Suru Ripai, Cashier at Georgetown University reunites with Family in Canada!

“I am grateful to the students for everything that they did for me [to raise the money] and making it possible to see my family. I've been thinking a lot and I don't think that right now is the best time to travel back home to South Sudan. There is a lot of problems going on over there right now and I may be safer here in the United States this year. But when the time comes and I am ready to go, I will get in touch with my nephew down there and set everything up. I need to call him to help arrange the trip. New things are coming..I turned 64 years old recently and soon I will have to decide if I want to stay here or go back home to live after I retire. I don't want to retire for a while so I still have some time to think about it.."

 

In just 24 hours, Suru will be on a flight to see his family in Alberta, Canada! He will be spending this holiday season with his daughter and his 3 grandchildren. 

 

Thank you to everyone who helped make this trip happen for Suru! With a goal of raising $2,000 for round trip tickets to reunite Suru with his family after 45 years, we raised $6,031 ($5,458 after Gofundme’s fees) - which will strictly be used to support Suru’s trip. The Unsung Heroes team will put his funds in a separate account and will work with him whenever he is ready to prepare for the trip. Stay tuned for our next Unsung Hero update with Oneil Batchelor!

 
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Zuhdija Saric, Janitor at Washington University in St. Louis Village East

"After a month and fifteen days of living in St Louis, he got his first job in a factory. He was eventually laid off from that job, but was fortunate enough to get the job at WashU and he’s been here for the past 15-16 years now. He’s worked in many places on campus, including Park-Mudd and now in Village East. He said as much as it’s common or expected that rooms would get messy and dorms would get messy, some workers still say “it’s so dirty,” but he likes and knows what his job is and likes that he’s cleaning after students that are hard working and that are using it for rightful reasons.

 

My father first started in boot camp with the Yugoslav national army when he was nineteen. Things got really complicated because there was a civil war between Bosnian Muslims, Serbian orthodox, and Croatian Catholics. In the midst of that there was a regional conflict as well within the religious sects. It was essentially a war inside a war with brother fighting brother. Every time he saw a neighbor, he questioned whether he could be trusted and whether it was safe to go home. He learned a lot, even in times of despair, just about the value of people. At times, even though he was confused about what the war was really about, he developed a strong sense of brotherhood with those he fought with.

 

When we were living at the refugee center, my father was fortunate enough to get a call for an interview. We were finally approved to get in [to America] and it had taken so long even though we had family here. It was a moment when our fate and destiny rested on a decision that we had no control over. It’s hard when you’re living in a refugee center because there’s no way to get a phone call and no way to get a letter. I’m surprised, not only that people were able to remember the interviews, but also that they were motivated to start working right away when they got to America. Four years later, we finally got our green cards.

 

He values family more than anything and I see it everyday. Just this morning he woke up at 9 am to call family back home. Even though our uncle lives here, every day they’re calling each other. Those family values are part of why he’s so happy that I’m a student here. He always tells me that not everyone is fortunate enough to be living in this country, to be alive after war, and to not be stuck in refugee centers like many kids are. I don’t think he was thinking about college as he was growing up in a refugee camp. He never envisioned he would be living in St. Louis."

 

This Unsung Hero story is a bit special. Our Unsung Hero, Zuhdija Saric, does not speak English. Because of this, we used an interpreter for this interview. It turns out his son, Meris Saric, is a Freshman here at WashU, so with Meris acting as the interpreter, we decided to get both of their stories about immigrating to the United States as well as their experiences at WashU.

 

Thank you Meris for helping share your story! Zuhdija is slowly learning English, and loves to say hello and good morning to the students he sees, so if you see him be sure to say hi and thank him for being our Unsung Hero. 

 

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Geoffrey Neal, Assistant Curator at UNC at Chapel Hill Coker Arboretum

"I’m sure I’m not the first person to say this, but I’m going to say it anyway. My one bit of advice: put your phone in your pocket and walk across campus with your eyes open and your heads up. Because you are missing so much when you don't do that . . .

This is such a beautiful space, and in 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 years you’re going to be somewhere else. And you’re most likely going to be feeling pretty crappy, because you’ll be just starting out in a fairly low-paying this, that, or the-other, and you’re going to be worried about your car, and you’re going to have your head down for other reasons. So take the time you’ve got now and move through your spaces with your head up. Look at where you are—this is an amazing campus to be on, any time of the year, and to miss the changes because you’re concerned about what someone is doing on your little rectangle in your hand is not the way—in my mind—to learn how to be a human…I get a little sad when I say it, because I have a 16-year-old who has a little rectangle attached to his hand. And getting him out of that is a daily thing—it’s an absolute daily thing. I have to make sure that he’s interacting with this world. The world—not this little world that’s filtered by the little rectangle in his hand.”

“I’m a firm believer in the philosophy of lifelong learning. I’m a firm believer in experiential education. You need to get your hands on it, and do it, to make it real. Certainly there’s things that can be taught by showing, but actually doing…there’s no other substitute for it.”

“The space that we’re in has been there as a garden for over 100 years. And it was a pasture before that. It’s unique on a college campus that you’ve got 5 acres of prime real estate, quite frankly. It’s in the middle of campus, and it’s not got a building on it. It’s barely got a paved surface. To my mind, it’s just a treat to come in and be able to do that…it’s very fortunate that I happen to live here, and this happens to exist.”

“I enjoy an unhurried, uninterrupted cup of coffee on a Saturday morning. That’s something that people just don’t get—at least once they get out of college.”

“Recently, best cup of coffee is the Blue Ridge Blend that they’ve got here at The Meantime over at the Campus Y. Take your own cup in—it’s two dollars for a cup of coffee—a good cup of coffee, and they’re always nice when you go in…And it’s for a good cause—they’re using the money for scholarships. So if I’m on campus, that’s where I go.”

We thank Geoffrey for his service to the Chapel Hill community. He works hard every day to make this campus more alive and more beautiful and for that we are extremely grateful. Let's show Geoffrey and the other people who work hard to keep campus running smoothly our appreciation. A simple greeting and thank-you goes a long way!

Follow Unsung Heroes of UNC at Chapel Hill  to learn more about the heroes who keep University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's campus running behind-the-scenes!!

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Luis Martinez, Facilities Night Worker at Georgetown University Medical Center

“I tell my son not to worry about the bills because that’s Mami and Papi's responsibility. [I tell him] his only responsibility is school. He always talks about how he wants to be an archaeologist...he loves nature and he can pronounce the name of any dinosaur that you can think of! I get so happy when I hear about his goals because he is only 10 years old. I wasn’t able to spend as much time with him when he was growing up because I was always working. But now when I get a day off - after I catch up on sleep, I try to spend every minute with him. And he can tell you that whatever time we spend together is QUALITY time. And I cherish every minute of it..."

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Denise Keeton, Housekeeper in Washington University in St. Louis Village House

 

“I’ve worked for WashU for twenty years... For me to be here for twenty years it has to be a great job. I like my job and I enjoy the friendships that I make with the students. Some of them stay here one year and end up coming back, staying here two or three years, so I’m comfortable with them and they’re comfortable with me because they know me.”

 

“I’m from St. Louis Missouri, born and been here all my life. I got married and had two children, I have three grandchildren…a granddaughter, she’s six, and two grandsons, they’re eight and nine. I spend my weekends with my granddaughter. I help my daughter plan her wedding, she’s getting married October 7th.”

 

"My mother was with me [in my childhood] the whole time, my father was there for part of my life. She took great care of us being a single mom, she had five children so that was hard. She always taught us to do our best... [She] kind of struggled trying to take care of five children alone, so my oldest brother actually left when he was a teenager and went to the military. He was around seventeen or eighteen.”

 

Thank you Denise for being such a hardworking and caring Unsung Hero! If you see her, she loves making connections with students! She also wants students to remember to “Just be humble, stay respectful, smile and say hi!”

Follow Unsung Heroes of Wash U  to learn more about the heroes who keep Washington University in St. Louis' campus running behind-the-scenes!! 

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