Have you ever stopped to chat with the woman who vacuums your office building every night? Or, introduced yourself to the man who serves your lunch day after day in the school cafeteria? You recognize their faces because you see them every day, but do you even know their names?
Febin Bellamy, a junior at Georgetown University, decided he was uncomfortable with the invisible wall that separates students and the workers on campus. It all started when Bellamy struck up a conversation with Oneil Batchelor, a Jamaican immigrant who works at Georgetown as a janitor.
Bellamy and Batchelor started having long talks about politics, music and history. They discovered plenty of common ground. Both are immigrants to the United States and both aspire to be entrepreneurs. After forming a friendship with Batchelor, Bellamy started noticing all of the employees who work day in and day out to keep Georgetown runningâthe people who clean the bathrooms, flip burgers in the dining hall or tend to gardens on the picturesque campus.
âOnce you see it, you can't unsee it,â Bellamy told the Washington Post.
And, Bellamy didn't just see the problem, he decided to do something about it. He created a Facebook page called Unsung Heroes, where he posts profiles about Georgetown employees.
As students started to get to know campus workers through the Unsung Heroes page, those invisible walls began crumblingâand something amazing started happening. Now aware of the workers' histories, as well as their dreams and ambitions, the students have decided to pitch in to help staff members achieve their goals.
For instance, students discovered that Batchelor is great cook, so they encouraged him to hold fundraisers on campus and helped him get catering jobs and launch his own web page, Oneil's Famous Jerk.
âIt's like the door has cracked open in front of me,â Batchelor told the Post. âAnd I can smell the air coming through. The inspiration.â
Another employee,Â Umberto âSuruâ Ripai, works as a cashier at a campus cafeteria. Ripai is from South Sudan, and hasn't been back to visit his family in 45 years. So students have pitched in and raised $5,500 on a on a GoFundMe page to help him buy plane tickets for the journey.
Here are some of the other inspiring Unsung Heroes working at Georgetown.
Jose Manzanares was in college when he was drafted to fight in El Salvador's civil war. He was able to escape alone to America at just 17 years old.
Anthony "Tracey" Smith's father was killed in a crosswalk, which is why Smith took the position as a crossing guard at Georgetown.
Memuma Tackie immigrated from Ghana 14 years ago. She was thrilled to get the job at Georgetown because she knew the students would help her to learn. Today, she is learning to read and write with the help of a Georgetown student.
To hear more of employees' stories or to find out how you can help to expand the program nationwide, check out the Unsung Heroes website.