The Deacon Blog

A magazine staff blog with news of alumni and the WFU community

Philanthropy

A familiar sight in a faraway place

Last month Joyce and Douglas Boyette (MD ’75, P ’03) were part of a 35-member medical mission team serving in Barahona, Dominican Republic, when Joyce spotted something familiar. A young child, hundreds of miles from the Wake Forest campus, was wearing a T-shirt that read “I may be little but I’m a BIG Demon Deacon fan.”

“It really made my day to be in a foreign country and find a WFU T-shirt,” wrote Joyce, who shared her photo with the magazine. “As one can see, we were in a very poor place in the mountains of Dominican Republic.”

A little Deacon fan, photographed by Joyce Boyette.

A little Deacon fan, photo by Joyce Boyette.

The medical mission team included surgical and clinical groups, she said. The former, including Wake alum Dale Williams (MD ’82), performed 63 surgeries during the week. The clinical group saw 618 patients.

“Each year, there is a January group from mostly Greensboro and Shelby. In February, there’s a group from Winston Salem and in March, a group from Asheboro goes down,” she wrote. “I would suspect that someone from Winston-Salem donated clothes in the past and thus, the WFU shirt.”

Thanks to the Boyettes for sharing this story and for reminding us that the spirit of Pro Humanitate is far-reaching, as is the community of Deacon fans.

— Cherin C. Poovey (P ’08)

More reasons to give thanks

Amy WhiteWe first brought you the story of Amy Bannister White (’90) at Thanksgiving two years ago. In the true spirit of Pro Humanitate, 10 years ago White founded a faith-based organization, Community of Hope Ministries, to help those in need in her hometown of Garner, North Carolina.

For the last five years, Community of Hope has partnered with Butterball LLC to provide turkeys to more than 200 families in need at Thanksgiving. When I checked in with White last week, she was overflowing with enthusiasm and thankfulness.

Butterball, which is based in Garner, donated 225 turkeys this year. Highland Baptist Church in Garner donated another 40, and a real estate office donated 10. Several other North Carolina companies stepped up to help this year, too. “We worked hard to bring some additional partners to help Community of Hope provide not only the turkeys, but also the side dishes to go with them,” White told me.

Alco Custom Cabinets in Garner provided cranberry sauce and pumpkin pies. The Village of Aversboro, a retirement community, hosted a food drive to collect green beans and stuffing mix. Nash Produce, one of North Carolina’s largest sweet potato producers, donated more than 1,000 pounds of potatoes.

“I can’t imagine not doing this Thanksgiving outreach,” White told me. “I love the story of cooperation in the children’s story “Stone Soup” where hungry travelers make soup in the town square. The townspeople “donate” the ingredients to make a soup that is shared by all. Our take on that story is that we ask several partners to work together to make Thanksgiving dinner a joyful reality for all of those who would not otherwise have one.”

White is a former teacher who started Community of Hope to tutor some elementary-school kids struggling in reading and math. That led to one thing and then another. Today, Community of Hope serves about 200 families a month through an after-school enrichment program and a summer camp for at-risk youth; a home-repair service for seniors and the disabled; a benevolence ministry that provides monetary help for things like rent and transportation; and a food pantry that has provided 137,000 meals this year. The nonprofit is supported by First Baptist Church of Garner, other churches and individuals and businesses.

White had more good news to share as she told me about two new programs: a 16-week job readiness program to teach unemployed and underemployed individuals the skills necessary to find and keep a stable job, and a community garden to provide fresh vegetables for Community of Hope’s food pantry.

If you don’t believe that one person can change the world, White is the perfect example of one who’s made her little corner of the world a little better. Her husband, Kyle Alan White (’88, MAEd ’94), even put together a video set to Carrie Underwood’s “Change the World” that’s worth watching to drive home that point.

White shared one final message that we want to pass along to the loyal readers of Wake Forest Magazine: “Blessings to you for a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving.”

— Kerry M. King (’85)

Raising a school in South Sudan

Hauling school supplies, soccer balls and jump ropes, Phillips Bragg (’93) of Huntersville, N.C., made his first trip to Africa last month to see the school he, his wife, Leslie McLean Bragg (’91), and their friend James Lubo Mijak dreamed about for years.

Students head to the school last November

Not quite finished but already welcoming students — and on Sundays, church-goers — the school is among the first built in Unity State in the new nation of South Sudan. Not only that, Phillips was told by a local near Nyarweng: “It is the first permanent building in this area since the beginning of man.”

That is a fact nigh impossible to verify but not outlandish when one hears Phillips describe “the ridiculously rural” area that in some ways remains “a desperate place.” It is where students used to have school under a tree, where huts need to be rebuilt every two years after the rains and where the South Sudanese rely almost exclusively on their traditional nomadic livelihood of herding cattle. “The people were beautiful. Where they can, they wear beautiful colors. And in Dinka (the local language), they said were grateful for the school,” Phillips said.

The dream emerged as the Bragg family grew close to Lubo, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan who fled for their lives during the last civil war, dodging militia from Khartoum and lions in the scrubland. Lubo became one of the 3,800 Lost Boys the U.S. government invited to resettle in the United States. In June 2001, Lubo made his way to Charlotte and, eventually, to the Braggs and their St. John’s Baptist Church filled with caring parishioners. Phillips and Leslie answered the church’s call to be mentors. They became more like family.

Phillips and Leslie Bragg and their sons, from left, Claude, 9, John, 5, and Kirby, 11, and dog “Ernie” gather for a photo with James “Lubo” Mijak at their home in 2011

“I have been a witness to their care and love since I came,” Lubo told me in 2011.

Lubo worked two jobs, including one at Bragg Financial Advisors Inc., and studied, earning a bachelor’s degree at UNC Charlotte. He yearned to see a permanent school built in his home village of Nyarweng in Unity State. Phillips and Leslie loved Lubo, and wanted to help. He was like a brother. They enlisted the Charlotte nonprofit Mothering Across Continents to guide them. The nonprofit shepherds dream projects that can serve as sustainable global models for change. Raising Sudan — now Raising South Sudan — was born. Phillips committed to help raise the money for a school in Nyarweng and another one an hour away in Aliap championed by Lost Boy Ngor Kur Mayol.

Today Lubo lives in South Sudan and works for the government as a community development officer assigned to a Chinese oil company about three hours from the new school. He showed Phillips around his country, and everywhere the two went they ran into someone who knew Lubo from the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. Lubo arrived there in 1992.

Phillips said he was amazed and heartened by the work that has been done in Nyarweng. But he knows the school will be an ongoing commitment. “It’s discouraging how helpless the people are in this place. It’s so war torn. They’re not in a position yet to do for themselves with the illiteracy rate of 90 percent, and a lot of the younger people have grown up in displaced persons camps so they’ve never done anything for themselves. Our uphill battle of introducing microfinance — (it) has to follow literacy. They can go hand in hand a little bit. These people who say, ‘You need to teach the man to fish,’ I totally agree but they can’t even read the instructions.”

Phillips believes an educated population will be important “not only for the governance of their country and preservation of their new democracy but to do business. We feel like we’ve done the right thing.”

“It’s been really hard, I’ll tell you that,” he said. “It’s hard asking your friends for money when you have no good evidence that you can pull it off, and it’s hard after one school to say, ‘Hey, we want to do it again.'”

Phillips with South Sudanese children last month

But one thing Phillips, Leslie and Lubo have shown: One can have faith in the unseen and deliver on the promise.

 

 

Good Work: Charlotte recognizes Phillips Bragg (’93)

Wake Forest Magazine is hardly alone now in recognizing the good works of Phillips Bragg (’93), who with his wife, Leslie McLean Bragg (’91), and children, shared a spotlight in the feature story “Lubo’s Dream” in the Summer 2011 issue. They are working with James Lubo Mijak, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan who became a cherished family friend, to fulfill Lubo’s dream of building permanent primary schools in the new South Sudan.

The Bragg family and Lubo in Huntersville, N.C.

Yesterday the Charlotte Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals gave Phillips its Outstanding Emerging Philanthropist Award at a luncheon at the Charlotte Convention Center. The award “recognizes an individual 40 and under for exceptional generosity and civic responsibility demonstrated through financial contributions and volunteerism to charitable organizations within the Charlotte/Metrolina Region. The recipient’s personal generosity and community leadership have motivated others to give and to become involved in philanthropy.”

On the run from marauding government militia and wild animals in the bush of Sudan during a civil war, Lubo was one of the 30,000 Lost Boys named after the band of orphans from “Peter Pan.” In 2001 he became one of the 3,800 Lost Boys the U.S. government invited to resettle in the United States. He landed in Charlotte and, eventually, through his church had the good fortune to be assigned the Braggs as his mentors. Of Phillips and Leslie, Lubo told me earlier this year, “I have been a witness to their love and care since I came.”

I can vouch for it. With the Braggs, the Pro Humanitate spirit is abundantly evident. And now Charlotte knows about Phillips’ devotion to his friend and the Raising Sudan project. Congratulations to a Demon Deacon whose generous spirit provides an example for us all.