By Dan DiPrinzio
Rizwan Ishmail ’10 came to the United States in 2003, when he was 17, with only a bag of clothes and a cricket bat.
Not knowing what to expect, he didn’t even pack many dreams when he left the St. John Bosco Boys Orphanage in Guyana, South America, his home of 13 years.
In December 2008, Ishmail, a senior at Cabrini College, returned to South America with nine other Cabrini students on a solidarity trip to Ecuador. For eight days, they lived on a little more than one dollar a day, immersing themselves in the culture of the people of Duran, a poor village where daily access to drinking water is a luxury.
“We wanted to understand their way of life,” said Ishmail.
As a teenager at the St. John Bosco orphanage, Ishmail met someone who opened a door to a new life: Rebecca Anwar, a medical consultant and member of the Rotary Club of Chestnut Hill who was volunteering at the orphanage. Although Ishmail had never thought of coming to the U.S., when Anwar invited him to America to study, he jumped at the opportunity. With the help of the Rotary Club, Anwar made it possible.
Cabrini’s message of “service beyond one’s self” is a fitting philosophy for Ishmail. He is a Student Ambassador, leading prospective students and their families on campus tours; an orientation leader, assisting first-year students moving into residence halls; a regular participant in community service and civic engagement activities; involved with the College’s Partnership Project @ Norristown; and a member of Kids First Now, an organization that tutors early childhood and elementary students.
“The great service organizations that exist are usually started by one or two people,” Ishmail says. “The impact that can come from individuals wanting to bring about change, or dedicating their lives to service, can go a long way.”
After graduation in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and secondary education, Riz plans to teach Spanish to high school students in the U.S. But his recent solidarity trip made such an impact on him that he plans to volunteer for a year in Ecuador before starting his teaching career.
“So many people have given me opportunities,” says Ishmail. “At every moment I have to give back to someone else, because I’ve had so much given to me.”