Beans & Rice for the Soul

teaching, learning and living around the world

When life is going really well, we can sometimes lose sight of the powerful role the village plays

A while back a colleague of mine told me she was interested in working internationally again.  She had served in the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone and I of course was even more pleased to hear that she was a teacher there.  I had her over for dinner, tried to better understand her interests, and connected her with a few old friends of mine. A few months later I was happy to hear she had an interview with one of my former colleagues about potentially teaching at a school in Mali.  A few days later she came by my desk, THRILLED to tell me she got the job!

It was just
such a pleasure
to be able to help.

I certainly didn’t get where I am today without the help of so many others.
It only feels right and good
to pay it forward.

It takes a village.

Alexandria, Virginia has been my village. I was born and raised there and was always encouraged to see beyond Alexandria. The village supported my efforts to improve teacher quality in the developing world. Because of that support I was able to teach alongside teachers in Eastern Congo and am now re-defining teacher training for thousands of teachers in Kenya and Uganda.  I love what I do and it isn’t luck that got me here.

It takes a village.

My dad recently sent me a very moving speech by Tammy Mann, CEO of Alexandria’s Campagna Center. Her speech is a powerful reminder to never lose sight of the powerful role YOU can play in your village
opening doors,
offering encouragement,
providing guidance, and
pushing others to keep the faith, even when they want to give up.

I had to run grab a box of tissues because by the second page I was crying!

Not only is her personal story inspiring, so is the story of the Campagna Center.

Without further ado, these are Tammy Mann’s remarks from the recent Campagna Center Gala:

Tonight I stand before you to share that everything I have been blessed to experience in my soon to be 50 years of life has everything to do with the people who communicated to me in words and deeds that the zip code of my birthplace did not have to define my destination in life.

These people were my parents, aunts and uncles, neighbors, teachers, counselors, my pastor, Girl Scout troop leaders, after school club advisors, and public officials. They were my village.

They affirmed my value and worth as an individual, they guided and offered instruction and encouragement, they challenged me, they corrected me, and they nurtured my spirit, and opened my eyes and my mind to the many possibilities that lived beyond the horizons of Detroit, MI.

At every critical juncture in my life, I can recount times when the support of the village made the difference. Times, such as when I made the decision to attend Spelman College. I had never heard of Spelman, but Barbara Rose Collins, a member of my village did.

She was a Detroit City Councilwoman who gave me an opportunity to intern in her office. She told me the summer before my senior year, Spelman would be a great place for you, and so I applied.

I had not visit Spelman, in fact, I had not visited any of the schools in Michigan I had applied to because my family was not in a position to pay for a college education, let alone finance opportunities to travel to campuses to see if it was going to be a good fit for me.

When Spelman sent my acceptance letter, I remember this moment like it was yesterday. I sat in our backyard and spoke with my father about the decision I had made to travel 750 miles from home and go to a place I had never been and had no clue about how I would make it through.

I remember the look in his eyes – it conveyed both heartbreak and pride.

Heartbreak, because for sure my father, a man that hadn’t graduated high school, but managed to nurture and provide for my mother and his 5 children – wanted the best for me just as he did for all of his children.

He wanted to help make it so that I could go, but had to be honest about our family’s financial situation.

As the conversation continued, heartbreak shifted to pride, because while he could not provide the material resources, he respected the deep conviction I had about the decision I had made – a decision that was 100% inspired by the village that had nurtured and supported me, really all of my life.

My journey at Spelman was not an easy one, because I had to work while many of my peers had an opportunity to focus exclusively on their studies and fully embrace all that college life, at a place like Spelman, afforded.

Fortunately for me, the spirit of the village was strong and ever-present. I remember with great fondness the financial aid counselor, Ms. Berk, who took me under her wing, and every time it seemed as if there was no money available to clear my account, the village rallied and found a way to make things happen.

I know it has become cliché to say, it takes a village to raise a child, yet as I look back over my life, I am 100% certain that without my village, and the deep sense of faith that anchors my life, I would not be the person I am today.

When life is going really well, we can sometimes lose sight of the powerful role the village plays in opening doors, offering encouragement, providing guidance, and pushing you to keep the faith, even when you want to give up. Everyone that succeeds does so because of the influence of a village.

Today, I see The Campagna Center as a strong, and much needed, bridge in the village.

For the one and four children in Alexandria under five that lives between 100 and 200 percent of poverty and needs access to high quality preschool experiences, that includes health and nutrition supports during the first five years of life, The Campagna Center has and continues to serve as that village.

For the parents of these children that have goals and dreams to complete their education, access stable employment and housing, and who want to help their children succeed in school and life, The Campagna Center is that village where today we are reaching over 550 children and families through our Early Childhood Programs.

For the single and two parent working families that would be lost without having access to safe, high quality before and after school care that offers opportunities for children to complete homework with assistance, read a book, enjoy playing games with friends in an environment with adults who love what they do – The Campagna Center is that village. Today, we have the capacity to serve 1000 children in our Campagna Kids program throughout the school year, winter, spring and summer breaks so that working parents can provide for their families.

For the middle and high school students who want to do the right thing, but lack the guidance and support needed to find, and stay on a productive path, The Campagna Center is that village. Today we are reaching over 200 young people through our 21st Century and Building Better Futures programs where students can access tutoring, mentoring, career and college planning supports, life skills training, and learn about community service and the importance of giving back.

For the one in four foreign born-immigrant and refugee who calls Alexandria home yet feels completely isolated and unsure about where to go to find the resources and supports needed to learn English and become familiar American customs and values, The Campagna Center is that village.

Today, through our New Neighbors program, we provide 8 levels of English language instruction for 26 weeks, 3 days per week, 3 hours per day for 300 adults, one third of whom have children under 5 who are exposed to English through literacy and creative art experiences while their mothers attend classes.

We know that we could not succeed without the steadfast support of partners in the village who make it possible for The Campagna Center to continue its strong legacy of bridging gaps.

Some of those partners are here with us tonight…Dr. Mozingo, Chief Academic Officer, ACPS, Rev. Christian White from FUMC. Other partners include, St. Paul’s Church, Christ Church, and Northern Virginia Community college.  On behalf of the hundreds of thousands we have served over the past 70 years in spaces you have made available, we thank you.

As we face the future, our ability to succeed will require your continued commitment and support.   As Walter noted in his remarks, The Campagna Center has been fortunate to be surrounded by a community of junior and supporting friends, donors, funders, and board members who believe in the mission of the organization.

Just this week, we learned that a longtime supporter, and former board Chair, Ms. Joan Vogel has committed to invest a $25,000 gift that will require a match, something you’ll be hearing more about very soon. Joan on behalf of the board and staff, I thank you for your extraordinary generosity.

I know that the challenges we face are not insurmountable. As we move towards completing our strategic planning process, we look forward to sharing with you how we are preparing ourselves to meet those challenges with the same passion and commitment to bridging gaps that propelled our beloved namesake, Elizabeth Ann Campagna.

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being here and celebrating with us tonight.

tammy-mann1

Tammy L. Mann, President & CEO

The Campagna Center in Alexandria, Virginia.

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One comment on “When life is going really well, we can sometimes lose sight of the powerful role the village plays

  1. Lonnie Rich
    May 30, 2015

    Well done.

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This entry was posted on May 30, 2015 by in Uncategorized.
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