Paul E. Anna: High Points
June 30, 2011
There are a lot of pretty accomplished people here in this valley and many of them give back to ours and other communities. Some people call themselves philanthropists; others don’t call themselves anything at all, they just give because it is the right thing to do. I have a friend who is an example of the latter. Her name is Aggie Skirball, and she lives with three dogs in Old Snowmass. As you can guess from the description, she is a lover of animals, and not long ago she came to know an organization that is committed to the preservation of wildlife on the African continent. Called the African Wildlife Foundation, this Washington, D.C.-based group has a mission to protect vast swaths of open land and the cultures that inhabit them. Once Aggie discovered the organization and researched the goals and ideals it embraced, she got on a plane and took her first trip to southern Africa. The trip changed her, and soon she became involved with the AWF on a more formal basis. On her one of her visits, she came to realize that education was key to helping save the African environment, the wildlife and the people who live there. The stakeholders, she learned, were the people who could help control the destiny of the land. To help the process along, education, as in all things, is the key. To help, Aggie, quietly and without thought for personal credit, set about funding and building a school in the Sekute community of Zambia. And we’re not just talking about a little house on the prairie, one-room schoolhouse here. Rather, this is a destination for learning. A place where 105 students can go and find out how to do things, how to care for themselves and their environment, and how to generate thoughts and ideas. The Lupani School, as it is called, consists of six modern classrooms and living accommodations for teachers in five separate homes. In a community that has an 80 percent illiteracy rate this is not just an important gathering place, but also a game-changer. In a valley that has been blessed with beauty, prosperity and a lifestyle that is as privileged as ours, it is so important that we stop and look around to other places in the world that need a hand. Giving is a very personal thing and it can be done in myriad ways. Aggie was able to take a people, select a place and build something that will last long after her name and donation have been forgotten. It is a legacy. But we all have something to contribute. If we can simply identity a need that someone has and pair it with a skill or attribute we possess, then we can all do what my Aggie did – make the world a little better place. Call it philanthropy. Call it what you want. But just do it.
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