Beth Wofford

Elizabeth Wofford (Dzeno): Between 2009 and 2011 Beth studied at the University of Maryland – she graduated with with a Bachelor of Arts in Socio-Cultural Anthropology. In 2010, Beth studied in Prague, where where she first encountered discrimination against the Roma community. She spent the spring semester of 2011 interning at the Global Terrorism Database (a research project of the US Department of Homeland Security). Beth was also a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and the Sigma Circle of Omicron Delta Kappa Leadership Fraternity. After her fellowship Beth wrote: “I am absolutely more confident. I know that I can work through tough issues and be able to make a product happen. I have more faith in myself and in other people to get things done that need to get done.”



Na Shledanou, Česká republika! (Goodbye, Czech Republic!)

18 Aug

So here it is. My last day in the Czech Republic. As always with traveling (and life in general), it feels like I just got here! But soon enough it will be back to school, abundant with readings and research papers. Luckily for me, I get a whole week to move into a new apartment and settle in before its back to the daily grind!

My time here has been, well, different than I anticipated. I have become kind of a rogue Peace Fellow. Unlike my fellow Peace Fellows, I really did not have a community based organization. As you can see in my previous blogs, I did not do a lot with Dženo, especially since Ivan closed the office in the end of July. Instead, I have been focusing my energies on learning about Roma issues, interviewing activists, and working with the group of women in Mimoň to create an advocacy quilt.

Yesterday was my last visit to Mimoň. It was so wonderful to see the completed panels the women made, many with no experience whatsoever in embroidery. They put a lot of thought and effort into creating pieces which showcase the normalcy of their lives, but still including the underlying current of intense discrimination they are faced with everyday.

Leona created this silhouette of a dancing Roma woman surrounded by the stars of the European Union with the wheel of the Roma incorporated into this circle. She told me that she just wants to be included, and that it is not only a Czech problem, but a European problem.

Leona created this silhouette of a dancing Roma woman surrounded by the stars of the European Union with the wheel of the Roma incorporated into this circle. She told me that she just wants to be included, and that it is not only a Czech problem, but a European problem.

Zaneta created this violin to display her love of music and the importance it plays in Roma culture.

Zaneta created this violin to display her love of music and the importance it plays in Roma culture.

Emilie created this scene of traditional Roma life, complete with a horse and caravan. She incorporated elements from nature, because Roma used to live off the land while still nomadic. The campfire in the bottom left corner is representative of the strong oral traditional of storytelling in the Roma community.

Emilie created this scene of traditional Roma life, complete with a horse and caravan. She incorporated elements from nature, because Roma used to live off the land while still nomadic. The campfire in the bottom left corner is representative of the strong oral traditional of storytelling in the Roma community.

I got to say goodbye to all of the women except for Leona, who has been in and out of the doctor’s office with her one year old daughter. The poor thing has been quite sick. However, the other five women who have been working on the quilt were all present for the final presentation of the panels.

 Emilie Z, Renata, and I pose for a final picture with the parting gift of a teddy bear they gave me!

Emilie Z, Renata, and I pose for a final picture with the parting gift of a teddy bear they gave me!

I am finding it hard to find the words to truly express the impact these women have had on me. My experience as a Peace Fellow would have been infinitely less rewarding if I had not found this group of women to work with. Initially we had about fifteen women lined up to work on the quilt, but as time passed, the number dwindled to only six. These six women were the only ones brave enough to take the chance to give up some of their time and try to make a difference.

Their enthusiasm has kept my spirits high, and gives me so much hope for their futures. Emilie, our translator and newlywed, is already talking about expanding the project into Macedonia, where her husband is from. She told me how empowered she felt by being able to tell her story. The women in Macedonia, she told me, have even harder lives, and their empowerment could be even greater.

After an exchanging of gifts for our final visit with each other, it was time to say goodbye to these wonderful ladies. Many hugs, kisses, and thank yous were exchanged and promises to stay in touch were made. When it came time for me to walk down to the bus stop and take the final long trip back to Prague, Renata walked me to the bus station.

She made sure I got on my bus, and waved me off as the bus pulled away. I will truly miss these women, and I am so grateful for this experience to work with the people policy affects on the ground. I hope that one day they can see the fruit of their labors, and I am so excited to see how both similar and different their stories are from the women in France and in Kosovo.

Thank you to everyone who has been reading this summer. I hope to come back and give everyone an update complete with pictures once we complete the quilt in full. Until then, Na shledanou!

Posted By Beth Wofford

Posted Aug 18th, 2011

2 Comments

  • pegah

    August 19, 2011

     

    It makes me so sad to read all of your last AP blogs as a few of you head back home. It feels like not too long ago I too had just started at the Advocacy Project and began reading all of your blogs. Now I have to say goodbye to all of the stories and people I’ve read and learned so much about the past few months with you! thank you for sharing your experiences with us beth!

    • Beth Wofford

      August 23, 2011

       

      Thanks for reading! I cannot believe I am already at home. I keep waking up to think I will be in Prague and going back to visit Mimon again! Can’t wait for you to see the completed quilt!

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