Good People Doing Good Things — Robert F. Smith

It’s graduation season at colleges all across the nation, but one commencement ceremony will stand out in the minds of many for the rest of their lives.  Graduates of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, will be telling their grandchildren about their graduation “way back in 2019”.  Why?  Because of the generosity of one man, Robert Frederick Smith.

Mr. Smith gave the commencement speech at Morehouse last Sunday.  Watch (pay particular attention to the guy in the lower left-hand corner)

Who, you ask, is Robert Frederick Smith?  Never heard of him, have you?  Well, he is a 56-year-old African-American man, originally from Colorado, currently living in Austin, Texas.  He is a businessman, investor, and philanthropist, a former chemical engineer and investment banker. He is the founder, chairman, and CEO of private equity firm Vista Equity Partners.  Not the sort of person I typically feature in my good people posts, and not the sort we usually think of when we think of ‘generosity’.

Smith’s net worth is estimated at $5 billion, but he is not your typical billionaire.  Smith was not born into abject poverty, but neither was he born into wealth.  Both of his parents were schoolteachers and his was very much a middle-class upbringing.  But Smith had drive, he had ambition, and he knew at an early age what he wanted.

As a junior in high school, Smith landed an internship at Bell Labs — by calling the company every week for five months until he got a slot. Smith tinkered with computers during his summer and winter breaks and went on to study chemical engineering at Cornell University. He earned an MBA from Columbia University, followed by an investment banking job at Goldman Sachs. After advising billion-dollar mergers for tech companies such as Microsoft and Apple, he left Goldman to found Vista Equity Partners in 2000.  Today, Robert Smith is the wealthiest African-American in the nation.

Smith’s gift to Morehouse graduates is far from his first act of generosity.  Prior to the 2003 opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., Smith donated $20 million.  In 2016, he gave $50 million to Cornell University for its chemical and biomolecular engineering school, and to support black and female engineering students. He is the founding director and president of the Fund II Foundation. Under his leadership, Fund II Foundation has invested in organizations such as Cornell, United Negro College Fund (UNCF), National Park Foundation, Susan G. Komen, and Global Wildlife Conservation, among many others.

In 2018, Smith was the largest individual donor at the City of Hope Gala, earmarking funds towards prostate cancer treatment for black men and for breast cancer research for black women. Smith also donated $2.5 million to the Prostate Cancer Foundation to advance prostate cancer research among African-American men.

In 2017, Smith signed on for The Giving Pledge, joining such notable philanthropists as Bill & Melinda Gates, Warren Buffett and currently 190 others.

Robert-Frederick-Smith“I will never forget that my path was paved by my parents, grandparents and generations of African-Americans whose names I will never know. Their struggles, their courage, and their progress allowed me to strive and achieve. My story would only be possible in America, and it is incumbent on all of us to pay this inheritance forward. For these reasons, on behalf of my family, I am privileged to join the Giving Pledge with a commitment to invest half my net worth—during my lifetime—to causes that support equality of opportunity for African Americans, as well as causes that cultivate ecological protection to ensure a livable planet for future generations.”

As you all know, I typically have little or no use for billionaires, as very few use their wealth to help people.  But when a man pledges to pay off the student debt for 396 college graduates, my hat is off to him.

I did a bit of research and found that the average white college graduate leaves school with $28,650 in student loan debt.  But, according to Brookings Institute, the average black student has an additional $7,400 in debt, in part because black parents have less wealth to help pay for their children’s educations.  So, what Mr. Smith has done for these graduates is no small thing, for the total could well end up being around $15 million, according to my calculations.  And what he said toward the end of his speech … he called on those graduates to “pay it forward” … will ensure that his gift is one of those that ‘keeps on giving’.

Good People Doing Good Things — Two Restaurateurs

It is so easy to overlook the people in this world who are quietly going about the business of being humanitarians in small ways.  Oh sure, we notice the ones like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates who are pledging to give 50% or more of their lifetime earnings to charitable causes, and don’t get me wrong … I applaud them for what they do.  But, they are noticed and given kudos, while the ones who do the small things like bring meals to homeless people, or rescue an animal are largely overlooked.  In these Wednesday morning posts, I try to mix it up and present a few of those doing big things, but also those who are flying under the radar, so to speak.  This morning, I would like to introduce you to two restaurant owners who are making a difference in people’s lives.


Juan Carlos Beristain is the owner of JC’s Café in Cary, Illinois.  Although the café serves up desserts, coffee and all the other things you expect to find in such an establishment, his specialty is … soup.  Dozens of different varieties of soup are enjoyed by the café’s patrons.  But Mr. Beristain has another customer … one who cannot come to the Café.

Noah Dionesotes has multiple sclerosis and is undergoing chemotherapy.  Noah had been a regular in Mr. Beristain’s café, loved his soups, but is now unable to visit the café.  So, every week, sometimes several times a week, Juan Carlos Beristain loads up a number of containers of soup and delivers them to Noah Dionesotes’ home, free of charge.

“I really feel when other people are in pain. I felt that I could help him at least by delivering the soup that he likes, with the nutrition that is going to help him.”

For more than seven months, these special soup deliveries have provided more than just the nutrition that Noah needs to regain his strength. They’ve also led to a special bond between the two men. Noah described Juan Carlos as a warm, positive person who has become his best friend.

Juan-Noah

Noah and Juan

This, folks, is what it means to be human.  What Juan is doing is a small thing, sure, but how many people go through their entire lives without doing this much to help another?


Her name is Ruth, and she is a mere mortal, but to many she is an angel. Ruth Henricks is the owner of The Huddle restaurant in San Diego, California.  Her story begins back in 1989, during the height of the AIDS epidemic in the U.S.  One of Ruth’s most frequent customers was a lanky young man named Scott, who came in for a meal every day.  As Ruth came to know Scott, he confided in her that he was dying of AIDS and that he had become too weak to cook for himself …

“When I come in, I’m greeted by everyone.  They know my name, and they pat me on the back and ask how it’s going today – no matter how I look.  I’m so grateful for you and the homecooked meals.  I depend on you for my meals, Ruth.  If I’m not at The Huddle, you’ll know I’m not eating.”

And, of course, the day came when Scott no longer came to The Huddle.  It was then that Ruth was talking to another customer, a doctor, about Scott, and the doc had a suggestion.  He said Ruth could put a note on the cash register, offering to deliver meals to people with AIDS.  She did, and the response was overwhelming.  Ultimately, Ruth, the doctor, and a group of supporters started a non-profit called Special Delivery San Diego.  Most of her original volunteers were her customers, and they started out delivering around 75 meals per day to AIDS patients.

Ruth-2

Ruth Henricks (center) and a few of the volunteers of Special Delivery

Eventually, Ruth and Special Delivery expanded their services to provide meals to people with other illnesses, including cancer, kidney disease and other debilitating, chronic diseases.  To-date, Special Delivery has served more than 6,000 people and prepared more than 1 million meals for them.

Clients are referred by social workers or doctors and receive three meals, five days a week. Many recipients are bedbound; some are living below the poverty line.  According to one of their meal recipients, Alden Steffens …

“I can’t cope on my own. I can’t cook. I’m just drained. I probably would be dead if it wasn’t for Special Delivery and the food.  It’s a joy every day when they ring the bell. It’s instant healing, even if you were sick five minutes before. They smile, and they treat you like a wonderful equal.”

In the early years, around 1993, one of the recipients of the Special Delivery meals was a young man named Rob.  Rob had served in the Navy in the early 1980s and when he later found he had AIDS, his family disowned him.  According to Ruth, “When we started feeding him, we became his family.”  When Rob died, Ruth discovered that Rob had left a $25,000 life insurance policy to Special Delivery to help keep the program going.

But Hendricks’ efforts don’t stop with only the food deliveries, for as she became more aware of her community, she began to see other needs.  She opened a food pantry, which now benefits roughly 800 families a month.  While running that pantry, Henricks found that many people had diabetes. So, she started a program tailored to their dietary needs, complete with a weekly nutrition class and free diabetic-friendly groceries.

Whew!  Did I mention that Ruth is 75 years of age?  Says Ruth …

ruth-1.jpg“I have been very fortunate to attract the most loving, caring, hardworking volunteers. We share each other’s joys, sorrows. We feel good about what we’re doing. And it is a family.  I have a few volunteers who are still with me from the day we started Special Delivery. And a lot of times I say, ‘Why do you keep coming back?’ And they say, ‘Well, we really believe in what we’ve created here.’

I’ve promised everyone that the diabetic program will be the last program, but I didn’t know there was going to be anything beyond the pantry, so we’ll see what comes. If we see some type of a food insecurity need in the community, we’re going to try and fix it. I can’t promise that everyone in San Diego will be able to eat tonight. But we’re going to try our best to feed the people in our corner of the world.”

I’ve got to give a two thumbs-up to Ruth and all her volunteers … 👍👍


I hope these stories helped to remind you that there are good people out there, silently operating behind the scenes to help others.  They don’t advertise, they don’t toot their own horns … they simply do.

Apologies

I know that many of you look forward to Wednesday morning’s ‘Good People’ post, and I do know how important it is in these troubled times to remind ourselves that there are a lot of good people out there doing their part for humanity.  But tonight, a good degree of angst over yet another school shooting with at least one fatality, among other news, has my mind bouncing and keeping me from the task at hand.  Fear not, for there are many good people about which to write, and it is not their fault, but only my own.  I have tried for four hours and have produced very few words on the page.  I am simply not able to provide a ‘good people’ post right now.  I hope to have one later this week, however today, I simply cannot, and for that I apologize.  Thank you, my friends, for your patience.

Good People Doing Good Things –Sebastião Ribeiro Salgado

Every Wednesday I write about good people who are doing things to help others.  Sometimes it’s very small things, like helping an elderly person carry their groceries, other times it’s big things, like providing homes for the homeless.  Today, I am focusing on someone who is ultimately helping to preserve the lives of every living, breathing species by helping clean up the environment.  Let’s face it, if we don’t do a lot more than we’re doing and soon, none of the other things will matter before long.


In the early 1990s, Brazilian photojournalist Sebastião Ribeiro Salgado was stationed in Rwanda to cover the accounts of genocide. The on-ground experience left him traumatized.

It was 1994, and he was returning to his childhood home of Minas Gerais, Brazil, hoping to find solace in the lap of a lush green forest where he had grown up.  Instead, he found this …village-2019Nothing but dusty, barren land for miles and miles. In only a few years, his beautiful hometown had undergone rampant deforestation. The trees were cut down, the wildlife he remembered from his boyhood gone.

“The land was as sick as I was – everything was destroyed. Only about 0.5% of the land was covered in trees. Then my wife had a fabulous idea to replant this forest. And when we began to do that, then all the insects and birds and fish returned and, thanks to this increase of the trees I, too, was reborn – this was the most important moment.”

Salgado and his family set up the Instituto Terra and have now planted more than 2 million trees, transforming the environment. In doing so, he says, he has found one answer to climate change – as well as creative inspiration.

“Perhaps we have a solution. There is a single being which can transform CO2 to oxygen, which is the tree. We need to replant the forest. You need forest with native trees, and you need to gather the seeds in the same region you plant them or the serpents and the termites won’t come. And if you plant forests that don’t belong, the animals don’t come there and the forest is silent.

We need to listen to the words of the people on the land. Nature is the earth and it is other beings and if we don’t have some kind of spiritual return to our planet, I fear that we will be compromised.”

And this is what the village of Minas Gerais looks like today …village-today.jpgIn addition to the trees, 172 species of birds have returned, 33 species of mammals, 15 species of reptiles and 15 species of amphibians.  Indeed, I think Señor Salgado has done way more than his share to help save this planet, don’t you?

In this short video Portuguese is spoken, however the English subtitles are excellent, and the video is well worth the 5 minutes spent watching.

We don’t all have access to enough land to plant 2 million trees.  Some of us don’t have land on which to plant a single tree, but if you do … then plant one!  Lots of people planting a single tree eventually makes a forest!  And if you’re like me, you rent and cannot plant a single tree, plant flowers!  The bees will love you for it, and you will, in your own small way, be helping to save the planet, for the bee population is greatly reduced, and without them, folks, we would not have food to eat.  Period.  Speaking of bees … one last thing here, I was directed to a blog by an artist named Jodi, and her Sunday post did an excellent job of addressing the “bee crisis” as it were, in a concise summation.  Please drop in and check out her Bee Happy post!

Good People Doing Good Things — Vincent Dadzie

Today’s good people post is shorter than usual, not because I couldn’t find any, but because my own heart is lacking today, burdened by a number of things.  I apologize in advance, but it is 2:00 a.m. and I’ve been struggling to write this post for about 4-5 hours, with no success.  However, I know how much we all need to see these ‘good people’ to help restore our faith in humanity, and just as I was about to give it up, a voice in my head said, “You owe it to them.  You have a responsibility.”  And so, I dug around a bit, put my own ill-humour on hold for a while and gave it one more try.

Meet Vincent Dadzie …

Vincent-Dadzie.jpg

Vincent is 24 years of age and lives in Tamale, Ghana.  He is also the co-founder of an organization, Motivation2Learn, which he established to end school dropouts and help students find their feet in life.

Vincent conducted research and found on USAID – Ghana (U.S. Aid for International Development) that 91% of children in Ghana enroll in primary school. Out of this, only 16% graduate with a University degree. The question he asked was “what happens to the other 75%?”  The school dropout rate is very high among students in targeted areas because many young people do not have regular motivation.  At the same time, learning challenges and poor academic performance expose most students to depression, low self-esteem, and stress. Students in these conditions normally don’t get proper counseling.students-3.jpgMotivation2Learn engages Ghanaian students by changing their mind-sets through motivational talks and exposing them to opportunities. His talks enable students to be able to catch up with everyday challenges from all angles. Students learn how to set and meet their goals, raise their academic standards, seize opportunities, be masters in emotion, relationships, finance, and time management, besides attaining knowledge in their desired profession.

He organizes and delivers motivational talks to an average number of 350 students every week in one of the selected 50 Senior and Junior High schools in their first year of operation in the Northern Region. His team searches for at least five educative programs and opportunities, exposing them to students, and guiding students to take full advantage of them. His team gives professional advice and assistance to students to successfully apply for available opportunities.  As a change agent, Vincent strives to make a change and affect lives in any way possible.

Angela FanseyAngela Fansey is the other co-founder of Motivation2Learn and is providing an administrative and communication support for the organization. She is responsible for the overall development, expansion, integration and implementation of Motivation2Learn’s program strategy.

Vincent holds a degree in Bachelor of Education, Accounting and Economics from the University of Cape Coast, and Angela holds a Bachelor’s Degree in History and Theatre Arts from the University of Ghana, Legon.  Now, think about it … these two young people could have entered the business world and made quite a bit of money … perhaps even become millionaires.  Instead, they decided to give back to the young people of their nation.students-2.jpgGhana is considered an economically deprived nation, with a GDP per capita of only $2500.  Compare that to the U.S. with $59,532 in the U.S., and you get a sense of just how poor Ghana is.  The answer is educated young people who can make a difference, and Vincent & Angela are doing their best to help make that goal a reality.  For them, the future is more meaningful than their own riches.  We damn sure need more people like them in this world, yes?

Good People Doing Good Things — Samantha & Friends

Samantha Rodriguez found herself in a tough spot after both of her parents passed away within a couple of years, leaving her responsible to raise her five younger siblings.  As their primary caregiver, the young woman has had to make huge sacrifices to be able to continue to look after her brothers and sisters, the youngest of which is five, the oldest seventeen.  The children were in danger of being placed in the foster care system where they would almost certainly have been separated.

“I knew what I had to do. I learned so much from my mom. I was like her sidekick. I learned what it meant to raise a family. It can be tough knowing when to be like a parent and when to be their sister. Sometimes it can feel like I’m alone.”

She moved with her siblings to Orange County, Florida, because their grandmother lived there.  But resources were scarce, and Rodriquez had to grow up fast.  Samantha has been juggling her education with running things in the family home. She has relied on Uber or public transport to get all six family members to school events, doctor appointments, etc.  Quite a lot of responsibility for a 20-year-old, isn’t it?

Well, somehow this family and their situation came to the attention of the Orange Country Sheriff’s Department.  This was in December, so the Sheriff’s Department invited the family to come for a visit.  The kids were treated to a helicopter ride, and then taken into a room where there were stacks of gifts for each of them.

“We focused on clothes but also toys. We wanted to give them a good Christmas.” — Lieutenant Antorrio Wright

But the story doesn’t end there.  The sheriff’s department posted a video of the Christmas surprise online. And people began responding, asking to help.  Lieutenant Wright and his compadres put their heads together and, remembering that the family had hired an Uber car to bring them to the Christmas surprise, they collected the donations from the community, added some of their own, and …

Last week, Lieutenant Wright contacted Ms. Rodriguez and asked her to come to his office.  She was puzzled, but … when the cops call, you go!  When she arrived, he escorted her into a large room where she found all the officers from the Christmas event waiting for her.  There was a board with a covering over it, and …

The lieutenant told her that the community had gotten together and wanted to do something to help her and her family, so … he pulled the cover off the board, and …new-carThe department had bought Samantha and her siblings a new car!!!

“When they told me the car is for us, I remember thinking, ‘They just took away all these worries and stresses.’ It was such a big weight off my shoulder and will help so much.”

new-car-familyFolks … this is what it means, or at least should mean, to be a part of a community.  We look out for one another.  My hat is off to the Orange Country Sheriff’s Department, to the members of the community who stepped up to the plate to help this family, and to this young lady, Samantha Rodriguez, for taking on the responsibility for her five brothers and sisters, putting her own life on hold to keep the family together.


Note:  Pay It Forward Day is on April 28, a week from Sunday.  I’m thinking about doing a post about things people did to “pay it forward” the Wednesday after, so if you see or hear of things that you would like to contribute to that post, please send me a short email.  Thanks!

Good People Doing Good Things — Small, Yet Big!

It’s time for our weekly dose of good people, and I don’t know about you guys, but after this past week, I definitely feel the need to see people helping people instead of the usual, “I got mine, I’ll take yours too” attitude.  I’m focusing on small things today … and some small people with huge hearts.  These kids may be small in stature, but they are big on the things that matter most.  Gronda, get your tissues. box of tissues


Seven years old and already an environmental activist!

Benjamin Ball of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, is only 7-years-old, but is more environmentally savvy than most of us.  Not long ago, Benjamin and his family were visiting in New England and they stopped in at the L.L.Bean flagship store in Freeport, Maine.  When they decided to get a drink at the store’s café, Benjamin was not pleased to be given a plastic straw, and he asked if they had any paper straws.  (Ellen — this reminds me of your Benjamin!)

LLBeanThey didn’t, and so when Benjamin returned home, he wrote a letter to the president and CEO of L.L.Bean, Steve Smith.

“I’m writing to you because I’m a friend of the Sea Turtles and I want to protect them. Marine animals get killed by plastic in the Ocean. The Sea Turtles are important to the ecosystem and me. I know that L.L. Bean cares about the Earth too. If it is possible, could you use paper straws instead of plastic straws, please?”

Sea turtleWow … what a polite little activist!  Well, his efforts paid off, for within 24 hours, Benjamin received a response from Smith, who assured Benjamin he’d look into the issue.  Says Smith …

“It made me smile. It was a really articulate, well-reasoned, polite, yet passionate and emotional note about saving a species that no one is speaking for. It hit me in a really emotional way.”

And Smith has lived up to his response. L.L. Bean has announced that its retail affiliates and employee cafeterias would be making the switch to 100% corn biodegradable straws.

“This letter hits at the absolutely perfect time with a fantastic idea.”

Benjamin even got to meet Mr. Smith when Smith visited his alma mater, Dickinson College, located in Ben’s hometown.  Take a look …

Hats off to young Benjamin for looking after the environment and especially the sea turtles, but kudos to Mr. Smith and L.L.Bean for listening to a little boy and for being willing to make changes for a good cause.  This is what cooperation looks like, and it is people like Benjamin and Steve who will save our planet, if it is to be saved.Benjamin-Steve


Not homeless anymore!

Anthony Johnson, of Sussex, England, was homeless, living in a tent with no job, no money.  But even so, Anthony wasn’t lazy … he really wanted to earn his own way, but life hadn’t been kind to him and he found himself in this situation.  Anthony posted a note at a local bus stop …

“I will do a trial for free to show how I work. I don’t take drugs or drink. I will also do dog walking/minding, window cleaning, shopping, gardening, car valeting/washing, housework, cooking. Anything to earn a living and make life seem worth living.”

Anthony-Johnson-note

Just so happened that a young lady named Charlotte Howard noticed Anthony’s note as she was waiting for a bus and sprang into action.  First, she photographed the note, and Mr. Johnson’s tent near the bus station, and then she posted the pictures on social media.  Next, she set up a GoFundMe account  that received more than $3,200 (£2,466) in just over 10 days.

Ms. Howard had planned to use the money to buy Anthony a small RV, or caravan as they are called on that side of the pond, but since a local charity was inspired to donate a caravan to Johnson, the money will now be used to provide him with supplies, food, and additional resources to make up for his last nine years of living on the streets.

But the best is yet to come.  A local landscaper, Nelson Smith, contacted Anthony and asked if he would be interested in starting a home repair business with him, so Anthony is now employed, has a place to call ‘home’, and has a job too!  All thanks to a young lady 16 years of age, who decided to step up to the plate and help another human being.  Lots of thumbs-up to go around here, to Nelson Smith, to all the people who donated goods or cash, and most especially to Charlotte Howard!  See, folks, this is what it’s all about … people helping people.

Anthony-Johnson-Nelson-Smith

Anthony Johnson (left) and Nelson Smith.  Anthony’s new home is inset.


And he can’t even drive!

William Rabillo is not yet old enough to drive, but he did manage to buy a car … for his mom.  I’ll let William’s mom, Krystal, tell you about it …

“I have no words right now that can express how I am feeling at this moment. I’m in complete shock … The last couple weeks have literally been hell filled with so many tears, anger, confusion and heart ache. Today I got the shock of my life..

As some of you may know my son William, who is a lawn mowing, yard cleaning , money making machine. Well my son had a job today that he had to go do and so I allowed him to go assuming it was like any other time. Well this time was different. Very different.

William came home and said, ‘Mom I bought you a car.’

I of course laughed and told him ‘ya right!’

He said, ‘No mom I’m so serious I bought you a car. Come on we have to go.’

I’m at this point confused and sceptical and I said, ‘Go where?’

He said, ‘With this lady.’

And much to my surprise I go in my front yard and OMG there is a women standing there and as William said she was giving us a ride. William jumps in the car so I’m like ok?? This is some kind of joke right. No one speaks really….

So….. As I’m still thinking at this point still a joke. We pull up to this house and William says, ‘Mom that’s your car….’

I completely lost it.

I started balling my eyes out. I am speechless my 13 year old son bought me a car. He did some work for this women and that was his payment that he worked out with her. And here I thought it was a joke… Nope I was handed the keys and paperwork to the car and I’m freaking out but so in shock like OMG this is happening right now. So we got into the car it started right up and off we went.

I am so proud of my son. He is such a good kid. He may have his days but OMG what 13 year old kid do you know that buys his mom a car… William I love you son and thank you. You have such a big heart and I love you…”

William says he first got the idea from a couple of YouTube videos …

“I saw on YouTube where people get their mom a car and then surprise her with it. I wanted to do that.”

So, William started searching ads on Facebook and came across a woman selling a  ’99 Chevy Metro for only $300.

William-Rabillo

“It was really cheap so I asked her if I could trade it or earn it, and at first she said no. After she thought about it, then she said yes.”

William actually gave the woman his Xbox video game console, and will be doing some chores for her, which is nothing new, for William already does yard chores for neighbors nearly every day.  This is a kid who decides he wants to do something and there’s no stopping him.  I predict he will go far in this world.


So, we’ve just seen three remarkable young people that show us how it’s done, this humanity thing!  They are an inspiration, and if there is hope for the future of the human race, these kids are the ones that will help make it happen.

Good People Doing Good Things — Peter Tabichi

Peter TabichiI would like to introduce you to Peter Tabichi.  Peter is a Kenyan science teacher and Franciscan friar at the Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School in Pwani Village in a remote part of Kenya’s Rift Valley.  More than 90% of his pupils are from poor families and almost a third are orphans or have only one parent. Drug abuse, teenage pregnancies, dropping out early from school, young marriages and suicide are common. Students have to walk 4 miles along roads that can become impassable in the rainy season to reach the school and the area can be affected by drought and famine. RiftValleyMany of Mr. Tabichi’s students would not be able to attend school, if it weren’t for the fact that he gives 80% of his salary to help support the students.  That, in itself, is remarkable, but that isn’t all he does.

Despite only having one computer, a poor internet connection and a student-teacher ratio of 58:1, Tabichi started a “talent nurturing club” and expanded the school’s science club, helping pupils design research projects of such quality that many now qualify for national competitions.  His students have taken part in international science competitions and won an award from the Royal Society of Chemistry after harnessing local plant life to generate electricity.

Tabichi and four colleagues also give struggling pupils one-to-one tutoring in math and science, visiting students’ homes and meeting their families to identify the challenges they face.  Enrollment at the school has doubled to 400 over three years and girls’ achievement in particular has been boosted.  Take four minutes, if you will, to see Mr. Tabichi in action.

Last week Mr. Tabichi was honoured at a ceremony in Dubai where he was awarded the Varkey Foundation 2019 Global Teacher Prize and a check for $1 million!  The Global Teacher Prize is intended to raise the status of the teaching profession. The winner is selected by committees comprised of teachers, journalists, officials, entrepreneurs, business leaders and scientists. The 2019 competition included 10,000 nominations from 179 countries. The founder of the prize, Sunny Varkey, said he hopes Tabichi’s story “will inspire those looking to enter the teaching profession and shine a powerful spotlight on the incredible work teachers do all over Kenya and throughout the world every day”.Peter Tabichi awardAccepting the prize, Tabichi said:

“I am only here because of what my students have achieved. This prize gives them a chance. It tells the world that they can do anything. As a teacher working on the front line I have seen the promise of its young people – their curiosity, talent, their intelligence, their belief. Africa’s young people will no longer be held back by low expectations. Africa will produce scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs whose names will be one day famous in every corner of the world. And girls will be a huge part of this story. It’s morning in Africa. The skies are clear. The day is young and there is a blank page waiting to be written. This is Africa’s time.”

The Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta, said in a video message:

Uhuru Kenyatta“Peter – your story is the story of Africa, a young continent bursting with talent. Your students have shown that they can compete amongst the best in the world in science, technology and all fields of human endeavour.”

Upon his return to Kenya, he was given the royal treatment by local officials, fellow teachers and students who through songs praised him for his humility and selflessness.  At the school, he was cheered through songs and dances by relatives, local community and students.

Tabichi homecomingWhat do you suppose Mr. Tabichi plans to do with the prize money?  You got it!  He plans to use “much more than 80 percent” of his prize money in educating the needy bright students and empowering the local community to become resilient to effects of drought.

“My focus is not going to be just the children but help the community adapt to climate change. I will be helping them adopt a model of growing drought-tolerant crops in kitchen gardens.”

Tabichi sign.jpgI am in awe of this man and what he is doing, and give him a two thumbs up!

thumbs

Good People Doing Good Things — An Extra-Large Batch

Today I have a whole batch of good people for you, from a large company that went the extra mile for an ailing employee, to a group of doctors giving free care, to a community with a big heart, to a music star giving to good causes.  I figured we needed some ‘extra goodness’ today, plus I felt I should make up for skipping Jolly Monday this week, so let’s get started.


A company with heart …SainsburysSainsbury’s is the second largest chain of supermarkets in the United Kingdom, but unlike most big corporations, they take care of their people, or at least the store in Kenton, north London does.

Ms. Salomon was only in her 50s when she was let go from her job as a bookkeeper because she had become disorganized.  Too young to retire, she applied for a job as a picker, putting together orders for online customers to pick up, at her local Sainsbury’s store.  At first, all was well, everybody loved Ms. Salomon, but after about a year, she started becoming more confused, and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Ms SalomonBut Sainsbury’s did not let Ms. Salomon go … instead they did everything in their power to make her feel useful and needed, valued.  For the next four years, Sainsbury’s did everything to keep Ms. Salomon on the team. They changed her hours; they stayed in constant contact with her family so they could provide updates on her condition at work; they regularly retrained her; and they kept her co-workers informed on her condition.

When the disease progressed to a more debilitating stage, Sainsbury’s even created an entirely new job for her as a “tote box cleaner”.  According to her son, Doron …

“To my mum, cleaning the tote boxes became the most important job in the world. If she didn’t do it the store would fall apart. The sense of self-worth and pride undeniably helped with aspects of her Alzheimer’s, such as giving her something to talk about in social situations.  There have been so many times Sainsbury’s could have let her go. Instead, every time my dad was called in for a meeting, fearing the worst, it was because they had noticed a decline, were concerned about her, and wanted to know what more they could do to help.”

How many companies would go that extra mile?

Eventually Ms. Salomon’s disease became so bad that she was forced to leave Sainsbury’s, but her son reports that dozens of UK Sainsbury’s stores have held weekend fundraisers for Alzheimer’s awareness and research in Ms. Salomon’s honor.  What an amazing thing this company gave to Ms. Salomon.  A big company with a big heart.


Giving a little bit of their time …

The Islamic Center of Cleveland in Parma, a suburb just south of Cleveland, Ohio, serves the traditional function of a mosque, but it goes a step further.  A group of 20 Muslim doctors have founded the Cleveland Ibn Sina Clinic, using the spare, unused rooms in the mosque to see patients.  There is something else unique about this clinic, besides its location … its doors will be open to uninsured patients from all religions and walks of life, and all of the clinic’s services will be free of charge – the only thing that patients will have to worry about is the cost of prescriptions.Cleveland-Islamic-CenterThe doctors will travel from across Akron and Cleveland in order to volunteer at the facility on a rotating basis.  Other costs will be covered by fundraisers and donations from the Muslim community. According to Dr. Mansoor Ahmed, one of the doctors volunteering his time, as well as the Medical Director of the CISC …

“’Healthcare is not a privilege for some, it is a fundamental human right,’ is not just a slogan but the very foundation of our mission.  There are far too many people in our communities who do not have the medical coverage they need and are reluctant to seek the medical care that they need. We have the ability, we have the potential, we have the resources. Giving a little bit of your time, I think, goes a long way in making a difference in people’s lives.”

Indeed, it does.  Two thumbs up to this wonderfully caring group of doctors and to the larger Muslim community of the Greater Cleveland area for doing such a wonderful thing!


Pulling together

Lee-HamiltonLee Hamilton is the head custodian for Puster Elementary School in Fairview, Texas.  He has been with the school ever since it started in 2010.  Everybody loves Lee’s warm smile, his can-do attitude.  Recently, though, Lee found that he must have extensive (read expensive) back surgery, otherwise he will soon be confined to a wheelchair.

Now, in addition to his custodial duties at the school, Mr. Hamilton takes care of his wife who suffers with multiple sclerosis (MS).  Lee was uncertain how to pay for the surgery and pay the other bills while he was off work, but the Fairview community came to the rescue, starting a GoFundMe account to help Lee with his medical and other bills.  Thus far, the community has raised $24,000 … $7,000 more than their initial goal of $17,000.  Lee-Hamilton-2.jpegSee what a community can do when they pull together?  Heart-warming, isn’t it?


Hello Dolly!DollyNow I know a lot of people don’t think much about hearing that a celebrity donated to some cause or another, and often I don’t give it much thought either.  It is true that sometimes it is done as a publicity stunt, or for name recognition.  But here’s a lady who has been a philanthropist all her life.  I could actually do an entire post about Dolly’s good works, from literacy to environmental projects.

This week Dolly met with all of the fire chiefs from the eight volunteer fire departments in Sevier Country Tennessee to thank them for their role in fighting the 2016 wildfires that killed 14 people and destroyed more than 2,500 homes.Dolly-1Through her Dollywood Foundation’s My People Fund, she donated $20,000 to each volunteer fire station and gave $40,000 to their area training center.  Dolly’s My People Fund also provided $5,000 each to more than 800 families who lost their homes in the wildfires.


For the love of a teddy bear …

Ryan Paul is 12-years-old, lives with his parents in Woodbridge, New Jersey, and Ryan has autism.  Ryan was playing in his room one day, when suddenly he couldn’t find his teddy bear named Freddy.  This might not be a big deal to most kids, but to Ryan it was, and he panicked, then calmed enough to call 9-1-1- to report his missing bear.  His message, however, was rather cryptic …

“The teddy bear fell down again. Don’t worry, I’ll rescue you. Goodbye again, see you again.”

Ryan-PaulSince the dispatcher could make neither heads nor tails of the situation, per department protocol, Officer Khari Manzini was sent to check out the situation.  As luck would have it, sending officer Manzini was fortuitous because he had prior training from POAC (Parents of Autistic Children) and was able to figure out what Ryan wanted almost immediately.

ryan-paul-hugs-officerOfficer Manzini rolled up his sleeves, got down to business and helped young Ryan find his tiny teddy named Freddy.  It’s a small thing, and yet … sometimes those mean so much.  How many police officers would simply be annoyed at having been called out for such a thing, would have sternly admonished the parents, then turned on their heel and left?  But not Officer Manzini, and for that, he gets my thumbs up!


Well, folks, I hope today’s stories have helped you to remember that there is still a lot of good in our world, and I hope you leave this post with a bit of a lighter heart than when you came to visit.  Have a happy Wednesday, and remember to be a ‘good people’.

Good People Doing Good Things — Austin Perine

I have vacillated over today’s ‘good people’ post, and I opted not to do the one I originally wrote. I feared it might stir controversy, and that is not what my good people posts are intended to do.  Right decision?  Wrong decision?  I don’t know, and you may yet see it here later this week, but for today I do have one awesome ‘good people’ to introduce you to!  It is a little good people with a huge heart!

Austin Perine of Birmingham, Alabama, is only four years old, but this little guy has won my heart!  He knows, better than most adults, I think, the value of helping others.  What were you doing when you were four-years old?  The entire focus of my life at 4 was my dog, Shadow.  I slept, played, and sucked my thumb at age 4, and that’s about all I can remember.  Austin, however, leads a much different life than many 4-year-olds, for he is helping feed the homeless!

Here’s how it all started, according to Austin’s father, TJ Perine …

“This whole thing started when we were sitting at home watching Animal Planet and a baby panda was abandoned by its mom. Just to give him an answer, I told Austin that the panda would be homeless. Then he asked, ‘Well, are people homeless?’ and I said yes. That sparked an idea for him to want to come and feed the homeless, so here we are just a few months later.”

A few days later, TJ took Austin to one of the city’s homeless shelters to give him an up-close-and-personal view of what it means to be homeless.  Not quite expecting Austin’s response …

“He said, ‘Can we feed them?’ I didn’t expect to feed homeless people that day. But when a 4-year-old asks you, what can you say?”

Austin-Perine-2So, they headed to Burger King and picked up a batch of chicken sandwiches. Austin agreed to use his allowance to buy food instead of a weekly toy.  And later, Austin told his parents he wanted to use all of his allowance from now on, plus any money they would spend to buy him a toy, to feed the homeless.  As word of his mission spread, Burger King offered to give Austin an ‘allowance’ of $1,000 per month for a year to help him achieve his goal.

Austin wears a superhero cape when he goes on his feeding outings with his father. At Linn Park recently, the little guy handed sandwiches and drinks to the homeless. Every time, he exclaimed, “Don’t forget to show love!”

Birmingham’s mayor, Randall Woodfin, calls him “the city’s ambassador” …

“It’s one of our younger generation that gets it and understands the importance of helping others. And it’s one that we all want to cherish and make of importance which is showing love.”

Austin-Perine-1Now, at age 4, Austin is definitely a ‘good people’, but Austin had some help, I do believe.  I think we should also shine a light on TJ for helping show Austin the way, for himself being possessed of a big heart.  Caught up in Austin’s enthusiasm, TJ started a GoFundMe called Show Love Fight Hunger, and he has plans to expand on Austin’s good works …

“We’ve gotten a lot of support from the country, and what we want to do is expand from more than just giving out sandwiches.”

His vision is to build a facility that addresses the many causes of homelessness.

“Mental illness, drug abuse, addiction, and things like that. Austin and I want to build a facility and get some specialists in there that can actually help these people get back into the workforce.”

I think that the apple has not fallen far from the tree.

A few of the homeless at Linn Park knew little Austin with his superhero cape, and exchanged hugs and fist bumps. Those who did not know him were flabbergasted. One homeless man said he’d never seen anything like this.  Austin explained how doing this makes him feel inside …

“When I feed the homeless it makes me really happy and I think what I do is very special. When I grow up I want to be president. My jobs when I become president would be to feed the homeless and to chase the bad guys out of schools.”

I don’t know about you all, but I really, really want this little guy to grow up to be president!!!

Now, Austin has one last good deed I want to share with you that has nothing to do with feeding the homeless.  Austin’s older brother, Taylor, 16, has severe autism.  Austin … well, check out the tweet for yourself …austin-tweet-e1553055948590.pngNow, isn’t that the pinnacle of brotherly love?  Big kudos to Austin Perine, his dad TJ, and also for Burger King and everyone else who has so generously helped Austin in his quest to be a good people and feed the homeless.  Here’s to the future President of the United States, Austin Perine!