A Letter to Our Readers: GV and Me
By Samrawit Zeinu
Meet Samrawit Zeinu. A recent GV alumni, a current youth board leader, a recent speaker at a Founders Club meeting and an all-around Global Visionaries enthusiast. As Samrawit prepares for college, she applied for the Gates Scholarship which included an essay she wrote centering around her time with Global Visionaries. With her permission, we decided to share her experiences and words about Global Visionaries with you, the readers. Enjoy!
Question: Discuss your involvement in and contributions to a community near your home, school or elsewhere. Please select an experience different from the one you discussed in the previous question, even if this experience also involved leadership. What did you accomplish? How did this experience influence your goals?
Answer: One of life’s greatest moments for me happens when I am giving back to my community. Through service to others, I am able to give thanks for everything I have been fortunate enough to have. No one asked my aunt to adopt me. She believed that taking me in would give me a chance to have a better life. Adopting me was no simple act and she knew she would have to take on a lot of responsibility. This act was her way of giving back to our family and community. She believed that if she could help me then one day I would be able to help my family in Ethiopia and my community there. Growing up in Ethiopia, I had the humble experience of watching compassion take place between strangers. This experience has motivated me to give back as well.
My sophomore year in high school, a youth leadership program, Global Visionaries (GV) came and presented at my school. During the presentation the concept that stood out to me was a quote that stated, “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together” by Lilla Watson. I wanted to join the program because of its focus on youth empowerment, leadership opportunities and self-awareness. The program was more than just going to Guatemala and helping others; there was an equal exchange. Having lived in a third world country, I would have hated for someone to see me as a charity case and not someone who can also offer something in return. That was what made me want to be involved with the program. I have been a part of this program for the past three years. During my first year with the program I met weekly with other high school students to talk about social justice; I volunteered as an intern, and went to Guatemala.
The purpose of Global Visionaries is to have students understand their ecological foot prints and where each of us is currently standing in society through monthly meetings. I was encouraged to take on challenges to help the environment such as only taking three minute showers, not buying plastic water bottles, and recycling in my household. It is hard to adapt, but these are changes I continue to make throughout my life. Another part of the program included doing local community service. I became a GV intern to give back to the community that was teaching me so much and changing how I viewed my life. I helped with filing and organizing in the GV office and wrote thank you letters to the donors of the program.
The summer of my sophomore year I went to Guatemala with the same group of students for two weeks. I had the opportunity to volunteer in construction to help build a local school, reforestation, or in a hospital. I volunteered at the local hospital because I am interested in medicine. It was not at all what I had expected. Many of the patients permanently live in the hospital because they have been abandoned. I worked in the different wards which included, babies, young children, adult men and women and the elderly. In most cases, these patients did not have any visitors. I will never forget the smiles that were on their faces as we met them and began to do activities with them. In the young women’s ward, I met a woman named Wendy. Every day she would stand by the gate and ask the name of the person who wanted to pass through. If their name was not Wendy then she would not like it. So one day when I was passing by, I told her that my name was Wendy and in an instant, excitement overtook her. Each day that I visited her, she would talk to me about anything that was on her mind. Even though the language barrier made it difficult for us to communicate, it did not matter because we found a way to talk by drawing each other pictures. Before I left Guatemala, I confessed that Wendy was not my name and she told me that was okay because she liked my name too.
Through the hospital work team I learned that material wealth is not important. It is who I am and what my beliefs are that is important. I believe that words are not always necessary to communicate with others and it is important to not take simple interactions for granted. The hospital work team also reinforced my goal to become a part of the health care system. The hospital I volunteered in was crowded with patients awaiting a doctor. I know that I cannot cure every disease and treat every patient but I am willing to try. I just want to live my life accomplishing as much as I can.
Check out a video of Samrawit!