Hairston Foundation CEO Roosevelt Hairston and his daughter, Sophia, say Global Volunteers’ Reaching Children’s Potential Program (RCP) in Tanzania reflects their commitment to advance self-determination for rural Tanzanian communities. As team members, they witnessed the long-range vision of ending childhood stunting and improving families’ health and nutrition. Read on to learn about their personal and financial support of Global Volunteers’ RCP Program
Roosevelt, what motivated you to support the RCP Program financially after your service program?
I have always wanted to support people in developing nations and when I heard about Global Volunteers and saw up close the life changing work that is done through RCP, I felt that we had to support it financially. I want to continue to serve in different ways, and working in Africa is something that I have always wanted to do. In addition, I have a strong desire to contribute to communities in need. Global Volunteers presents a great chance to serve in a number of ways.
Sophia, why did this type of volunteer experience interest you?
I had previously volunteered with Rift Valley Children’s Village, which is also stationed in Tanzania. I knew after that experience that I wanted to return to Tanzania, and that trip set the foundation for me. It also made me fall absolutely in love with the country. I knew I had to return.
I talked to my dad, and he was also interested in a service experience. He was the one who brought Global Volunteers to my attention. We researched Global Volunteers, and we found that the organization aligned a lot with our values. We decided that we wanted to try it out, and I’m so glad that we did because we loved our time in Tanzania.
What part of the experience did you personally find the most satisfying?
I think that the kids were the most satisfying part of the experience. They made the 12-hour plane ride so worth it. I fell in love with every single child that I met in Tanzania. I spent most of my time with the younger kids, and I got a lot closer to the ones that I did teach. Every person I met there was incredible, and it was crazy how quickly you could connect with people even with the language barrier. It just shows that the connections were so real.
When I served again this year, I was able to talk with mothers about their physical and mental health. I could see how the workshops we presented impacted their lives and the changes they worked so hard to make in their families. I knew the contributions we made were improving their futures.
Roosevelt, how important is it for you to experience a program in order to feel confident about your contributions?
I didn’t just want to write a check and not see how my support would help through a report of some sort. I wanted to feel the connection between how my modest support could work with others to produce something that I could not do on my own. I believe that it is important to be a part of the change that you want to see. There were so many people who were devastated by COVID 19. Many not-for-profit organizations saw their donations dry up significantly. My wife and I were blessed to not be negatively impacted financially by the pandemic. We wanted to double down on helping where we could. Our faith demanded it, and we were happy to do so to help continue the wonderful work that Global Volunteers is doing through its partnerships.
How do you know Global Volunteers is a reliable steward of the Hairston Foundation grant?
I’ve seen the work up front. I’ve experienced the commitment of your staff and volunteers. And yes, I’ve done the research to give me the confidence that our contributions are used appropriately and effectively. I can only say that your financial support coupled with that of other caring individuals, can make all the difference in where one person, one village and eventually one nation is healthier, has food to eat, and the ability to live out her or his dreams is within our grasp. Working together, we can definitely make a difference.
I’m very interested in helping to eradicate poverty and its effects everywhere at home and abroad. However, I do have a special interest in helping African nations. This is born out of my own feelings as an African American, but also because of my daughter, Sophia, who has made several trips to Africa to volunteer. It was through her I became involved in Global Volunteers. I had previously established in effort to provide fundamental support to developing nations where poverty is high and access to opportunity and education are low. This describes the Global Volunteers Reaching Children’s Potential Program in Tanzania.
Our intention is to partner with organizations on the ground in the nations we aim to serve through:
- increased employment opportunities
- poverty alleviation
- creating access to basic resources like clean water and hygiene
Our foundation augments the work of international volunteer service organizations by supplying volunteers and funds. The level of need is hard to fathom, but we aim to make a difference one village at a time.
For instance, in some regions, a test is required in order to go beyond primary school. The test is in English. We can level the playing field by creating greater access to English. Students are eager to learn because they know how important this language skill is. Likewise, clean water and basic hygiene can be the difference between a healthy life and one burdened with disease. In many regions, people walk some distance for clean water and walk it home long again. Lack of access to clean water is why disease rates are so high in emerging nations. That’s why I support Global Volunteers’ RCP Program.
“The level of need is hard to fathom, but we aim to make a difference one village at a time.”