We were lucky to have our fellow Rotarian Wilma Wood tell us some of her adventures, and the life lessons she has learned. She grew up in an all-white community in the South, in a town with one black family, whose children didn’t even go to public school. But Wilma played with them, and got to know these kids, and wondered why they were treated differently.
When she went to college in Texas, she lived on campus at a black college in a group of 25 students of many races from around the world. Although she is white, she encountered discrimination when people learned where she lived. She learned a lot about prejudice during this time.
As a graduate student she moved to Ohio and met and married her husband. Wilma is an educator, and she loves teaching. She worked in all kinds of schools, as a teacher and as an administrator, and was in an all white school during the 60’s, when integration was implemented. Wilma saw her share of race riots, and was even sprayed with mace.
Later on she worked for Habitat for Humanity, and when Jimmy Carter called her up to ask her to go to El Salvador to help build five shelters, she went, with just her backpack and a medical kit. Conditions were primitive. She and 14 other volunteers slept on the ground. There were dangerous animals in the jungle. She worked for seven weeks to build these five cinder block houses for the homeless. Living in those conditions, seeing how much of the rest of the world lives, and being able to accomplish the Habitat for Humanity project made this trip a life changing experience.
Wilma has also marched alongside civil rights leaders, fighting for equal rights in the South, and has more stories about those experiences.
We were lucky to hear firsthand some of the adventures she has had. She says this is why she is a Rotarian, because she wants to make a difference.