By Matthew Hackworth '98
The baby’s name is Zeshan. He was four weeks old, sunburned, and dehydrated. Zeshan’s family ran for their lives just a few days before he was born, and they understandably didn’t have a single stitch of clothing for him.
I sat last summer with Zeshan’s family just out of the 110-degree sun in Pakistan’s southern Swat Valley, as I listened to this family’s story of survival. We drank juice as they told me how rebel groups, sympathetic to the Taliban, shot and killed their neighbor in their front yard, just before they fled out the back door on a journey of uncertainty in a world, for them, turned upside down.
Almost overnight, a few fields around the small city of Mardan became home at first to dozens of squatters with tents, followed by thousands more organized camps supported by the humanitarian aid agency I work for, Church World Service, and others. I was lucky enough to be there, to serve in some way.
They say college is about finding one’s self. Somewhere between my first midnight fire alarm in West A-J and taking the obligatory top-of-the-War Memorial graduation photo, I realized the idea of a corporate 9 to 5 job just wasn’t going to be part of my path. I realized that this nebulous thing called “life” was more about its elasticity as a work in progress than rote goals to be achieved piecemeal.
I thought working as a journalist would be fluid enough, and at least an adequate public service, to keep me happy. I survived two years in newspaper journalism before considering that working for a dollar figure, bottom line, didn’t completely motivate me. I then enjoyed eight years as a public radio reporter, contributing to NPR programs among others, in part because I felt the overall mission and purpose of the format contributed to the greater good, a public service in a media-drenched land. It still wasn’t enough.
It’s been four years now since I realized that, for me, the concept of service, of Ut Prosim, has become more of a question, more like HOW can I serve? I believe that answer has to be just as elastic and varied as personal growth can afford. I never thought I’d be able enough…lucky enough…to use my media background to help people in need. We are always in flux. We all have something to contribute. Virginia Tech taught me to be free; to morph; to change; to examine who I am, what I have to offer, and what I want to become.
I was a lanky freshman when the then dean of the College of Arts and Sciences gave our orientation group some stellar advice, as we sat in McBryde 100. “Find what motivates you while you’re here,” he said. “Because when you leave here, you have to get out of bed every day and go to work.”
Now a humanitarian aid worker, I have found it a lot easier to roll out of bed. When things get down, when the challenges seem great, I think about Zeshan, a little baby born into chaos and think…Ut Prosim.
If you have a story related to “Ut Prosim” that you would like to share, please contact Josh Burnheimer at email@example.com.
By Robert A. Rosser Jr., Ph.D. '69
Africa is such a unique place: amazing wild animals roaming the countryside, unforgettable vistas, and beautiful friendly people. It all quickly captures your heart even with the poverty, need, and disease everywhere. The long journey to get there from our home in Oklahoma is quickly forgotten when we see the smiling faces of our school staff, students, and friends. My wife, Ann, and I have traveled to Kenya in East Africa once or twice each year for the past seven years where our ministry, Bridges International Development, serves the local communities by teaching and training peasant pastors and women.
Service is not new to us. When I entered graduate school at Virginia Tech in 1965, I was asked to be the student advisor for the Dairy Club. I had previously served as a national officer in the Student Affiliate Branch of the American Dairy Science Association. I gladly served as student advisor for four years and the Dairy Club was consistently one of the top clubs in the nation and still is. Go Hokies!
I graduated in 1969 with a Ph.D. in Animal Nutrition and went to work for the largest animal feed company in the world as a Research Scientist. Ann received her Ph.T. (Putting Hubby Through) from the Alumni Association in 1969. We have continued to serve as teachers and leaders in our church wherever we have lived. Now, serving as leaders of the ministry of Bridges is one way we fulfill the Virginia Tech motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve).
The ministry that we lead and the ministries of our graduates touch the lives of about 100,000 Kenyans every day. We have graduated about 1,100 peasant pastors, about 350 women, and about 200 from our women’s tailoring training. We are truly “Winning the Heart of Africa for Jesus Christ.” Our graduates are going into the country preaching to those in prison, feeding the hungry, and sharing the good news with their neighbors. Ut Prosim is also working in Africa as an extension of our ministry.
Our dream is to effect change in all of Africa by establishing our ministry programs in Kenya. Even now several of our graduates have also established training schools like Bridges in other towns and communities and are multiplying the same dream. Ut Prosim can be as simple and scriptural as taking care of the widows and orphans. In Africa, there are a lot of widows and orphans.
We have several ministry programs within Bridges International Development. One is to reach young girls facing the brutal cultural practice of female circumcision. Another is Impoverished Children’s Assistance Network (ICAN), helping orphaned and vulnerable children stay in a home setting and in school. Economic Development is whereby we teach and demonstrate various income producing opportunities. Ann has been teaching them how to make goat’s milk soap. Finally, my favorite ministry is Personal Empowerment, teaching the Kenyans how to plan and problem solve.
You, too, can serve. Come join us. Take a trip with us to Kenya and see for yourself what an awesome place it is and how loving the people really are. It will rock your world to go from our microwave mentality to a place where your kitchen is three stones on the ground beside a mud hut. The game parks in Kenya are some of the best in the world. You can see lions, giraffes, elephants, flamingos, or the wildebeest migration. I even had my picture made with a wild black rhino.
Bridges International Development is a 501(c)3 non-governmental organization which is totally supported by the generous gifts and donations of our friends and donors. Check us out at www.bridgesid.org.
By Josh Burnheimer '08, Assistant Director of Alumni Relations
A few weeks ago, at the annual Alumni Chapter Officers Forum, chapter officers and volunteers returned to Blacksburg for the opportunity to interact with each other and Alumni Association staff throughout the weekend, while learning valuable skills needed to improve and expand their chapters. Along with the usual speakers and presentations, alumni were once again given an opportunity to participate in a hands-on community service project aimed at increasing awareness of the Hokie Nation Serves initiative. During the breakfast prior to the East Carolina game, alumni and their local chapter scholarship students enjoyed a breakfast at the Inn at Virginia Tech, and made fleece blankets to benefit local children through Project Linus. The mission of Project Linus is to “provide love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need through the gifts of new, handmade blankets and afghans, lovingly created by volunteer blanketeers." Project Linus has distributed over three million blankets to children in need since their inception in 1995.
We continue to see an increase in the number of chapter service projects throughout the world, and attribute that success to our growing emphasis on service through our Hokie Nation Serves initiative.
Throughout the breakfast we enjoyed a presentation by three of our alumni chapters, highlighting their service this past year. These projects included:
San Antonio Chapter Hokie Pokie Sock Drive: collected 786 pairs of socks for the Clarity Child Guidance Center
NC Triad Chapter Adopt-A-Family: collected a van load of gifts and backpacks for foster children
Cincinnati Chapter Kids Against Hunger: packaged over 900 packets of food to feed 5,400 people
We also enjoyed a presentation on Relay for Life at Virginia Tech which, for the second consecutive year, has been the #1 collegiate event in the nation, raising over $586,000!
This community service breakfast netted over 35 fleece blankets and numerous new service ideas. The blankets were delivered to the local chapter of Project Linus, who greatly appreciated our efforts. We continue to encourage each chapter to host community service projects throughout the year, with a special emphasis on the Hokie Nation Serves initiative in April. Community service is something that draws together all generations of Hokies. We are lucky to be graduates of such a great university that exemplifies its motto of Ut Prosim.
By Josh Burnheimer '08, Assistant Director of Alumni Relations
Do you or does anyone you know suffer from Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis? Collectively, these diseases fall under the umbrella of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) and immediately affect over 1.4 million Americans. The causes of IBD are unknown and there is no cure, but a few Hokies in the Washington, DC area are working to make a difference in the fight against these debilitating diseases where the immune system essentially attacks the digestive tract.
Dominique Dupras ‘06, Steve Smith ‘84, ’92, and Samantha Urquidi ’07 are three Hokies looking to make a difference in the fight against IBD.
Dominique runs the DC/VA chapter of Team Challenge, the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America’s (CCFA) half marathon training and fundraising program. This year alone, Team Challenge has contributed 83 cents of every dollar raised to the mission of finding a cure--that’s over $2 billion so far! Dominique, along with Steve and Samantha, are all members of the DC team that will be running in the Las Vegas Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon on December 5th. Steve was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 1984 and underwent successful surgery in 1989 that cured him of the disease.
If you are interested in running/walking in future races as a part of Team Challenge or donating to the team, please contact Dominique at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Center for Student Engagement and Community Partnerships (CSECP) publishes “Stories of Engagement,” a magazine dedicated to the community service that Hokies are performing around the world. Submit a short paragraph and photo to Michele Deramo at email@example.com by December 1st. We are looking for stories that show one or two individuals who led a particular event or contributed in a manner above and beyond the call for service.
Ut Prosim Update is a joint publication between the Virginia Tech Alumni Association and the Center for Student Engagement and Community Partnerships that highlights alumni, student, and community service projects while encouraging partnerships across various constitutions.