Rebecca Wilks

Rebecca Wilks; Photographer, Teacher, Yarnellian, Do-Gooder

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Selfish Do-Gooder

I do, in fact, get more out of this do-gooder stuff than I put in.

Reflecting on a most remarkable week, I have real-world examples for you.

Regular readers will recall that my husband and I, as well as several of our friends, are enthusiastic supporters of the Guatemala Literacy Project (GLP).  Over 19 years, nearly 500 Rotary Clubs worldwide have partnered with an extraordinary, progressive nonprofit called Cooperative for Education (COED) to “break the cycle of poverty in Guatemala through education.”  I’m quoting their mission statement here because it’s a good one.  Some staffers use the phrase “Poverty Busters.”  

David & Gladys Wright House, Phoenix
I had the honor of participating in what I’m fondly calling the GLP roadshow last week.  Gina Regan and Garrett Fenchel, both COED staffers, flew to Arizona from their home in Cincinnati to spread the word.  They made their formal presentation at five Rotary Clubs and had several private meetings with interested folks.  Neither had spent much time in Arizona before, so we did manage to squeeze in some fun; a hike in Sedona, Spring Training Baseball (the Reds, of course) and a tour of the David and Gladys Wright Home in Phoenix. 

We had a wonderful, productive week, which got me thinking about what I get out of this do-gooder stuff, and from helping the GLP in particular.  

I give you, then, the top 8 reasons we support this program that we believe in (and reasons to be a do-gooder in general).

1    1. We’re helping.  I’ll get that out of the way because it’s important, but just the obvious tip of the iceberg.

T     2. The first-world relationships.  I’ve come in contact with countless extraordinary people and made lifelong friendships with COED staffers from the US and Guatemala, fellow supporters and travelers.  Like most relationships with like-minded folks, I could never have predicted where many of them would lead.  For example, I met some exceptionally generous Rotarians from Grand Cayman who supported our grant to replace the computer controller for the Yarnell (AZ) water system after the fire.

        3. A different kind of travel, which is especially relevant to me as a photographer.  We travel with COED to small villages and we’re automatically accepted.  Elders welcome us and are are willing to be photographed.  The kids have implicit permission to play with us, accept our gifts, and watch my husband’s antics and magic tricks.  We are honored guests.  Though these relationships are brief, they have a depth that I won’t forget.  

        4.  I’m able to be a social ambassador for our country and in turn to represent Guatemala to folks in the States with images like the ones that accompany this post.  International projects are cultural exchanges.

Marco, Flor, Alejandra, Rebecca in Antigua Guatemala last year.
         5.  A chance for deeper connection.  I’ve written before about Flor, who wouldn’t have been able to go to school without a COED scholarship.  She’s 21 now and essentially supporting her family.  My husband and I are honored to remain in touch with her and to see her whenever we return to Guatemala.  We look forward to seeing Alejandra, who’s just started middle school again next year.  She’s our second scholarship student.
        6. The ripple effect.  I stole this one from my friend Katie. Each literate child will grow to raise an educated family. Commonly, they pay for school for and serve as role models for their younger siblings. COED’s programs are in 10% of the schools in rural Guate.  The resulting traditional and computer literacy is transforming the country.  So many things seem to be deteriorating in this world; what could be better than contributing to waves of positive change?

        7.  Flexibility.  There is sure to be a cause which appeals to each of us which can use whatever we have to give, time, talent, or treasure.  If we’re short on funds, we can roll up our sleeves or find a sit-down job.  
        8.  Fun.  If you’re beginning to tire of hanging out at bars or the mall, please consider spending time working toward a goal with like-minded people.  My husband and I knew we’d have as much fun helping the COED staff set up for their Cincinnati fundraiser last fall as we did at the party itself and we had a great time last week on the Guate Road Show.  We humans have an instinct to collaborate and we’re happiest working together toward a goal.

Selfish, indeed.

Margaret Mead famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”


  1. We're so grateful to have you and Marco involved and as some of our most vocal advocates! Can't wait to see what the rest of 2016 brings for your selfish involvement. :)

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    2. Thanks, Jennifer. It's really a win-win, isn't it?

  2. Love this post, and your well articulated sentiments. Most of all, I'm grateful for your and Marco's involvement in the mission. Thanks again for hosting Gina and Garrett. It sounds like it was a great trip!

    1. Thanks for the read and the share, Ann. The GLP is so well-conceived; I feel fortunate to have stumbled upon it. Hope to see you in the Fall.