Life/work

I create art. I paint. I build and design websites. I take photos. I sketch. I grow things. I know what makes things work. I see the big picture.

I have my B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Florida, and an M.A. in International Relations at the University of Florida.

I am a human rights worker. I used to work in Colombia, accompanying Internally Displaced People (IDPs) who had returned to their farms along the Opon River near Barrancabermeja, a city about the size of Gainesville, Florida (imagine replacing the university with a giant oil factory). Barranca was famously left-leaning for decades with the ubiquitous red star portraits of Che Guevara painted on buildings all over town. So famous was this guerilla-controlled town that Carlos Castena, leader of the largest paramilitary group in the country boasted of drinking coffee there by Christmas of 2000(?) and after so many days and  so many number of “guerrillas” killed, he did.

I arrived in Colombia three years later. The paramilitaries maintained a strict control that weighed heavily on the city, unspoken but ever-present. Every day the papers headlined the latest murder victim –literally. I cannot remember a day when we didn’t read about a murder in the news. Murder was so common on my way to the airport the taxi driver pulled over when he saw a crowded gathered by the side of the road. When he heard it was a body he asked who? and we drove on.

I’d been in the middle of grad school knowing I was studying what I was so that I could become a human rights worker when an opportunity came along to go to the war-torn country with trans-national organization called CPT. They were Mennonites but it was a secular project. The people of those communities had asked for help from a local priest in Barranca and he in turn had asked some contacts of his in Bogota and they knew of this group based out of Toronto who sent teams of international observers to conflict zones around the world in order to bear witness to any war crimes by either side and to remind the armed groups, when encountered, of their obligations under international law.

I heard this story from the priest in Barranca, a very short, delicate yet/and handsome man who spoke so warmly and gently to us in his office one Saturday afternoon.

I worked down there from 2003 to 2004. During that time we encountered probably about a dozen corpses in the river to detain them so that they didn’t float by the entire village terrifying the children playing on the banks who would then run screaming back to their mothers “un muerto! un muerto!” (a body).

I have experience holding the hands of a mother who has come out with the city morgue to identify a body that is possibly that of her missing son. As they pulled him onto the river bank to search for a metal plate in his shin her wail rose up into the skies so loud I was sure the whole global stopped right then and felt the force of this woman’s grief

I wrote empassioned pleas in moving and descriptive articles that the organization published in its monthly newsletter and after a year, the Team Leader took me aside and said that’s enough and sent me home. They thought it was taking too much of an emotional toll on me so I went back to Gainesville, FL and finished my degree.

Then I got a job offer to work as the Communications Coordinator at a national farmworker’s rights group based in Washington, D.C. I worked there for three years. Then I did some consulting helping nonprofits with tech and communications for a few years until last year when I became the Digital Communications Manager for a federal budget watchdog group and that’s what I do now.  I design, build and maintain websites for nonprofits. I work with Joomla, WordPress, Drupal and ExpressionEngine and I use Adobe Dreamweaver, Illustrator and inDesign.

As you can tell from Colombia I am bilingual in English and Spanish and have lived, worked and traveled all over the Americas since 1997.  I went to Costa Rica for 2 months to fulfill my language requirement for college and I went back every summer until 2006 when I returned from a research internship carrying out a housing study for Habitat for Humanity in Chile and presenting a report on the impact of housing in 12 communities in 4 different countries.

Here in the US, I have also:

  • worked for a lawyer who represented clients on death row;
  • volunteered at homeless shelters in St. Pete, Florida and Gainesville, Florida;
  • organized, along with fellow volunteers, a mobile outreach effort to bring food, supplies and social services to homeless people living in camps in the woods outside Gainesville;
  • taught English as a Second Language to recent immigrants in St. Pete, Florida, and Chicago, IL;
  • volunteered in an elementary school garden teaching kids about food and nutrition (2006 school year);
  • participated in the 2007 US Social Forum and had my photos of it published in Yes! Magazine’s Fall 2007 edition;
  • managed a short-term rental property in downtown DC;
  • taught myself how to code; and
  • become a pole fitness instructor at the age of 39;

I’m an unconventional thinker, a big-picture kind of gal who felt right at home in mind-bending courses on post-modern epistemologies. I’m smart, but more importantly I’m enthusiastic and passionate about what I do and what I believe in. And what I believe in is simple:

I believe in making the world a better, safer place for children and other living things.