Jason Fileta '05
What degree did you graduate Calvin with?
BA in sociology and minor in IDS
What's your official position where you are working now?
Field Organizer for Micah Challenge USA
Please give a brief description of your tasks for this position.
It is my job to engage Micah Challenge’s grassroots constituencies in education, political advocacy, and prayer around the Millennium Development goals. I also organize “high level” advocacy actions on specific legislations by notable evangelical leaders in the United States. Finally, I am often involved in organizing and speaking at events hosted by Micah Challenge, Colleges that we work with, and partner organizations.
Please describe briefly the path you've followed since graduation that led you to this position?
My last year at Calvin I was deeply involved in the Social Justice Coalition, and I wanted to do similar work upon graduating from college. About a month before graduation I wrote a proposal to organize with Christian colleges around various global injustices, and gave it to five organizations that I got to know very well through my time with SJC. Most of the organizations laughed at my naivety in thinking that I could work for all five of them at once, and my ignorance of NGO politics, but one organization saw potential. The CRC Office of Social Justice was just given the task of starting a Micah Challenge Campaign in the United States—a campaign whose main partners would include the other four organizations I wanted to work for. I began negotiations with what would become the Micah Challenge USA to see about a job. While that was happening I was asked by the ONE campaign to go to Scotland and lobby at the G8 summit for more and better aid, debt cancellation, and a fair trade. That trip was the boost I needed to finalize my job proposal, and I began working for the Micah Challenge USA campaign in August of 2005.
How does your faith influence the work that you do?
I speak to students about God’s heart for justice, and our own calling to live passionately seeking justice so I have to practice what I preach—or at least try. I often fall short of the very charges I give to students, but my faith is what keeps me going. I find that when discussing the problems of our world it can get very overwhelming—either the realities of our world overwhelm me to a point of emotional paralysis, or they weigh so heavy on my heart that I have no hope for a better world. In these times it is my faith that comforts me, inspires me, and gives me the strength to press on.
What is your best advice for current IDS students?
Get involved with student groups, and organize events and activities around the issues you feel passionately for. It was through being very involved in SJC that I got to know many advocacy and international development organizations. My involvement with SJC not only paved the way for me to get the job I currently have, but also changed the way I see the world and my place in it. I had always thought that the moment I graduated I would head off to the bush somewhere and be a rural development worker, but being involved in SJC helped me see that I was better equipped for organizing to change hearts and minds of Christians in the US, and ultimately US foreign policy. I think exploring the many facets of development as a student help one discern their role in development after graduation.
What is your biggest regret looking back at your time at Calvin? What do you wish you had done differently?
My biggest regret was not being involved on campus until my senior year. I wish I had been less cynical about life and school, and more open to the opportunities that Calvin presented to me. I also wished I had eaten more at the dining hall when I had the chance.
Do you have any other words of hope or wisdom to offer soon-to-be IDS graduates?
I heard Paul Loeb tell a story that has encouraged me greatly over the last couple years. He was talking about the “web of activists” and how all who work for social change are somehow connected—so the ultimate impact you may have on the world is that you are part of a chain of engagement that has brought and will bring heroes to our world. He used Rosa Parks as an example of this web. Everyone knows who Rosa Parks is, and some people even know how she came to be involved in the Civil Rights movement. She had been the secretary at the NAACP for 12 years before she refused to give up her seat on the bus. Her husband, Raymond Parks, a barber and member of the NAACP encouraged her to go to her first meeting which eventually sent her on the path to become a great hero of the civil rights movement. Who got Raymond Parks involved in the movement? And who got the person who got Raymond Parks involved, involved? And the question can continue forever. This analysis of the activist web that entangled Rosa Parks in greatness is a web we can all be a part of. There is a great movement for change in our world today, and we may never know how the heroes of our time got involved—many of these heroes are not publicly known as they are the rural health workers, agriculturalists, teachers, community organizers, and leaders in the church who we will never know about. What we do know is that somehow, and most likely through someone God is using ordinary people for his righteous work. My hope is in knowing that I am part of a web of heroes, named and unmanned, past, present, and future who are transforming our world.