HOW IT STARTED...
In February 2015, Febin Bellamy, a student at Georgetown University, struck up conversations with one of the custodians, Oneil Batchelor, during his late night study sessions in the business school. The two men bonded immediately.They found themselves spending hours talking about politics, history, music, and about their dreams of wanting to be entrepreneurs. Febin, a son of two immigrants, shared many similarities with Oneil who grew immigrated to the US from Jamaica in hopes of a better life.Oneil mentioned that many people would walk past him in the hallways as if he was invisible. After learning about Oneil’s personal story, Febin interviewed over 100 campus workers and learned about their personal stories, hopes, struggles, dreams, and how each of them played a special role in keeping the esteemed school running behind-the-scenes.
He wanted to highlight the superheroes who hide in plain sight, like the custodians who clean the offices at night, the gardeners who silently plant hundreds of flowers, the cafeteria workers who never fails to smile and deliver a warm plate of food, and the emergency workers who spend hours shoveling snow to keep the campus clean and safe.In April 2016, he launched Unsung Heroes to share their stories with the Georgetown community in hopes of bridging the divide between students and workers by highlighting their shared humanity.Students learned that ever since Oneil was 10 years old, he has been dreaming about starting his own jerk chicken catering business.
Students learned that one of the crosswalk guards, Tracey Smith, made it his life’s mission to protect the students after his own father was killed by a speeding car while trying to cross the street.Students learned that one of the cooks at the Leo O’Donovan Dining Hall, Umberto Suru Ripai, has been separated from his family in South Sudan for over 45 years.Students learned about the bus driver, Larry Calloway, who’s had a passion for singing for over 50 years. Inspired by his personal story, students came together to help him accomplish his dreams of sharing his musical talents with the world. Unsung Heroes booked him a gig at a concert to sing in front of hundreds of people, and shared his special gift on social media, reaching over 100,000 people including celebrities such as Steve Harvey.
Moved by the personal stories of the once-invisible campus workers, the students, faculty, staff and alumni came together to raise over $10,000 to help the unsung heroes achieve dreams they thought would be impossible to achieve. Oneil was able to jumpstart his jerk chicken catering business, Oneil’s Famous Jerk, serving hundreds of students on campus and expanding his services to the Washington DC area. He is now working with the Unsung Heroes of Georgetown team to open his very own caribbean-style restaurant. Frankie Capers, a food & service worker, achieved her birthday wish of going on her dream vacation to Disney World with her grandson. After sharing Umberto Suru’s story, students funded round trip tickets for him to see his family in December 2017! People from around the world were inspired and wanted to make a difference in their own campus community! Unsung Heroes launched 5 chapters in the Spring of 2017, at University of Notre Dame, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Washington University in St. Louis and University of Maryland, College Park.