News from Alumni House

Sharing gifts of time and talent—what really matters

Mark Dollhopf ’77

Mark Dollhopf ’77

Former Yale Club of Chicago president Peter Dickinson ’60BE sharing his gift—teaching math—with a student. View full image

In these times of economic uncertainty, when even Yale graduates at their professional peak might lose a job, people rally together and focus on what's really important in life, what really matters.

From March 7 to 15 more than 50 Yale alumni, family members, and friends, along with several students and staff, traveled to Monterrey, Mexico, to share their gifts—not of money, but of time and talent. The occasion was the second AYA/Dwight Hall-sponsored Yale Service Tour. We went to work in Alianza Real, an extremely impoverished community of 40,000 people living in shacks of cinder block with corrugated tin roofs.

We set up shop under 12 Yale tents, erected with military-like efficiency by workers from the local social development office of the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon. They took care of logistics, while our main Mexican partner—a leading Latin American university, Tecnologico de Monterrey—provided medical students, procured the loan of a mobile medical clinic through a local foundation, and produced a team of translators from the Tec de Monterrey high school. They also arranged a student dance performance at the university as part of our cultural immersion.

The real immersion and cultural exchange, however, took place in Alianza Real when hundreds of children gathered under the tents each day as our alumni shared their particular talents. We taught painting, dancing, and singing. We tutored English and math. We introduced tae kwon do. We coached soccer. The response from the children was amazing and inspirational. They came to our tents throughout the day and returned for more, bringing friends and family members. Our arts classes had more than 100 participants on the second day and the numbers kept climbing.

For adults we offered classes in cooking, yoga, and running a small business—selling cookies or pinatas. A team of lawyers, bankers, consultants, and architects built a playground. Our medical clinic saw more than a thousand patients.

We also led a surprisingly popular "Banana Brigade": a team of alumni volunteers who wandered throughout the community armed with bananas, showing teenagers how to put on condoms. Inspired teens in turn painted posters for their neighbors with a message of safe sex. Our team and the "brigade" convinced many local residents to come to the tent for sexual hygiene classes. The participants included dozens of older women seeking information to give their sons.

One of our alums, WeiYin Chew '06MA, traveled from Singapore to teach origami. Another, David Simpson '68BD, drove his pickup truck 20 hours from Phoenix, Arizona, to bring tools and supplies to build the playground. Whatever the talent, skill, or interest we arrived with, we found a local population eager to receive our "gifts."

Alumni on this trip and on last year's trip to the Dominican Republic sang the same refrain: when you attended Yale, whether in 1956 or 2006, you were impressed and inspired by your enormously talented classmates. It's the people at Yale who make the difference, and it is these same people traveling together in service to others who make the experience of the Service Tours life-changing.

By the time this magazine reaches you we will have conducted the first global Yale Day of Service, when thousands of alumni will have come together to share with others in their local communities what's really important. We hope you had the occasion to join us then; if not, please join us in the future doing what really matters. Get engaged. Give your gifts of time and talent.

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