for my capstone class, we had to write our own retirement speeches. it was a challenging assignment as it forced me to sit down and really think about what I want for the future. anyways, here it is:
Thank you all for coming tonight. This is a very proud moment for me as I can stand here and look back on my accomplishments with pride and satisfaction. I especially want to express my deepest gratitude to those that have supported me in my ambitions and allowed my dreams to come true. From the family members and family friends who always encouraged me, even as a young and naive child to those who walked alongside of me, even into unsafe and unknown places. Thank you to my friends here in America who have always maintained a piece of home for me. You have provided me with a sense of stability and comfort I could never have survived without; you have been a constant reminder of who I am and where I come from- something that has been easy to forget over the years. Thank you to all of my previous employers who were so understanding as I whisked off to another country multiple times a year. To the Genitti family, thank you for employing me throughout my college years, for hosting numerous fundraising events, and for putting my picture on the wall; it meant more than you’ll ever know to be a part of your big, strange family. And finally, I need to give the biggest thanks to my mother. She raised me herself, taught me to be strong and independent, to stand up and fight for what I believed in, and to never give up. She instilled in me the idea that I could do whatever I wanted or dreamed of, and I have done so. To her and all of you, I am forever grateful.
Over the past 50 years, we have helped of thousands upon thousands of people in Eastern Africa and all over the world in the most basic and tangible ways, but we have changed lives and left this world better than we found it. We fed the hungry, clothed the naked, cared for the sick, fathered the orphans, and brought freedom in the form of education to the nations.
As a young college graduate, I would cringe whenever someone asked me, “what’s next?” as if I had some sort of understanding of this world and the way it works. The truth is, I’ve never known what was next, and I like that way. As a college student, I took a year and a half off of school to travel and work in orphanages in Kenya and Haiti. The pain and desperation I saw there along with the absence of well-known and well-funded organizations horrified me. I could no longer exist here without doing something myself. I started Distant Hill International as a 22 year old with the bright-eyed idea of starting a small organization to fund my humanitarian work and long-term goal of building a community of people who would help meet each other’s basic needs. Indeed, we’ve built that community and much more. Looking back, I didn’t start small. I took a giant leap and, instead of finding a soft spot to land, I figured out how to fly. I’ve kept with me a Swahili Poverb given to me by a Kenyan woman on my first trip into a village: Jisaidie mungu akusaidie. It translates into English as, “Help yourself and God may help you. Don't wait for help; start doing.” It has been a source of motivation and comfort when I didn’t have answers, plans, or money. My advice to young dreamers is this: “Don’t wait for help; start doing.”
Throughout my “career,” I’ve created a self-sustaining community full of people who know they are loved deeply and love freely in return. I may not have built all of the programs I set out to start, but I have faith in the people succeeding me to grow our dream into fruition. I will live past my death, leaving a legacy of hope and love instilled in the hearts of the generation rising up to take its place.