Written by Rhiannon Hasenauer.
It is often said that it takes a village to raise a child. When my mother died nine years ago, a village stepped up to help my father raise me and my brothers. Friends, family, coaches, and teachers all helped to ensure that we stayed the course and had every opportunity to succeed with their love and support.
I’ve felt this same support here at Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech exposed me to faculty, staff, and professors who truly care about their students’ growth. It exposed me to such kindhearted individuals – some who have become my best friends. It also exposed me to a wide variety of student organizations aiming to serve others both domestically and beyond.
During my sophomore year here at Virginia Tech, I attended an interest meeting for an on-campus organization called Students Helping Honduras. I was immediately hooked by its mission to alleviate extreme poverty and violence in Honduras through education and youth empowerment. Just a few weeks later, I booked my first service trip to Honduras to work alongside local Hondurans building a school in a rural village community.
I came home from that first trip with a fire burning inside me. I quickly became passionate about international development, ethical service trips abroad, breaking stereotypes and prejudices, ways in which our current political climate and the climates from years past have impacted the quality of life in Honduras, and the beautiful, dedicated Honduran men, women, and children I had met.
I vividly remember thinking about how much of an impact my educational opportunities have had on my life. I could not fathom the fact that so much of this country was lacking this opportunity for growth and prosperity.
I traveled to Honduras five times after that – six times in total. I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of ground-breaking ceremonies, cutting a ribbon and driving our shovels into the dirt where a three-classroom building would stand; I’ve watched the final bucket of cement being poured into a new classroom; I’ve even inaugurated a school that had just been painted maroon and orange for the Virginia Tech Hokies.
My trips to Honduras exposed me to a new culture, new people, and a global worldview. There have been moments, while in Honduras, when I would just stop to look around on the construction worksites where volunteers were interacting with local Hondurans. There was so much laughter, dancing, and mutual exchange happening. All boundaries separating the volunteers and the community members seemed to fade. We were working together towards the same mission. We were one.
I’ve learned that instead of building walls, we should be seeking ways to break walls down. Rather than focusing on our differences, we should recognize and celebrate what makes us unique - finding the beauty in our diversity.
We are all so different and we all have our own histories. Yet we all share one thing in common – we are human. Humans who desire the ability to take care of our family. Humans who want to send our children to school and live long enough to watch them grown up. Humans who feel love, who feel pain, who feel fear. Humans who have the ability to create light to fight the darkness that exists in this world.
Because of the kind individuals who helped my family and my experiences abroad in Honduras, I have learned the importance of human connection. It has helped me heal from my hardships. Energy cannot be created nor destroyed, it just transforms from one form to another. The energy of my grief and the pain from the loss of my mother will always exist. However, I have found ways to transfer that energy into love and service.
I will continue working to ensure more individuals are provided the opportunity to transfer their own pain and their own hardship into love, productivity, and growth.
I thoroughly believe that I have Virginia Tech, and the opportunities it provides, to thank for this healing.
This university is inventing a future of empathetic, caring, and motivated global citizens.
Thank you Virginia Tech. For all you’ve done and for all you continue to do for this world.