My family is obsessed with superheroes. Don’t believe me? Have a conversation longer than twenty minutes with one of us and count how many times names like Thanos and Stan Lee come up. We trek the country to collect memorabilia from various Comic Conventions, we pre-purchase tickets, eagerly anticipating every Marvel (and even DC) film and we spend countless hours discussing and debating our various champions’ skills, decisions and fates. I don’t know if we realized it at the time, but looking back, I believe that it is this love of superheroes that encouraged us to open our home and our hearts to a real-life Superhero. The world might know her as Katy Rozas, but I believe that to be her mild(ish) mannered, alter-ego. Who she really is, is a corporeal Wonder Woman, on a mission for truth and justice as she ventures out to change the world.
Many of us dream about making a difference. It is at the core of who we are. It’s why we do 5k’s for cancer and donate to telethons; we want to feel good about ourselves for helping others. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But where most of us are content to do good from home, through the means of our bank account, there are a select few in this world who are destined to do more. Imagine relieving yourself of nearly every earthly possession, limiting what you can call your own to the contents of a backpack? Do you think you’d have the guts to do it? I know I couldn’t. Well, two years ago, while volunteering with an orphanage in India, that’s exactly what Katy resolved to do.
While she was working in India, Katy was struck with a crazy dream. At that time, she was on a small leave of absence from her job with an insurance agency, but knew she wanted to pursue her vision of saving the world full-time. So, she put a plan into action. She started working towards her TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification with the International TEFL and TESOL Training (ITTT) group in Nicaragua, which she received in July of 2017. Then came the hard part.
It’s important to note that at this point in her life, Katy was living what many would call “The American Dream.” To put it in her own words, “I had my dream car, a sexy car, and everything I could ever want.” But it seems the cliché holds, and Katy gave all of this up when she realized that her happiness could never be found in material things. So off she went.
Katy affectionately became known to my family as “The Hippie.” She embraced a sort of nomad existence where she knew she’d be spending most of her time abroad and would only need temporary lodgings when she was “state side.” When I agreed let Katy stay with us, I didn’t know her well. To be honest, as a self-proclaimed introvert, I was a bit uneasy opening my home to a near-stranger. But my husband was wise enough to point out that if by allowing her to stay temporarily in our extra room, on our meager futon, meant that we could help her to make a difference, then how could we say no? It was a decision well made. Katy quickly became a part of our crazy family. She adapted to our hectic schedules, our strange (vegetarian) diet and even immersed herself into our love of superheroes.
Katy’s initial plan was to join the Peace Corp. I would say “unfortunately” that fell through, but it was more like fortune had other plans. She went on to volunteer with Volunteers Peru, she worked in a girl’s crisis home in Arequipa, and even spent some time on an Elephant conservation in Chiang Mai, working with Global Vision International. While she was on these various adventures, she would explore until she found other places in need of help. For instance, during a stay in Nicaragua, she came across an orphanage near her hostel. Before she left their country, she gifted the children with a pizza “party” and brought them games and balls to play with.
While she was on the excursion in Asia in January of 2018, she came across a school in Coron, Philippines. As she was visiting, she was brokenhearted when she saw the condition of the school’s computer lab. For the over five hundred kids at the school, there were forty-five computers, which were completely unusable. With no air conditioning and no electricity, no way to power on the computers or keep them cool, the computers were collecting dust. Our Wonder Woman leapt into action. As she returned home, she began a campaign to raise money for the school, and started collecting jump drives so that each student would have their own.
In June of 2018, Katy’s vision became reality as she saw the computer lab powered on for the first time. Through her mission, electricity and air conditioning have been run into the room, and there were enough jump drives collected that the school’s staff and students all received their own. Katy is thrilled beyond belief, and the children are even happier.
Katy has had many interesting experiences in her journey across the globe. She has been tattooed by the oldest living Mabatakok (tattoo master) in the Kalinga Province of the Philippines. The one hundred and one-year old woman, recently honored as an artist in her country, tattooed Katy with her signature ellipses, which she applies with the thorn of a citrus tree and charcoal ink. Katy has camped with elephants, surfed over sand and eaten just about every type of cuisine known to man (with only a few regrets). She’s suffered a broken tailbone and tooth, has been detained at borders, had her phone stolen and has lived through daily earthquakes. She’s had her spirit lifted while visiting with orphans, and had her heart-broken as she learned about Cambodian genocide.
And while many of these experiences would be considered life-changing for any one of us, Katy says that it is the people that she’s met along the way that give her the motivation to continue her travels. When I asked her to share what was most memorable about her trips, she said that, “Travel strangers become travel family almost immediately… The sights are amazing, but the people are what bring me life.”
So admittedly, the rest of us might not have it in us to be front and center as a hero. But every caped crusader needs their trustworthy sidekicks. While our industrious hippie continues to trek across the globe, let us be her Alfred Pennyworth’s or her Pepper Potts’. We don’t have to be a part of the action to help make a difference. Without even having to leave the comfort of our homes, we too can be a champion for the suppressed and disadvantaged. In fact, if you would like to be Katy’s backup, you can donate to her, “Help Me Help More and Love More” campaign at www.gofundme.com/5qjpg7s. Katy will use the donations for various causes, including an upcoming “Pad Project,” for which she is raising money to go to Africa to deliver homemade, washable and reusable maxi pads to girls and women in need.
As for my family, we are just as obsessed as ever with our fictional superheroes. But it has been our absolute privilege to be able to say that we have sheltered a real-life hero under our roof. But while the heroes on-screen continue to defend the world from its fictional villains, Katy will continue her own battle. She may not have superhuman powers, but she has limitless compassion and that’s the only weapon she’ll need.