Kathy Gilbert of the United Methodist News Service profiles Nashville resident and Bolivia native Erick Veliz in this story. Veliz, 23, has a fascinating personal history of working for the rights of indigenous people, currently as an employee of the Tennessee Fair Housing Council and a member of the United Methodist church. Veliz participated in the 2005 Ethnic Young Adult internship program sponsored by the United Methodist Board of Church and Society in Washington, and before that he lived with farm workers in Florida and later advocated on their behalf.
"Veliz, a native of La Paz, Bolivia, is working for the Tennessee Fair Housing Council. In his spare time, he is helping establish English as a Second Language classes at his local church, the United Methodist (Nashville) Hispanic Fellowship; working for Amnesty International USA; and looking for any opportunity to advance his three top priorities: working for the rights of indigenous people, promoting equal rights for women and stopping torture."
"His passion for human rights grew stronger and more focused after he spent two months in the 2005 Ethnic Young Adult internship program sponsored by the United Methodist Board of Church and Society in Washington."
"While a senior in college, Veliz took time out to work and stay with farm workers in Immokalee, Fla., where they labored in the scorching sun picking tomatoes for $3 an hour. Then he traveled with their union leader to Washington to persuade members of Congress to improve the farmers' conditions."
"'The empowerment that I was given by the Board of Church and Society was to see the worth, the possibilities and the options that we can do as groups of faith,' he says. 'They talk about human rights and quote Jesus Christ at the same time. As Christians, we should all do that.'"
update 4/3/2006: Veliz has also been active in Amnesty International USA and is currently running for that organization's Board of Directors.