is the founder of H2 Empower http://www.h2empower.org/, a non-profit organization that has equipped a rural community in Ethiopia with a free library and learning center. H2 Empower began with a simple book donation campaign from New York which today has resulted in over 80,000 books reaching rural villages in Ethiopia. Today the community library Helen and supporters have built is the most impressive for miles around with computer capabilities and a dedicated library professional. Helen Boxwill continues to build, her own highway of dreams.
1. What’s the biggest, most personally fulfilling dream you’ve achieved to date?
Building a community library and sending 10k volumes of books to the library in Hosanna, a rural town in Ethiopia. It’s for a community that has never had a library and for kids that have never had books in their hands to read.
2. Were there any major challenges or obstacles that stood in your way? How did you break through them?
Their were many challenges with the biggest challenge being distance as I was doing the work from America with Ethiopia being on the other side of the earth. It was also the bureaucracy and governmental systems that were obstacles as were issues with contractors. I overcame obstacles by working with people who shared the passion of the dream and who showed my same level of persistence in working through or around the road blocks. My motto is that you have to find a way, because their will always be problems. Even if their is a mountain in front of you then you have to find another road. Either dig underneath it, go around it, climb over it. I would say that I broke through my obstacles with persistence. It’s was all about never giving up and crowd sourcing solutions amongst friends and colleagues.
3. How do dreams benefit the world?
Dreams are essential and it’s the only way to move forward. If you just accept the way things are and all you see are problems, then you might be resigned to not solving those problems, but if you can dream of new possibilities for yourself and your community, then anything can happen. In Ethiopia people often say “I’ll get accepted to school or I’ll get married”, if the gods are willing. They would sit around and wait to get a message and not take an active part in determining their future. My thinking was informed by my father who taught me that god helps those who help themselves. So if you decide that this is what you want and you work for it, then you will find a way. Everyone can dream their own possibilities and their is no reason to ever limit yourself. Dreams might evolve but each one of us has the potential to achieve all kinds of things and dreams are the first step.
4. What energizes you to keep moving towards realizing your dreams
I’m energized by the children in Hosanna, Ethiopia. They have nothing material. They have no shoes, ragged clothes, they have no running water or electricity and live very simple. Most people would be horrified to live in those simple situations and yet they are happy and bright. When I see their faces, I see infinite possibilities and see such great hope for the future. When I close my eyes now and see their smiles, I think that they should be able to have the same opportunities as kids in wealthier environments, though it’s not always money because opportunity also comes from knowledge. They can solve their own problems with knowledge if they have access to information. They can use info gained from books in their own way. Seeing those faces is pure potential and I wanted to give some support and enable kids to have their own dreams and to achieve them.
5. What dream are you currently looking forward to “running with” and realizing?
We have a building and we have books and we have a librarian, which is only the first step. Now we have to work towards freeing people’s fear of using the library. They have a fear of not knowing how to use the library. They worry about the language, worry about what they are going to do and how to find information and work with the curriculum. What I’m excited about now is the potential of the library and freeing people from their fears utilizing it. What I’m hoping to do is give the kids in Hosanna the opportunity to open their minds and to create new ideas and visions for themselves and their communities. We’ll provide access to all kinds of information and tools from tech to actual paper, pencil and books. I’m running with the goal and dream of people accessing what we’re providing. The community is still a bit leery because it’s all brand new and they’re a little intimated. Most of the teachers and kids in Hosanna have never had their own books. Kids have never seen picture books before or an encyclopedia, but that is now not going to be the case.
This DreamRunner Spotlight is curated by Richard Burroughs
A very contemporary, New York City renaissance man, Richard Burroughs is a marketing strategist with nearly fifteen years experience in helping brands tell their stories and producing engaging activations in NYC, Miami, L.A., Chicago, Las Vegas and London. Additionally, Richard is an art curator, with an upcoming exhibition in Malibu, CA with the artist MyronChristian Macauley and also a DJ, spinning fun music from the Standard Hotel to private art openings across New York City. Richard’s musings from his life can be found on his blog, Uncontrollable Urges, which touches on subjects far and wide and always with a zesty opinion.