When instructional technologist Rodrick Shao moved to the United States from Tanzania two decades ago, he saw endless opportunities. Shao says he was given an unexpected career opportunity. The top executive of the company he was at saw his potential and agreed to help him advance his career. There was a single condition: one day, he must help someone else.
For the past 10 years, Shao and his wife Elly have been raising money and awareness for orphans in Tanzania. His time in the U.S. showed him just how much was offered. Things as simple as food, shelter, and education are sometimes taken for granted and he wanted to give back all he’d been given.
“Like many African nations, Tanzania faces great poverty,” Shao said. “Our hearts go out to the children, especially those who are orphans. The AIDS epidemic has wiped out a generation of young parents. Their children are now the responsibility of society and we wanted to share the stories of these children.”
While many orphans have lost their parents, some are also HIV positive and others have disabilities. Although the community rallies around these children, they struggle to provide for them since they themselves live in poverty. Shao works with the Lutheran church in Tanzania, setting up monetary funds and donations for school supplies and even livestock. In the last seven years, over $35,000 has been sent from funds collected through TLU and Seguin.
“I encourage people to look at their own lives, what they’ve been given, and how they can return the favor,” Shao said. “These children need books, backpacks, and financial support for medical expenses. They deserve it. When I visited home last year, many of them came up to me and talked about TLU and Seguin. They might not know where they are, but they know they’re getting help from those places and they’re so grateful. Hearing them say thank you is the greatest feeling in the world.”

For more information about the Watoto Project, check out the article in Torch magazine.

Read More Got Passion? Stories
Tim Barr
Although a gardener at heart, Tim Barr is passionate about more than just growing vegetables. From his young daughters to TLU students to members of the Seguin community, Tim sees himself as a co-educator emphasizing the interconnectedness of life in Seguin and on this planet. Whether it’s with local farmers or members of his church, developing a sense of community and cultivating relationships are his main focus. “We’re all part of something bigger,” says Barr, director of the Jon and Sandra Moline Center for Student Leadership. “I hope I can help students deepen their understanding of global citizenship and local involvement. I want students to connect with the Seguin community, invest in their new home, and grow relationships with one another.”

Beth Barry
Some people refer to Beth Barry as the “Tina Fey of TLU.” A lecturer in TLU’s Communication & English Studies department, Beth has a passion for words and a gift for humor. She knows a few jokes in class can break the ice, but once everyone is comfortable it's time to get to work. Beth realizes that not everyone shares her love of writing. “A writing class shouldn't be a series of meaningless assignments," says Barry. “It’s an opportunity to find your voice, sharpen your writing skills, and practice using those skills to empower yourself and others. Writing is like music or painting. Even academic writing should be creative and compelling – it should touch an audience and inspire action, just like great art does.”

Robin Bisha
Dr. Robin Bisha has found a way to pair her love for animals with teaching. The communication studies professor’s unique approach to studying leadership involves students in the practice of animal welfare with rescue dogs. The benefits of animal companionship come to life in her Communication Studies 332 course Leadership For Social Change. “We can learn skills that are relevant to our human relationships through our relationships with animals,” Bisha said. “We think about leadership in terms of business and government, but I want students to see how studying positive reinforcement with animals can open our minds when it comes to leadership. People must have trust in those who lead them. I believe my class shows how conflict resolution and building relationships with animals translate to how we interact with other humans.”

Chef Ernest Servantes
When a teenage Ernest Servantes first stepped into a busy restaurant kitchen, he knew it was his calling. Having always been intrigued by food and the art of preparing dishes, his natural leadership abilities, determination and sense of pride are what he says make him the chef he is today. As TLU’s executive chef and winner of Food Network’s Chopped Grill Masters he wants everyone to remember more than just his big, bold flavors. “It’s important to remember that it doesn’t matter the degrees you have on your wall or how many famous restaurants you own,” Servantes said. “It’s about where you come from and who you are in your soul. My family, friends and the TLU community remain at the heart of my cooking.”

Annette Citzler
Growing up, Dr. Annette Citzler spent many days on her grandparents' farm. From pickling vegetables and making cookies to butchering meat and churning butter, those experiences showed her the true meaning of farm to table. This TLU business professor’s passion for recipes and baking started with her love for the social aspect of food. She wants people to get past the vicarious thrill of cooking and get into the personal thrill of producing a meal. “Cooking is done out of love,” Dr. Citzler says. “We make food for others so we can enjoy meals with them. People have been coming together to share meals since our earliest history, building cultures and families around food. I want students to explore and understand the meaning of food in our lives.”

Michelle Dorsey
Working with the Black & Gold President’s Council is like being a parent over and over again for TLU’s First Lady Michelle Dorsey. Inspired by her mother’s encouraging nature, Michelle wants students to have both an academic and social education. From etiquette to wardrobe, students who serve on the President’s Council develop social leadership. By involving them in various University events, they learn how to interact with people and gain confidence in social situations. “We’re committed to turning out a whole person,” says Dorsey. “TLU is transformative. When you see the change in these students from the time they join the council to the time they leave, it’s wonderful. They have lots to offer and with the right tools, they really shine.”