The Colgate Scene
November 2007

"Passion for the Climb" — it's what exemplifies the spirit of Colgate people. You share a thirst for a life of accomplishment and the will to do things right. In academic, professional, community, and personal endeavors, you relish the effort, the process, the journey, and care deeply about how you lead your lives, as much as you care about reaching the top.

We know there are countless ways in which the "passion for the climb" manifests itself in Colgate alumni, faculty, staff, and students. As the university embarks on its "Passion for the Climb" campaign, we wish to build a collection of these stories.

Our writing tips and guidelines are posted online. Send submissions to: Please put "Passion for the Climb essay" in the subject line and include your daytime phone number and e-mail address. Although electronic submission is preferred, you can also send typed essays, double-spaced, to: "Passion for the Climb" c/o The Colgate Scene; 13 Oak Drive, Hamilton, N.Y. 13346.

We look forward to reading your essay! Every essay we receive will be read and considered for publication. If your essay is selected, we will contact you.

Henoch Derbew '07 spent his last two years at Colgate writing and producing The Enemy, a historical drama based on a true story from Ethiopia.

"I wanted to create a dialogue, and for people to understand that the history of Africa isn't necessarily just about numbers. I wanted people to see Africa as a place where the people feel just like we do in America." A history and classics major, Derbew was a member of the Brothers, African Student Union, WRCU, and Orthodox Christian Fellowship, and a recipient of the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Award. He is now pursuing a master of public policy degree in international policy and development at Georgetown University.

Henoch Derbew '07
[Photo by Timothy D. Sofranko]

"The two most important things in Zambia are Christianity and soccer."

Jet-lagged, grumpy, and hungry, at the time I could make no sense of this statement, made by Robert, our van driver (who usually sported a Manchester United jersey), the first of many new friends we would make in the coming weeks.

I was a sophomore, one of 16 students on an extended study trip attached to Professor Harvey Sindima's Introduction to African Studies course. We had just entered our hostel complex after a 36-hour trip from Newark to the Zambian capital of Lusaka and then its suburb, Longacres.

Professor Sindima had warned us that even after his course and a month in Zambia, we would not begin to scratch the surface of understanding what Africa is all about, so I decided to take in as much as possible and decode Robert's statement later.

See Also:

All essays in this series

With our guides Professor Mubanga Kashoki '64 and his wife, Juanita, we would see many sites, from Livingstone's falls, to the copper mines, to the University of Zambia. Our trip came at an exciting time there. Politicians were arguing through the country's many newspapers; the nation was celebrating its 40th anniversary of independence from Great Britain, and the national team was set to play Togo for a spot in the 2006 World Cup.

As it happened, our most exhilarating day in Zambia was during the World Cup qualifier. Zambians from all walks of life, from taxi drivers to college students, took the day off, making noise in the streets and gluing themselves to televisions everywhere, reacting with every play, willing their country to victory.

The fervor of Zambians for their soccer team also became apparent in their faith. During our course in the spring, Professor Sindima had explained how religion was a part of everyday life in Africa, especially Zambia, and that it had been infused with various elements from the country's different cultures. We saw this diversity firsthand. At the Salvation Army Church, where we were invited to Sunday Bible study and service, we heard a sermon similar to what one could find in America. On another Sunday, at a Baptist church, gospel songs were sung in the local language, incorporating traditional African instruments.

We were also introduced to a harsh reality within Zambia when we visited an "AIDS village" outside the capital. Nearly 1,000 residents, the majority of them HIV positive, were trying to find ways to live together, supporting themselves and a large number of orphans. Like many developing nations, the Zambian government is besieged with the burdens of incredible debt as well as corruption, and it could offer little to help these people. We saw that it falls upon individuals such as Mrs. Kashoki and the Senior Citizens' Association of Zambia to help. The organization handles as many of the day-to-day needs of the people as it can, using donations to build roofs and provide corn meal (the staple food of Zambia) and other basic necessities.

Although I had imagined that all those with HIV/AIDS would be angry, bedridden, and inaccessible, I was surprised to find that I could not always tell who was affected. Many seemed as healthy as everyone else. Orphans ran up to us, greeting us with great smiles and asking questions.

At the center of the village, chairs had been set up, and sodas were waiting for us. We were told by Professor Sindima that the villagers had used the little extra money they could find to be as hospitable as possible to us. Through their strength, their hospitality outweighed their pain.

And while I would have thought that the residents of this village would be the first to throw away their religion, having gone through lives incredibly harder than mine, I found that their faith was immensely stronger than my own. As a community, they came together to support one another, with what little they had going to the collective good. I also found that religious topics were easier to discuss with them than with most people in America — religion was the greatest factor in their lives, both in what they practiced daily and in what they believed. Christianity, the first passion of Zambians, held strong even here.

I took away an incredible lesson from the people of that village. I could remember times I would complain about trivial things at Colgate, like unlucky dorm lottery numbers and meal plans, forgetting things that are more important, like faith, and being able to wake up every day to a healthy and truly happy life. I also thought of times when, because of some stress in my life, I did not act the way I knew I should have. Surrounded by people who would probably trade places with me in an instant if they could, I was ashamed that I have complained about things like that. How blessed I have been. As a citizen of the world and as a Christian, I have an obligation not only to help others, but also to be grateful for what I have. As we were leaving Zambia, Robert's words had become clear.

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