VISIONS alumnus, Harry Weiner, embodies the concept of life-long service. Harry participated in VISIONS second season in 1990 in the Appalachia program. His program home base was in the Central Pennsylvania farmlands about six miles from VISIONS Newport office. Harry recalls, “That summer was full of growth and life-changing inspiration for me. My counselors and fellow campers were of an especially high caliber. I remember one counselor named Timo (I think his real name was Tim, but we called him by his Spanish name, “Timo”), who had recently returned from the Peace Corps in Central America—his tales of service and adventure abroad forever changed my definition of the opportunities that I considered to be available to me.”
Harry remembers that circle meetings every week particularly affected him.“These facilitated a much greater understanding of who I was, my knowledge of how others perceived me, and the appreciation for how my actions ultimately affected others. I left VISIONS a much more mature and self-aware person than when I first arrived.”
Every season we hear from VISIONS alumni. Some apply to be staff leaders. Others write just to say hello or seeking contact information from their past program sites because they plan to travel there and want to visit local friends they’ve never forgotten. The great thing about re-connecting with alumni is discovering how wide the alumni circle is and how regularly it keeps intersecting with current seasons.
We met up with Harry because a VISIONS Guadeloupe staffer, and returned Peace Corps volunteer, mentioned that she was his close friend from high school. VISIONS Director, Joanne Pinaire, who was Harry’s program director in 1990 remembered him well, so she contacted him to catch up.
“I am thrilled to know that VISIONS is still alive and well. I participated in one of its first summer programs, and it’s quite astounding to consider how many others have been affected positively by this organization since my summer experience—certainly the campers, but more importantly, the people and communities with whom the campers have worked during their summer and thereafter. Community service/volunteerism is truly one of the sincerest and most meaningful forms of charity.”
After Harry’s summer with VISIONS, he continued volunteering at a local hospital at home. During college, Harry volunteered with numerous organizations including Habitat for Humanity and the Red Cross.
After graduating college, he traveled in Africa for 16 months, trying consciously to “spread ‘good’ throughout my travels.” Upon returning from his travels, Harry co-founded with his travel mates, and continues to actively manage, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, the Kalai Foundation.
“My colleagues and I created Kalai as a vehicle through which we could raise money for good causes while simultaneously maintaining a connection to a continent (Africa), which had embraced us with open arms during our journey. Although our future goals extend beyond the continent of Africa, our activities to date have been focused on improving educational opportunities for students in one particularly under-developed area of Zimbabwe.
We offer tuition-based scholarships to students seeking to complete their ‘A’-level education (equivalent to 11th and 12th grade). We have been around for 4 years and the trajectory of our growth has been steep. The first year we sponsored two students, the next year we sponsored four students, the year after that, twenty students, and this year we are pleased to be sponsoring twenty-seven students!
We are also finalizing the details for our first major development project. We will be building and stocking a library at a Zimbabwean high school, which should hopefully help to overcome the single biggest obstacle to an effective education in this region: the severe shortage of textbooks.”
What does Harry do in his spare time? He “toots saxophones, strums guitars, pounds drums, creates gourmet meals, takes candid photos, and works on movie projects.” Oh, and did we fail to mention Harry also has a rather demanding full time job to boot. He is a partner of Glocap Search LLC, the largest private equity search firm in the country.
Harry’s passion for life and connecting to others is a model for all of us who may get so caught up in our daily lives that we forget to step back from our own business to do for others. Thanks for the reminder, Harry! And it’s great to hear from you again.