nature of inequality in social and economic development and come to more just responses," said Roth.
On what experiences and people inspired her to pursue her present path, Roth states, "Bloomington itself is a very inspiring place. Thanks to all the amazing people that make it such a vibrant place to be. The Shalom CC and the people there filled my heart with such love before leaving and upon my return. My first authentic experiences abroad started with Catherine Gray, a Bloomington resident who moved with her children to live in Costa Rica for a year."
"While abroad, I met an Ecuadoran immigrant who had been living in Italy working low-wage jobs to support his family after the country's economic collapse. He had drastically changed his life to care for his family, yet expressed only humility and modesty. Knowing him and his family and the struggles they faced and seeing their amazing generosity was astounding and inspiring to me."
On the organizations with which she has worked and how to learn more bout them, "My upcoming work in Ecuador was facilitated through the Fellowship of Reconciliation, an interfaith organization committed to active nonviolence, and their web site is .... To learn about the educational street outreach I did in Ecuador, see .... The school where I learned Spanish in Guatemala can be found at .... Those that can read Spanish can find out about SERPAJ at www.serpaj.org.ec."
"Other organizations working on social and economic justice, human rights and peace are Peace Brigades International (...) and Global Exchange (...). Anyone wishing to contact me can email me at Roth.firstname.lastname@example.org," said Roth.
Mylo Roze can be reached at 812) 334~5728 or .