A personal reflection
Why proximity is so important
By Eric Soard, Wesley College Principal
I will continue to maintain that proximity is the most important part of development. If anyone, and I mean anyone, truly wants to make a difference in the world you have to be close to the people that you want to work with, empower, and ultimately help. The only thing that comes in a close second is supporting those who are in close proximity. That is why you find me where I am, in Tanzania, doing work that I love, but which I know would be almost impossible to do from anywhere else. Today I had another example, among many, as to why proximity is so important.
This afternoon the scholarship committee of Wesley College sat to figure out which of the students who applied for scholarships was going to receive them. We had 10 new scholarships to assign and almost 30 students who had made requests.
What I can say is that all of the students had the grades, some better than others, but all of them will do well at Wesley College. All of the students have financial need, they were orphans, single mothers, students who are young adults who have been left on their own with no family support, small holder farmers whose entire family makes less than $75 a month. And I saw the members of the committee dig into what is a beautiful and sometimes depressing struggle.
I would say that there are many people in the world who could help contribute to these students so that they could study and finish their college education. Some of you reading this may have already done so. But many, many of the people who have this ability do not know these students. They don’t know the students without parents who are raising themselves and trying to find some piece of calm in their lives to study.
They don’t see how their grades slowly improve the longer they are in the Wesley College environment of caring teachers, daily prayers, and encouraging classmates. They don't know the single mother with 12 children, 2 of whom are currently studying at Wesley College. They don’t get a chance to share in the dreams of students who see their chance at education as a way to change their communities, but lack a simple $500 to be able to cover their tuition fees. I say that because I believe if they did know them and did see them, that we would have been able to choose many more students for scholarships today.
At the same time the scholarship committee was able to experience something new today. They have the proximity and have had the proximity for much of their lives, and for the first time they were given the ability to get to decide who to help. They were faced with the dilemma of having the resources to help change someone’s life, even though it wasn’t enough to change everyone’s.
And the conversation, the comments made, the way that they were pulling for the students and seeing the possibilities for change within their lives through this small gift is to be honest one of the more inspiring things I have seen in a long time. They know these students since many of them are returning students, having finished their certificate level and are now applying for diploma. They started asking questions about how we get the scholarships, how we could raise more, and what they could do in order to help. It was because of their proximity that it became something so real, raw, and powerful within this small group of staff.
So I say again, proximity. Get to know the people around you. Get to know the vulnerable populations, and get to know their names, faces, and stories. And if you feel so moved, consider supporting scholarships at Wesley College. We have a group of very committed, very thoughtful staff who are hoping and praying for a few more scholarships so that one more orphan, or one more young adult hauling and selling water or making handmade soap for a living can get their education and transform their life.