A recent story by the Diabetes Impact Project: Indianapolis Neighborhoods (DIP-IN) introduced Ben Rose, Near West Community Health Worker.
Ben is one of three community health workers in the Near West community, based out of the Westside Community Development Corporation. DIP-IN asked Ben a few questions about his work in the community and his background.
What did you do before becoming a part of the DIP-IN team?
Before becoming a CHW I did a variety of things centering around photography, videography, and the performing arts. I was the Marketing/Sales director for the Phoenix Theatre as well as a professional actor in several of their productions. Most recently I spent a year in California working for Amazon as a product photographer while working on an original screenplay that was an Official Selection in the Los Angeles International Screenplay Awards.
Tell us more about your background in living in and working with Indianapolis communities.
I was born in Indianapolis, but had a non-traditional upbringing in a small farm town as a trans-racial adoptee. The racial climate in my mother’s family made adoption the best option and as a bi-racial child I was a part of the pilot program Homes For Black Children through the Children’s Bureau of Indianapolis. I didn’t find my way back to the Indianapolis community till I was 21 as a college drop out managing a housing project in what I would find out was the historic African-American community of Ransom Place. That was my first experience living in a struggling community seeing first hand the problems that existed with equity gaps. Having been raised outside of Indianapolis and then re-entering gave me a unique perspective for how we often don’t solve the root problems that exist in our city based on cultural and economic bias.
Tell us a story of a time you felt you had a true impact in your community work.
I don’t have a typical background for community health work despite a lifelong interest in healthy living. But the arts always landed me working with grassroots organizations. I found my way to this because after many years as a performing artist and entrepreneur I desperately wanted to do more for the community than just inspire through art and performance. I wanted to have a tangible impact on the betterment of people less advantaged in life. This job gives me the opportunity to utilize my cross cultural background and skills in media to benefit the Near West residents from which my biological parents were a part of. Coming full circle with the place I was born and giving back to what would have originally been my community growing up is its own reward.
What part of this project are you looking forward to most?
I’m looking forward to helping change the outcomes of those experiencing health problems due to diabetes and diabetes-related issues. But most of all I hope to inspire community members to value each other and work together to end many of the systemic issues our neighborhoods currently face.
When you are not working, what are you up to?
I enjoy photography, outdoor festivals and exploring nature as well as watching a great film. Participating in my children’s lives and exploring new cities, cultures, and experiences is a lifelong passion I hope to continue as well.
DIP-IN is a project of the Community Health Engagement and Equity Research (CHEER), through the IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health.