Cate School senior Joshua Yaro had access to clean drinking water at his middle school in Old Akrade, Ghana, but he was keenly aware that right outside the school grounds, not everyone was so lucky.
So last summer, with help from a Mark Metherell ‘87 Service Challenge award, Yaro returned to the village surrounding Right to Dream Academy to install a water system accessible to all residents.
During his time in the area, located in the southeastern region of the country near the banks of the Volta River, he worked with the village chief and a handful of locals to set up a tank that holds filtered water gathered from the river. The system is the same as the one used at Right to Dream, and advice from staff there helped in preparing for his project.
In the three weeks it took to accomplish the task, Yaro and his team of helpers, including Cate alumnus Gregory Cusack, class of 2012, obtained materials, dug several miles of trench and, with the help of a plumber, laid the pipe and connected it to the holding tank. The tank runs to three pumps placed in different locations around the village, and is maintained in Yaro’s absence by a village resident who also helped with the construction.
Right to Dream is a program based in Ghana that helps underprivileged youth with academic promise attain higher education. The school aims to “raise leaders in Ghana who will eventually go back to our communities and give back to make it a better country,” Joshua said. “This was a chance to go back and show what I can do for my country.”
Director of Admission Charlotte Brownlee was one of the first people at Cate to speak with Yaro, and recently met his family on a trip to Ghana. His impulse to be of service comes as no surprise to her.
“The concept of giving back is deeply embedded in his character,” Brownlee said. “The Metherell Challenge was an amazing opportunity for Joshua to make a distinct improvement for the people who used to be his neighbors.”
The grant that funded Yaro’s efforts was established during Cate’s Centennial Campaign and was named for Mark Metherell, Class of 1987, who died in Iraq while training and supporting Iraqi Special Forces. Metherell had been a Navy Seal, but was in Iraq as a civilian at the time of his death. He was involved with public service while at Cate and often spoke of helping those less fortunate so they could help themselves.
To honor his memory, family, friends and classmates at Cate created the Mark Metherell ’87 Service Challenge. The memorial fund annually awards a $5,000 stipend to a Cate student to help underwrite and make possible a public service project of his or her own design. Volunteerism, potential for benefit to others, and vision are the major criteria for selection. The project doesn’t have to be in their native country, but they do need to demonstrate an understanding of the task and a realistic plan for its upkeep after their departure.
“Some students might ask, ‘Why would I want to spend my summer doing something so hard?’” Yaro said. “Trust me, you might be helping others, but you’re helping yourself more than you’re helping those people. And that is something that gives me hope every day I wake up.”
This summer marks the fourth year students have been making a difference in Metherell’s honor. Funds from the Mark Metherell ‘87 Service Challenge have provided Cate students the resources and opportunity to work in an orphanage in Thailand, build an urban playground in Korea and create children’s libraries in Mumbai.
Yaro views the grant as one in a series of gifts he has been given throughout his life, and a chance to give something back.
“Sometimes you have to go out of your way to help others,” he said.
All Cate students are eligible to apply. The application deadline was Jan. 25, and a winning candidate will be named by March 1.
— Rebekah Altman is the advancement and communications assistant for Cate School.