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Wholesale Observations: Valdosta, Ga. Part 2
Rafe Semmes
Rafe Semmes

The one thing I think I will always remember about Valdosta State University is that the campus was located right next door to large city cemetery.

“Nice quiet location!”

I said to my wife with a smile. VSU had a number of GRSP students attending, in any given year. Some of them were in a suite of dorm rooms with other GRSP students, others were just in the general student room population.

It just so happened that our club’s student, Triin, was in a four-person suite with three other students, one of whom happened to also be a GRSP student, sponsored by Valdosta-area Rotary Clubs.

Maria was from Cartegena, Colombia; her father was a doctor, but only middle-class, even by Colombian standards.

She actually showed more appreciation for what we tried to do for the two of them, that year, so we naturally grew closer to her.

We still hear from Maria to this day.

After Maria’s year at VSU through the GRSP scholarship was up, she managed to find other scholarships that enabled her to finish her undergraduate degree, and other scholarships that enabled her to go on for a graduate degree, at Texas Christian University, for two years. I was so proud of her!

Then I got an email from her, after she got her master’s, saying she had applied for, and been awarded, a summer internship with a United Nations agency in Washington, DC. Her problem was, it did not include housing, so she was trying to find an affordable place to live that was near a bus or train line, as she did not have a car and her dad could not afford to buy her one. She said she was looking at going to “Craig’s List” to see if she could find an apartment that was close to a bus line.

That’s when I told her to hold on, and let me send a few emails to friends I had in the area.

I was eventually able to connect her with a college friend of mine who lived in Abington, who knew a couple through his church, whose daughters were gone for the summer, and were happy to take her in – at no cost, even though she was willing to do housekeeping or babysitting to pay for her rent.

What an awesome answer to my prayer! It was a wonderful summer for both her and the family she stayed with. I was so glad she had sent me that email, and that I knew someone who knew someone who was able to help.

“The Power of Rotary!” I have often been amazed at the power those connections can bring.

The last I heard from her, she had gone back to Colombia, gotten a good job with a shipping company, and married to a wonderful young man.

I am so happy that she too applied for that GRSP scholarship, and took the chance of coming to this country, not really knowing what she would find; and -- by happenstance, became a suitemate with Triin from Estonia – and thus got to be friends with me and my wife, through Rotary. We were doubly blessed, that year. And continue to be blessed, by the many and various connections that Rotary brings us.

It is a good feeling to know that our small personal efforts, here and there, can wind up making a big difference in someone else’s life. Even moreso when that person lives halfway around the globe!

Rafe Semmes is a proud graduate of Savannah High School and the University of Georgia. He and his wife live in Liberty County with their menagerie of rescue cats, and are long-time Rotarians. He writes on a variety of topics, and may be reached at

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