Success is Helping Other People by Herani Bekele

Success is Helping Other People by Herani Bekele


“To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

~~ Ralph Waldo Emerson


When I am presented with a high school senior’s most-heard question, “What do you want to do with your life?” I say, “ I have plans to travel the world, but not just for pleasure. My goal in life is to improve the lives of impoverished people.” I want to provide you with insight into why my story is so significant.

Play Pumps International is a non-profit organization whose mission is to better the lives of many children and their communities through providing clean drinking water using an underground water pump connected to a merry-go-round. My mother, who has been working two years with Play Pumps, approached me in our dining room one afternoon. She introduced me to a project she had been working on. I can recall it clearly; I was eleven, and had just come home from school. I brought out my homework.

My mother walked in pulling out a folder. She pointed to images of African women carrying jugs appearing to weigh tons. She explained the women’s daily routine of collecting water for their villages and communities. I imagined myself in their shoes. Could I do it?  I pictured my older sister and myself, waking up ready to brush our teeth–but there is no water. I get out of bed to wash my face–but there is no water. These routines are luxuries the average American takes for granted by turning on a faucet.      

I wanted to learn more, and a perfect opportunity arose. Play Pumps invited about one hundred volunteers from the Ethiopian community in D.C. I was invited to present the project and speak to potential donors.

My task was to conduct my own research on the scarcity of water in African states where Play Pumps is stationed. So, my research began. It seemed simple: kids play, water pumps! Reading through articles discussing tragedies as a result of unclean water troubled me, as more questions arose. I asked myself what was being done to reverse this. “About 4,500 children die each day from unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation facilities.”All I could think of was how unfair it was for other humans to suffer from a lack of water. My passion influenced my decision to involve my sixth grade art class to create a mural of the Play Plumps structure to auction at the fundraiser. The excitement among my peers quickly filled the room. Even within my household, awareness surrounding my project spread like a wild fire.

This was my turning point. I found my calling: serving those in poverty. My outlook changed on much of the world and in my personal life. From that day on, I can recognize a difference in how I interact with people. Anytime I meet someone new, I find myself building a network with those who are equally motivated to move toward my goal.

My perspective changed. I no longer strive to improve just myself, but instead I now work towards earning an education to benefit my community. This experience was my first step to learning more about myself. Working with this organization over the course of two years has opened my eyes to how much work is needed in the world. The support of my family, school and community shows me the need for unity and teamwork. It truly took a village to put it in action.

Throughout my life and up to the present day, I persistently work on projects leading toward my goal, such as volunteering with the Young Orthodox Tewehado Church. I find interests in numerous fields. However, when it comes to serving such a cause, there is not an ounce of doubt in my mind telling me to do anything else.

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Contributed by Herani Bekele

August 5, 2015



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