Activist Spotlight: Rujuta Gaonkar
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
First and foremost, I am the parent of an 8 year old who is spirited, loving, infuriating, brilliant, creative, funny and compassionate….sometimes all at once! In Portland for nearly 13 years, I’ve worked at the intersections of public health and social justice for 20 years, most recently with Kaiser Permanente Community Health, where I manage a portfolio investing in efforts to address the various factors (housing, education, race/ism, economic opportunity) that impact the ability of our community members to be healthy.
How long have you been volunteering with Family Forward and how did you get started?
I first learned of Family Forward in 2010, when Sharon Bernstein, (Co-Founder/Deputy Director) met with me when I worked in a prior capacity with the Multnomah County Health Department, seeking to learn more about using Popular Education methods to more authentically and effectively engage with communities. I joined the Board shortly thereafter in 2011, took a hiatus in 2016 to focus more on the demands of work and parenthood, and am delighted to have just re-joined the board of Family Forward Oregon, Family Forward Action’s sister organization.
What’s your favorite part about volunteering/working with FFO?
It’s inspiring to be involved with an organization whose volunteers and staff unremittingly get sh*t done, yet do so with humor, humility and flexibility. My time away from my son is limited and precious, and knowing that spending it with Family Forward feels constructive and meaningful (and fun!) is why I have continued to be involved.
Why is it important to be involved in organizing and activism? What advice would you give others, especially moms and other caregivers, that are struggling to make time to be active in their community?
As long as you have an opinion, as most of us do!, it’s essential that you engage actively in organizing and activism in service of the world you wish to live in, or wish to see generations beyond us live in. This isn’t always easy when you’re juggling work and caregiving amid other joys and demands of life. My advice would be to do what fits within your life’s context rather than comparing yourself to others. There are so many ways to get involved, and there’s room for everyone. Never let a concern that what you’re able to do is “not enough” keep you from doing it!
Want to join Rujuta in becoming an activist in our community? Join an action team in your region! Learn more here.