28 June 2017

Meet AIUSA Group 242 member Marsha Brofka-Berends

(This is part of a series of occasional posts featuring members of AIUSA Group 342, ordinary people with a passion for human rights.)

Marsha Brofka-Berends has a long history with Amnesty International, going back to her high school days when she had an Amnesty t-shirt with the Declaration of Human Rights on the back. But she didn’t manage to connect with any local groups until about ten years ago, when she was looking for social activism opportunities near where she lives and found this group on Meetup. Since then she’s participated in Group 342’s annual Write for Rights tabling event each December and maintained its e-mail list and blog.

Group 342 is important to her because these gatherings of like-minded human-rights activists give her a much-needed reminder that there are people working for good in the world and that together they can make a difference. She says, “Without such reminders, it would be easy to get overwhelmed by helplessness in the face of all the rotten things that people can do to each other. We just have to remember that most people are good, that most people want to help others, and that together we can actually have an impact.”

Marsha points out that although Amnesty International is a global organization that’s renowned for its effectiveness, the U.S.-based section (AIUSA) has been struggling these past few years with identity and structural issues. She feels that these problems have had an adverse effect on its outreach: “Group 342 is pretty small, but I know that there are a lot more people out there who are interested in human-rights activism and would be happy to write a letter (or attend a meeting) if they only knew about us.” With that in mind, she’d like to see AIUSA prioritize public awareness campaigns and recruitment and expand its membership well beyond its current rosters. “Given the busy-ness of people’s lives today and how many different things compete for our attention, I know it’s not easy to expand AIUSA’s visibility,” she says. “But I think it can be done, particularly if the local groups get more support from the regional and central offices.”

She strongly believes that the actions of individuals do add up and can shape our world. For this reason, she’s been a vegetarian for nearly twenty-five years and contributes to Doctors without Borders, the ACLU, and Amnesty International.

Marsha is currently a professional wordsmith (mostly editing, but some writing and research as well)—work she’s been doing for over two decades, starting when she was in graduate school working on a Ph.D. in sociocultural anthropology. She grew up in the Midwest, lived on a Swiss dairy farm for a year while studying at the Universit√© de Fribourg, and spent a year on the Oregon coast interviewing loggers and environmental activists. And even though she’s now lived in the Philadelphia suburbs for nearly twenty years, she says she still hasn’t gotten used to the traffic around here!

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