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Raimi A. Ade-Salu

A winning program in Guatemala

“Chuck.” “Chuck.” “Chuck,” the students yelled out to the young volunteer from the United States.

Raimi A. Ade-Salu ’12 received a hero’s welcome in April when he returned to the Corazón para los Niños school in Salcaja, Guatemala, to help build a sports program.

“I walked by the school and students stopped their classes and started screaming to me,” he said.

The students continued to call out Ade-Salu’s nickname, “Chuck,” which comes from his chuckling on the basketball court.

“They were fascinated by that name,” Ade-Salu said with a smile.

Ade-Salu, 21, became fascinated with the rural school and its students when he visited Guatemala with a friend in the summer of 2011. He was looking for a school where he could study Spanish and volunteer and learned of the institution, which provides afternoon education for children who work in the mornings. Ade-Salu, who played basketball in high school and served as manager of Binghamton University’s men’s basketball team, taught the sport and made connections with pupils in the school’s first through sixth grades.

The school and its students were still on Ade-Salu’s mind when the Harpur Fellow application period drew near.

“I thought: ‘What can I do for them?’” he said. “I felt like if I could help people and make a change, then why not do it? That pushed me to apply for the fellowship.”

Ade-Salu first considered a project that would have provided laptop computers to the school. But he developed his proposal after thinking back to a conversation he had with a volunteer coordinator at the school about the power of sports and the life lessons they offer.

“I realized that the people I was trying to help knew best,” Ade-Salu said. “I needed to help them help themselves. The (fellowship) funds basically implemented a budget for a sports program that had been run by donations.”

The project helped purchase equipment and uniforms, along with materials that were used to build basketball hoops, soccer goals and volleyball nets. The funds also provided a stipend for the school’s volunteer physical education teacher.

Ade-Salu, who is from Brooklyn and transferred to Binghamton University from SUNY Canton after his freshman year, returned to Guatemala over spring break of 2012, less than two months before graduation.

“I came with nothing but money and my clothes,” he said. “Everything was bought and made there.”

The project became part of the community, as equipment was bought from local stores and experts specializing in wood and metal. Ade-Salu was even able to provide a Bearcat touch, as he traced and painted the University logo on various pieces of equipment. The school has money left over to purchase more equipment.

“It’s a continuing project,” Ade-Salu said. “I just oversaw the beginning of it.”

Ade-Salu, who received the Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence in 2012, will soon teach special education in Hawaii as part of Teach for America. The fellowship is a foundation for being able to assist those in need, he said.

“Being a Harpur Fellow enables me to be a person who can create programs for youths and help students better themselves,” he said. “This honor gives me hope for the future."

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Last Updated: 12/10/14