Voices of Senior Leaders

Article excerpt

Since 2002, the California Senior Leaders Program has trained and assisted more than 90 elders, in increasing their effectiveness as community volunteers. These older adults-indigenous elders, public-policy advocates, community organizers and educators-are addressing social justice issues in their communities, across the state and sometimes even nationally.

Here are some of their voices:

Adelina Alva-Padilla sits in front of the fireplace in the lobby of the Waterfront Plaza Hotel in Oakland, Calif., where she and 29 other California Senior Leaders are being honored that weekend. A Chumash Indian elder, Alva-Padilla describes her contribution to the community:

"My work is passing people over to the spiritual world. My work is praying with them, singing to them. I'm a fire keeper, so if somebody dies we take care of the fire for four days and four nights. . . . So many things in the world now have to do with money. And it doesn 't have to be that way-it has to do with the heart, and the love and the people. That's the kind of work I do."

Selma Rubin, age 93, is a longtime activist and educator. She talks about her involvement with Fairview Gardens, an organic farm in Santa Barbara:

"It's a piece of land about 12-and-a-half acres, and now a community center. …