For the first time in 45 years, Umberto “Suru” Ripai, a food and service worker at Leo O’Donovan Hall, may return to his hometown in South Sudan, thanks to a fundraiser set up by Unsung Heroes, a Facebook page that spotlights workers at Georgetown.
Two hundred and ninety-two people have donated more than $5,070 to the GoFundMe campaign, exceeding the campaign’s goal of $2,000, as of press time. Unsung Heroes created the campaign Sept. 27, after the page featured an interview with Ripai.
Last week, Unsung Heroes also announced that it has partnered with Students of Georgetown, Inc. this semester to create projects to help give back to campus workers.
Unsung Heroes Founder Febin Bellamy (MSB ’17) said the partnership, which was announced in a Facebook post last week, will facilitate the vision he had when he extended the initiative beyond a class project. Bellamy originally created Unsung Heroes last April to raise awareness and support for workers on campus.
Unsung Heroes has pursued a variety of initiatives since launching in April, from hosting appreciation luncheons organized with The Corp to writing thank-you cards with philanthropy group GIVES.
Unsung Heroes helped Oneil Batchelor, a building maintenance worker, start his own catering business by raising $2,500 and hosting him at a large catering event on campus.
“I never felt so appreciated,” Batchelor said. “The students showed me so much love.”
Bellamy said that while his project was originally intended to document university workers’ stories, he now aims to incite social change through activism.
“People can easily share a story [on Facebook],” Bellamy said. “Students are now understanding that these people are human beings, but we want [them] to get involved, [to] go out of their way to think about these unsung heroes.”
Bellamy hopes The Corp’s partnership will motivate students to actively support the “unsung heroes” of Georgetown. Even though most of the plans still require further consolidation, Bellamy said students will have opportunities to engage with the organization in November.
“The Corp partnership is something we are looking forward to because it will help us work with the students to really give back to the workers,” Bellamy said.
Bellamy said he is now considering the work that the organization can achieve with the support of the largest student-run nonprofit in the world.
“This is much more structured,” Bellamy said. “Before, it was different events where we would come together, now it’s an official partnership.”
Both groups plan on extending their work beyond a proposed “appreciation month.” Ideas such as care packages and discounts for unsung heroes would eventually give way to initiatives that seek to engage even more students.
According to Corp Service and Outreach Chair Agnes Lee (SFS ’17), The Corp’s leadership is considering featuring physical depictions of Unsung Heroes stories at storefronts for all students to see.
Former Corp Social Impact Chair Harrison Williams (COL ’16) — who helped kickstart the partnership — said he believed the project would bring a type of social entrepreneurship he thought Georgetown was lacking, while benefiting The Corp’s business interests.
“It allows The Corp to use its resources to address different issues taking place in the Georgetown community,” he said. “It contributes to the issue of worker’s rights, which should be taken pretty seriously.”
Lee said this is an opportunity to mobilize the entire Corp community under a single purpose.
“Past service efforts, we’ve done a good job of engaging individual services,” Lee said. “This initiative is so special because it is Corp-wide.”
Lee said she hopes the program will acquaint the workers with the wide array of services The Corp offers and how they can benefit from them.
“Our motto is ‘Students serving students,’ but we [as] students get served by the facilities workers, and we really benefit from their work,” Lee said. “It forms our identity as a whole as The Corp. Students who serve students serving the facility workers who work hard for us.”
Bellamy said he is also considering expanding Unsung Heroes to other college campuses and converting the Georgetown group into a chapter of a larger organization.
“We realized this is a problem, not just with Georgetown, but other schools,” Bellamy said. “There are unsung heroes in every school.”
Bellamy is currently working with American University and The George Washington University, in hopes that more chapters would open in the Washington, D.C. region. He said he would personally spearhead these efforts, even beyond graduation.
“This project has taught me that everyone has a story, no matter who you are or where you come from, we all have stories that connect us together,” Bellamy said. “Even though you may not be from the same socioeconomic or cultural background as the person next to you, you still have stories that you can share together. There’s emotion that ties you together.”