A 180-Degree Turn

Working as our Program Director in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, I regularly see one of the worst forms of child labor: children working in garbage dumps. And yet I also get the chance to tell students, in person, that there's another way. By studying and working hard at...

8 Over 80

In just about every big city, a 40 under 40 list is published each year to recognize 40 people under the age of 40 who accomplished something special that year. It’s supposed to be a big deal, but is it really? Heck, you can do so many things under 40. Do something...

Filling the Gap

A note from Mike ...In our mission to help people break out of poverty, we find it helpful not just to study the causes of poverty but also the causes of prosperity too. Factors ranging from national policy issues to cultural values and local community challenges can...

A Race to Remember

Every year, we host a global 5K run, aiming to raise funds to support education for young scholars. However, in 2023, something extraordinary happened. Amidst the crowd of determined athletes, a young man named Mihretu emerged, not just as a winner but as a star. He...

Now That’s a Trip

This is kind of a big year for International Samaritan. Thirty years ago this summer, we were born out of desperate compassion after a priest driving a car filled with high school students on an immersion trip came across Guatemala City’s garbage dump and stopped to...

Mapping Your Life

In a world brimming with uncertainties, equipping scholars with the tools to navigate their personal and professional journeys is paramount. At the beginning of this year, our team in Jamaica decided to have life mapping and vision board workshops. These workshops...

Line of Sight

“We can care deeply—selflessly—about those we know, but that empathy rarely extends beyond our line of sight.” These words from the 2014 movie Interstellar weren’t just a few seconds of entertainment on a flight back from Honduras earlier this year, but accurately...

Stars of the Show

“What would you like to do for a family day?” I recently asked my 50 Samaritan Scholars in Uganda. Their response was touching: They wanted to see their parents perform for them. Driven by this unique request, our team of dedicated volunteers worked tirelessly for two...

Health Matters

There's a health clinic in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, that serves 100,000 people each year, including many of the 10,000 or so people who are the poorest of the poor. These people live in the community called Kore, which surrounds the dumpsite. While serving in this...

Breakdown of a Victory in Detroit

Amidst the wars in the world and the divisiveness within our nation, I’m writing to share some good news this week about a city that has made significant progress in the last 15 years on a problem that plagued it for at least a century before. I’m interested to hear...

A 180-Degree Turn

Working as our Program Director in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, I regularly see one of the worst forms of child labor: children working in garbage dumps.

And yet I also get the chance to tell students, in person, that there’s another way. By studying and working hard at school, they can have a path out of the dump. One of the stories that makes me tear up with happiness is José Gilson’s. He’s an example of how dreams can be fulfilled.  

Dawit and friends

José Gilson, in school, after he became one of our Samaritan Scholars.

As a young child, José accompanied his father and siblings to the municipal landfill. They collected plastic bottles to sell so they could earn some money. As time went by, they began to work with a neighbor, bringing her waste from the garbage dump for raising pigs that she had in her house. She paid them a value of Lps 50.00 ($2.00) for each bag of food. They always brought her two bags a day.

For years, the family continued to work at the dump site.

Then when he was in 7th grade, José became one of our Samaritan Scholars. He was able to cut back on work, concentrate on his studies, and complete a technical degree in refrigeration! Now, at age 20, he’s working as a refrigerator technician while also studying electricity at a technical school.

Kenya scholars

José (middle) with International Samaritan team members who visited him at work.

“It has not been easy for me to get to where I am in terms of my professional training and that is something that motivates me even more,” José said. “Because if I have gotten this far, then I know I can achieve much more.”

I am confident that I will see José’s continued success, and I watch as the other scholars and children in the community look to him as a role model. One way he’s helping others succeed is by spending part of his salary to help cover school expenses for his younger siblings.

“I remember what my life was like when I went to the garbage dump,” José wrote to me recently. “I wonder if I would be alive if I was still there. I thank God for having put people like you in my path. I can say that my life has taken a 180-degree turn.”

This is why I do what I do every day: so that lives can make 180-degree turns.

Erika Cuevas, Program Director

Erika has a degree in Management and Social Development. She has been working with International Samaritan since 2016 and before that she worked with at-risk children and youth for thirteen years. Her work consistently focuses on eradicating child labor in the municipal garbage dumps.

8 Over 80

Stars of the Show by David Kafambe

In just about every big city, a 40 under 40 list is published each year to recognize 40 people under the age of 40 who accomplished something special that year. It’s supposed to be a big deal, but is it really? Heck, you can do so many things under 40. Do something special over 80? Now that’s worth celebrating.

At 55, I’m in awe of people 30 years my senior still bringing it every day. I know it can’t be easy, but they won’t tell you that. These 8 remarkable people over 80 inspire me and have all played a role in making International Samaritan stronger. 

Pauline Beh on her recent trip to visit Samaritan Scholars in Uganda.

Pauline Beh has been traveling with us for 14 years, serving on medical missions, scouting expansion opportunities, and making sure that your investments are being well spent. A scholarship changed her life as a young woman; now she changes the lives of others by contributing so generously to our scholarship program and asking others to do the same.

Mrs. Falls and me at the opening of the Kelly and Matthew Stafford and Friends Education Center at SAY Detroit this past Monday.

Ozella Falls became the heart of the SAY Detroit Play Center while cooking meals for the kids every day after school, helping the young people there flourish. Their success inspired the family life centers we are building to help our scholars across the world. 

Richard and Dolly Flasck

Dolly and Richard Flasck have been inseparable since being high school sweethearts. Approaching their 60th wedding anniversary this year, they treat strangers like friends and friends like family, including the young people and families we have been able to serve for years in El Ocotillo, Honduras, because of them.

My mom and me working out before our next golf challenge!

My workout partner at the gym, and coffee date afterwards, Julie Tenbusch is a retired nurse who has won 77 of the 80 golf games we have played against each other over the last 40 years. My mom imbued in me the love for others and the work ethic that I share with our teams and scholars (as well as a healthy sense of fun competition)!

Raymond (1937–2016) and Marie Weingartz

All of the good things that have begun happening for families in Kenya and Uganda this year would not have happened were it not for Marie Weingartz, the matriarch of a large family and their family-owned business. Whenever we have coffee, she inspires and encourages me with tales of the challenges they have overcome through faith and faithfulness to God. I do my best to lead my family and this organization as she has theirs.

Gone But Never Forgotten

Fr. Frank with my daughter, Julia, a few years back.

Fr. Frank Canfield, S.J. (1936-2023) was the person most like Jesus I have ever met, and he never failed to share the love of Christ with others. He traveled with International Samaritan in our early days, long before I came here, and led efforts in the Samaritan 5K and in his daily prayers to advance our mission and bring healing and strength to our communities. I still try to be more like him.

Bill Pulte 

Shortly before the late, great Bill Pulte passed away in 2018, he and his wife, Karen, made a five-year commitment to International Samaritan that ultimately helped us and our families successfully survive the pandemic. Bill and Karen helped to found this organization with the first donation in 1994 to build housing in Guatemala, and they have stewarded us into the most uniquely powerful organization I have ever been a part of in my life.

These everyday heroes fill the unforgiving minutes with 60 seconds’ worth of a distance run, to borrow a phrase from Kipling.

Lord, may all of our scholars and each of us have the strength and grace to do the same today!

By Mike Tenbusch

Mike Tenbusch, President

Mike joined International Samaritan in 2018 after two decades of leading social change in his hometown of Detroit, Michigan. He’s a University of Michigan Law grad and author of The Jonathan Effect: Helping Kids and Schools Win the Battle Against Poverty. He and his wife, Maritza, have three children who keep them young.

Filling the Gap

A note from Mike …
In our mission to help people break out of poverty, we find it helpful not just to study the causes of poverty but also the causes of prosperity too. Factors ranging from national policy issues to cultural values and local community challenges can all have an influence on our efforts to help our families overcome poverty.

Ethiopia has long intrigued me because of this nation’s approach to provide a free college education to everybody, regardless of one’s background or income level, but only to the very best and brightest. Last year, as an example, only 3.4% of the 12th graders scored high enough to secure admission to a public university.

Dig down deeper in these numbers though, and you’ll find a miracle in them. Of the 15 12th-grade Samaritan Scholars in Ethiopia last year, 10 passed the exam and are in college now, an amazing 67%. In his reflection below, Engidawork Lemma shares one of the reasons our scholars are flying past their peers.

Prior to becoming Samaritan Scholars, many of our students in Ethiopia couldn’t always attend school. They struggled to learn basic English and numeracy skills due to their inability to afford tuition fees at public schools. Now, thanks to your generous support, many of these scholars attend private schools with excellent educational systems. Still, when national assessments revealed gaps in their understanding, especially in mathematics and English, we knew that we needed to do something more than just pay for their school fees. To help fill their academic gaps, we created a tutoring program for younger scholars using the network of our college scholars and graduates. 

One of our tutors is Zenebe, a dedicated scholar in his third year studying software engineering. Zenebe lives in a one-room rented home near the dumpsite with his parents, two siblings, and an aunt. Finances are tight. They sleep on cardboard on the floor. Yet despite their economic challenges, Zenebe has always remained hopeful that he’d be able to complete his studies. He told us the day he became a Samaritan Scholar was the happiest day of his life!

Dawit and friends

Zenebe, in the black jacket, helps train more tutors for the gap-filling program.

Not only has Zenebe been able to pursue his educational dreams, but he continues to give his time and energy to his community. He comes to the Weingartz Family Life Center whenever he has time and asks how he can help. He has become a trusted tutor who personally knows each young scholar and enjoys teaching.

Zenebe and other scholars are working tirelessly to help their young peers improve. During a recent capacity-building training session for gap-filling program tutors, I was inspired by the enthusiasm and dedication shown by Zenebe and his fellow scholars. They used to be simply scholarship recipients. Now they are program leaders and role models. This transformation has given them a newfound sense of joy and fulfillment in serving others, demonstrating that true happiness lies in giving rather than receiving. It also sets up the young people coming behind them to exceed the high bar they have already set, not just for getting a college degree but for making a difference in our community and nation.

Kenya scholars

Zenebe provided a tutorial class to young scholars in Ethiopia.

Kenya scholars

At a training session, older Samaritan Scholars volunteered to tutor young scholars and help fill in their gaps in knowledge.

Engidawork Lemma, Ethiopia
Youth Development Coordinator

Engidawork brings over 15 years of expertise in empowering adolescents and youth through leadership, personal development, reproductive health, and program management. As a dedicated professional, he specializes in facilitating and delivering tailored training for different populations in various educational settings. 

About Us

International Samaritan is a nonprofit organization with the designation 501(c)(3). Our headquarters is located in Ann Arbor Michigan.

info@intsam.org

(734) 222-0701

803 N Main St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

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