On Oct. 12, Georgetown dining employee Umberto Ripai Suru got quite the surprise, a check from Unsung Heroes for $5,400 to return to his home in South Sudan for the first time in over 45 years.
“I left in 1965,” Suru said. “That’s a long time, and I want to go home.” Suru first emigrated to Liberia, before coming to the U.S. in 1995. A year later, he began working at Georgetown’s dining hall, and has for the last 20 years.
However, Suru’s trip home may have to wait. Since gaining independence in 2011, South Sudan has suffered from civil war and conflict, likely delaying Suru’s trip. “It’s not really safe now. And my family is far from [the capital] Juba and it’s a little difficult getting places in the country,” Suru said.
Febin Bellamy (MSB ‘17), Unsung Heroes founder, says the delay is just fine. “He doesn’t need to go right now. When he is ready to go we will assist him in his travel, and we will hold the money in an account until then,” said Bellamy. In the event that Suru cannot make the trip, Bellamy assured that there are other ways of reuniting Suru with his family. “The money is earmarked for Suru to see his family. Whether that means traveling to Sudan, or some other way, he can do that,” said Bellamy.
The idea for the fundraiser came after Unsung Heroes’ founder Febin Bellamy (MSB ‘17) interviewed Suru for a profile on the student group’s Facebook page. Unsung Heroes works to bring attention to and tell the stories of workers who often go unappreciated by students, but who are vital to the university’s operations, like janitors, food service workers, and utility workers. Bellamy commented that within minutes of Suru’s story being posted, there was a comment calling for a fundraiser to send him home. “We had a target of $2,000, and within a few hours we had that,” said Bellamy. Over $6,000 have been raised since Sept. 27. Ten percent of all proceeds over $2,500 will go to an Unsung Heroes account to fund similar projects.
NBC Washington was outside Leo’s to see Unsung Heroes present Suru with an oversized check, at a ceremony that included the Georgetown Gracenotes. Reflecting on the gift, Suru said he was touched by how interested students were in helping someone. “All I can say is I appreciate it so much,” he said.