By Jacqueline Reategui
Anna O’Neil is an 18 year old student, as well as an active participant in Project Light Hartford, Conn. It is an organization branched off Project Light Rwanda, whose focus is to raise money and help Rwandan genocide survivors come back from that tragedy and build a life.
She’s a leader in Project Light Hartford, she gives kids who are part of the group tasks and different volunteer opportunities. The organization help a genocide survivor of Rwanda named Methode. He is now going to college in India, he is studying political science in hope of being able to help his country one day. The organization supports him by making and selling bracelets and backpacks. Anna states, “also big donations from rich people because they have to raise $6,000 a year.” Anna went on to describe that they also help homeless people around Hartford. In fact, she described being able to help homeless people as her greatest benefit while being in this organization.
Anna had first joined the group for her grandmother, who also plays a big role, but she stated, “I was able to set a Skype call with Methode [Rwanda genocide survivor], whose family died right in front of him and I was able to hear all of his story. He survived by hiding in a bush near his house, he ran before they could catch him. He was with other 6 year olds. His mother was the only survivor but she went crazy and left him. The rest of his family was hatched. This made me want to help.” For Anna, hearing his voice and the seeing the strength he still had after all he experienced was reason enough for wanting to help.
But for Anna, it wasn’t just Methode that she wanted to help, she enjoys being to interact and give to the homeless people in Hartford. She states, “I go to the Marshal House in Hartford and play with the kids and bring them baked goods and try to be involved with them as much as I can. You know, they don’t have much and just being able to make them [the kids] laugh and make them happy is almost like a priority.”
O’Neil has learned that helping others is the biggest way to appreciate what you have and take what you have and share it with others. She said, “ I didn’t see how privileged I was and I just wanted to share that with others.” She hopes to pursue a career that is able to help people and has a good cause one day.
What most people tend to forget is how lucky they have it compared to others, we all get lost in the emotions and everyday life that we forget to appreciate it all. Being able to give back to your community can change you in many ways, the biggest is opening your eyes to see that the world is much more than just yours. Being able to discover Anna in a new mindset has allowed to realize how great of a person she is and her empathy for others.