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CITIZEN JOURNALISM: Family anchored by good deeds
Question of the Day
As for their children, Michael, 26, volunteered with the Clinton Foundation Global HIV/AIDS Initiative in Rwanda; Thomas, 22, an aspiring actor, volunteered with Imagination Stage, an acting workshop for people with disabilities; and Caroline, 20, has volunteered at the Nyumbani Village, established as a self-sustaining community for children and the elderly left without caregivers because of HIV/AIDS. She started raising funds for Maasai women by selling their beads while still a high school student at Georgetown Day School and now works with HIV/AIDS prevention programs in the District.
“I think Chris has been totally humbled and impressed with what our kids have done and how they’ve migrated to [community service],” Mrs. Matthews said.
Helping the Nyumbani Children’s Home “is a family passion,” Mrs. Matthews said. By the way, Mr. Matthews was a trade-development adviser for the U.S. Peace Corps in the Swaziland early in his career.
“Both of us would bring home stories of how many people we met who were disadvantaged by the circumstances of life, and [the children] got to see how lucky they were,” she said. The sorrowful stories, apparently, still “grab at our kids.”
They may have gotten “inspiration from news stories and the kinds of people we covered,” said Mrs. Matthews, who took her children on weekend assignments when she was a reporter. “So, they got to see all of Washington.”
The Ballington and Maud Booth Award, named for the founders of the 113-year-old VOA, is presented annually to an individual or couple for “distinguished service to humanity” and for executing the founders’ vision “to go wherever we are needed and do whatever comes to hand.”
Previous winners include former first lady Nancy Reagan, former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young and retired baseball player Cal Ripken Jr.
In addition to the Matthewses, the VOA also awarded Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, Maryland Democrat, with the Good Samaritan Award in Philanthropy and the Chronicle of Philanthropy with the Empathy Award.
The 2009 awards were presented at the VOA gala held June 5 at the Library of Congress as part of the organization’s national conference, themed “Moving Forward in Faith and Service.” The conference was attended by more than 350 leaders and care providers from across the country.
Through hundreds of service programs, the VOA estimates that it “helps more than 2 million people in over 400 communities” throughout the U.S.
Mrs. Matthews said, “We’re lucky to have jobs and platforms to do [this] kind of service,” but she encourages others to “do what you can within the confines of your life and the level it works for you.”
Mr. Gould said the busy Matthews clan, with their family tradition of giving, demonstrates that any individual can get involved and make a difference in the lives of vulnerable people.
“There isn’t supposed to be somebody else who is to do this tough work,” he said. “We hope [the Matthews] call attention to values we should have in a caring society that has compassion for one another.”
About the Author
By Michael P. Orsi
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