The Path You Plow

Over my ten years working at William and Mary I have interacted with thousands of students that are engaged in service.  Every story…every story is unique.  I have just a few to share that will hopefully paint, with a broad brush, the possibility that awaits.

Adam Pollock was only a few weeks into his freshman year when he read an email advertisement that simply read:  Chess Player Wanted.  Older Adult Seeking A Chess Tutor, Once a Week or More.  Hours Flexible.  Adam responded (with some apprehension) and began what is now a seven year friendship with Mrs. Madeline Childs, a woman of 70 plus years of age and a childlike spirit.  During his four years the two became close friends sharing stories that spanned generations.  Adam is quick to remark that while he taught Mrs. Childs to play chess, she taught him about the important things in life.  Adam was also a tutor with College Partnership for Kids.  He met Marques when each were young –of sorts.  Marques was in kindergarten and Adam a freshman.  Adam tutored Marques twice a week for four years.  He followed him through third grade and again he learned as much, if not more, than the lessons he taught Marques.  Adam graduated in 2006 and accepted a position with Teach for America in Charlotte, NC.  He translated an instinct to help with a robust intellect into a calling.  His reach was deep, into the heart and mind of Mrs. Childs and Marques.

Today, over 42 million children in sub-Saharan Africa are not in school and thereby face an uncertain future. In Uganda alone, where 50 percent of the population is under the age of fifteen, some local school districts face dropout levels as high as 80 percent. This is largely due to the fact that the government does not have the means to provide children with accessible schools; additionally, fees for uniforms, books, and transportation are prohibitively expensive for most African families.  While on a summer service experience, George came face to face with the statistic.  He writes, “turning the corner at Meeting Point Kampala and being greeted by fifty “double” orphans (kids who have lost both parents to HIV/AIDS) who looked up at me and offered their welcome, I knew I needed to do something.”  George’s response was quite simple.  He asked questions.  The organization’s staff said it would cost just $10,000 to rebuild their dilapidated wooden school. He didn’t think twice— He asked for help from his community.  He knew William & Mary community could make that happen and within six months George was back in Kampala to deliver a check for $45,000 to his friends.  He started Building Tomorrow from his dorm room and upon graduating he took the idea home to Indianapolis.  His headquarters doubled as his parents’ basement.  Today, Building Tomorrow offers a sustainable solution by generating one-to-one partnerships between U.S.-based colleges (with chapters across the country) and communities in sub-Saharan Africa.  Some may conclude that George is larger than life, his accomplishments deserve that designation, but George ALWAYS keeps it simple.  A respected friend George tells me often that he just does what he can, with what he has and he asks for help every chance he gets.  He wrote once, “Whenever I get a tug on the shoulder and realize there’s a need somewhere that I might be able to help with, I’ve just put my heart to it and have tried to do all I can. In all I’ve done, I’ve been helped by wonderful people.”  George’s reach is broad and every child (and I suspect their parents) extend their thanks.

Whether you find yourself in a quiet corner playing chess, in a local school or across the globe, your impact will be felt in hearts and minds and your path undoubtedly more vibrant.  Where does your passion lie?  Where you might fit?  What path will you plow?  What are you determined to work for?  Let’s get started, today.

Categories: Campus Life, Community Engagement & Service, Faculty & Staff Blogs, Other

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