The exchange gave our students a chance to provide service as well as be immersed in another culture. They had the opportunity to utilize their Spanish, teach Colombian students how to play baseball, donate equipment, and participate in other cultural activities
On Wednesday, March 6, Justin returned to campus through the US Embassy sponsored program, “Sport for Social Change.” He was joined by students, athletes, and coaches from the coastal communities of Monteria and Cartagena. The group spent a week in America, visiting Florida, Philadelphia, and New York. While visiting Malvern, the group celebrated Ash Wednesday Mass and a morning of Leadership workshops. Justin also sat down with the Marketing Team to share how Project Béisbol impacts him.
Q: So tell me why you got started with Project Béisbol?
JH: I founded the charity in 2008, however, I started to think about the issue in a serious way starting in 1998 while studying abroad in Cuba, "The History and Economics of Cuba." A professor told us to bring some balls and pencils to class one day because that's what they needed the most. On that trip, seeing the kids' eyes light up as I pulled out some baseballs, you would have thought they were looking at blocks of gold. That's what started my inspiration and planted the seed. Years later, while I was traveling through several countries in Latin America, including Brazil and Venezuela, I saw this consistent need for support and a passion for the sport and talent as well. So I decided to make an impact in that way. We started renting equipment and from the beginning, Malvern guys helped out. Jeff Hilliard ’95, Eddie John ’95, Pat O'Hara ’95 Steven Barry ’95, Tim Donnelly’95, Ken Makowski ’90 and some other brothers from my class, immediately gave their support to help the cause. So essentially, what we do is support teams and make sure we are behind the people already fighting on the local level to keep their programs alive. Another component of that is providing students who are playing on those teams a position to be part of Project Béisbol with their leadership and skills. They are constantly growing in understanding how we work which inspires them to do the work with us. So they're all now representatives of our charity.
Q: So what are some ways you help the students find the leader in themselves?
JH: Everybody has a leader in themselves and has the potential to become that, but not everybody knows how to demonstrate those characteristics. We teach by example. We don't talk much, we act. We always underestimate the amount of support we're going to get and we work with that. Sometimes I bring high school and college volunteers to join us, and we'll go pick up the trash on the field with the teams or help fix their field. We do whatever it takes and we're not afraid to get our hands dirty. In terms of our younger students, I give them big responsibilities. That's a way for them to release that leadership quality. We treat them as if they are adults with 10 years of experience because we are a charity, but we're all volunteers. We don't have a staff or a marketing department so everyone has the chance to take on any role that they're interested in. Because they're young, energetic and idealistic, sometimes they do a better job than we can, especially with social media. Overall, we give all of the students real-world responsibilities and let them roll with it. One of our ongoing leadership programs is the idea of the volunteers becoming liaisons for other teams in their community. Their objective, while they are here, is to collect enough equipment for a team. When they get back to their respective communities, we want them to find a different team, that they're not affiliated with, and donate the equipment. Gratefully, the majority of the equipment will come from the Malvern community, including alums Steve DiRico and Brett Antell.
Q: How did your time at Malvern prepare you for this role?
JH: I would say that one thing that really aligns with the core foundations of what Malvern teaches is the community concept. Our first base in our Pillars of Foundation is community. That concept of working as a team, and working as a community, while supporting that community, stands throughout everything we do. Back in Colombia, where we work, that's the one thing that we continuously instill and encourage in our partners – the importance of building a strong community. Essentially, without that, nothing that we can do will work or help.
Q: How does Project Béisbol help you?
JH: Well, in many ways it's saved my life. I started the charity at a time in my life when I wasn't feeling rewarded by any of the work I was doing and felt like I needed a change. I needed a purpose in my life. The charity lifted me up and has kept me up ever since. One of the reasons is all of the great people I get to meet doing this work here in the United States and in the region [of Colombia]. Real leaders, wonderful people, great energy and it's culminated here with my return back to the Malvern community. To do this work in collaboration with my alma mater, is something I couldn't be happier about. It keeps me going. It keeps me happy, moving, and inspired. It's my life. It's everything.