Purposeful Itinerant

May/June 2011

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Purposeful Itinerant

Photo: Courtesy Carin Anderson

Carin Anderson has spent her life learning and teaching—and "learning from teaching." Work has taken her from California to El Salvador, Colombia and Mexico in an odyssey of intentional living.

At Stanford her Spanish coursework allowed the Chico, Calif., native to spend several months in Guatemala. That visit inspired 15 years of Latin American connections, beginning in 1997 with three annual trips to El Salvador for grassroots development work.

Anderson entered UC-Berkeley to get a master's degree in education and taught kindergarten and first grade for two years before she was drawn back to international human rights work.

She and her husband, Chris Moore-Backman, traveled to rural Colombia with the Fellowship of Reconciliation, a grassroots organization that supports a tactic called nonviolent accompaniment. "International citizens stay with people in communities that are under wartime death threat," she explains. "The presence of the international citizens serves as a protective force."

The couple was based for 10 months in a mountain village—accessible only by foot—that had been the target of guerilla and paramilitary massacres. They also worked in banana fields, traveled with village leaders outside of the town and helped in a one-room schoolhouse supervised by Colombian nuns.

While Chris and two others stayed in the village, Anderson traveled to the United States to speak about the program and the Colombian atrocities.

In 2005 the couple, expecting a baby, relocated to the United States. Eager to maintain Latin America connections, they moved to the tiny border town of Douglas, Ariz., where they worked in a migrant resource center. "During the summer, so many migrants die in the desert. There are humanitarian efforts to put water and food in the desert."

Joining border delegations took them to both sides of the border, where they saw life, death, fear and survival. "We were at a center where a woman had been dropped off. She was upset, devastated, crying and shaking. She had just tried to cross the desert and had been separated from her 8-year-old son." In fear for his life, the mother's worry and pain cascaded as members of the delegation intervened, making calls to try and find the child. "The next day, they found the child, who had somehow made it back to Mexico."

Currently Anderson is enjoying life near family and friends in Chico as she finishes a year teaching kindergarten and first grade in a Montessori school. Her daughter, Isa, now 5, is in her class. The family is eager to go to Central America, "not to a war zone, but to Nicaragua. We are returning this summer to introduce Isa to Latin America. She is so excited to learn." And her parents look forward to teaching her

Elizabeth Clair, '11, is a Stanford intern.

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