Monday, May 11, 2009
Fighting Poverty: One Campus at a Time
Kudos To: Shin Fujiyama
I love to see and hear stories of individuals who truly want to make a difference in this world. He is an amazing young man. Thank-you Shin for all that you do.
Shin Fujiyama's life has been highlighted by second chances.
Shin Fujiyama's organization, Students Helping Honduras, has raised more than $750,000.
Born in a fishing village in Japan, Fujiyama, 25, recalls a childhood dominated by health concerns. Doctors told his parents that he had a hole in his heart and "they didn't think I had lot longer to live." But during a later visit to the doctor, Fujiyama says, his family learned the hole had closed.
"Somehow I was cured and I became a normal kid," Fujiyama says. "And I had a second chance."
During his sophomore year at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, he volunteered in Honduras with a campus group and was struck by the extreme poverty he saw -- barefoot children collecting cans and sleeping in the streets. Fujiyama says he realized he could help give other children their own second chance.
Today, his organization, Students Helping Honduras, brings education and community projects to children and families in need through student service trips and fundraisers.
"Seeing the country and being able to make a difference really opened my eyes to a lot of things," he says. "I saw such a great need. I wanted to keep helping."
He started by telling his friends about his experience and collecting spare change at his two campus jobs, but Fujiyama found that organizing other students didn't happen so easily.
"When I had my very first meeting, I got all dressed up. And only two people showed up," he says. "I knew I had to keep fighting."
He enlisted his younger sister, Cosmo, then a student at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, to the cause.
"She's dynamite," he says. "When she talks in front of a crowd, she can move mountains. Knowing that she was behind it, I knew I could do anything."
Since 2006, the siblings' grass-roots campaign to help Honduras has grown to 25 campuses and raised more than $750,000 to fund projects, including the construction of two schools and the establishment of scholarships to help young women attend college.
Fujiyama says students are deeply committed to the organization because they are involved on every level: They raise money and then travel to Honduras to help build houses.
"We make friends with all the kids, all the families -- no matter where we're from. We've had people from all over the world come to Honduras with us. And it's a great network we've made," he says.