[Ruth, pictured at left of photo, shares some laughs with OPIRG Volunteers at Annual General Meeting]
Can you tell me something about your personal and academic background?
Well, I grew up on a farm. My dad died when I was six and we moved to a small village, which was like a metropolitan city to me. We lived with my uncle, who became a successful businessman, so I had a wonderful life. I got my college education paid for. I was expected to work as much as I could, which I did at a childrens’ camp, where I helped with cooking. So my career took a form of cooking in a way. I gained my college diploma in nutrition and from there I went to teaching. After that I took university courses, because it meant more money. At that point of my life I was going after the money to become an independent woman. I also had four children. It was wonderful and I love teaching. Then, I was thinking about retirement. Many of my colleagues went back to teaching, but I wanted to do something different – I wanted to be outside. I was looking to do something meaningful. I also wanted to do something for myself. I had a traditional education and now I wanted to look at the issues from different perspectives, to get information from different sources. Things were not well documented or well researched, that was one reason I got connected with the university through OPIRG.
What topics do you focus on in your personal research?
I was close to being seduced into a very comfortable way of life and not really thinking about people that are in a minority, that are suffering. So I wanted to bring that to my consciousness, because as a woman I feel as a minority. That is why I also feel strongly about the equality of women. As a woman, I felt it many times at a workplace and I wanted to speak out against sexism. I believe it is important that we explore it in a greater dimension to a greater depth, why there is inequality, why are women being raped, why is rape a war strategy, why are women and children being trafficked.
I think whenever a man disrespects woman or woman disrespects man, we both lose. I had my share of winning and my share of losing and I do not like either of them. That is why I do not like competitions. I much prefer sitting down, having a conversation and reaching a mutual understanding, because through cooperation there is always much more to gain.
How did you first get involved with OPIRG?
You know I cannot remember? (laugh) Well, I do a fundraising for Bottles for Africa, where we collect empty wine and beer bottles to raise money for development in Africa. We now have $12000, we built a school and now we are building another one. It started when I realized there were these empty bottles in my house and I really did not want to return them, and I realised there are many other people like me. My daughter went to Kenya and I realised help is much needed there, and there is a lot of money in the bottles. But for that we needed the neighbourhood to get involved, so I thought maybe OPIRG can help us in some way. And they have helped me a lot. And I started to be interested in what they were doing, what they were thinking. So I said sure, I want to be a part of this organisation.
What is your role in the Board?
I am not really sure (laughs). I am there to listen to and understand the agenda of all the proposals and ideas where people want some support. Then we discuss the people wanting support and the applications for the working groups. I believe it is my role to create conditions and get support for organisations which think along the same lines as I do. That is my role, to encourage wider support for OPIRG and bring forward its ideas. I do not think I make a huge difference, but I do try my best. (laughs)
How would you describe your experience with OPIRG?
My involvement in OPIRG has been a very positive aspect of my life. Meeting all the people here was been very beneficial for me. It makes a huge difference when you can discuss your personal research and conclusions with these people. That has been a very positive thing for me and it is nice to see that there are so many people out there, working on so many good causes. Moreover, it is very exciting to see that there are many young people actively involved. Because these people are going to be our future and they are taking their free time to be part of this wonderful organisation, which has a very positive impact on the local community.