Service: A Seed That Grows Powerful

At the 2022 buildOn Gala, buildOn alum and current Boston Board Member Sendy Lamour shared her powerful story of how buildOn changed her life and inspired a life of service.

Ten years ago, if anyone asked me to come up here and say anything in English, I would have run — because I just wouldn’t know what to say. So, it is such an honor to be here tonight! 

As long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to live a life of purpose and meaning. 

Growing up in Haiti, I felt so loved by my Aunt Marguerita. She had a small restaurant, and every day she would wait for my school bus and give me food to take home to my family. On Fridays, she would also bring me laundry detergent so I could wash my school uniform. Even though I was young, these gestures meant the world to me. When I was about 11-years-old, I decided I wanted to do something for her. That’s when I began cleaning her house every year on her birthday and for special holidays. She lived alone and was older, and it made me so happy to be of service to her. 

Then, when I was 18, my family moved to the United States, and I enrolled at C.A.S.H. High School in Boston. It was frightening to be in a new country where I could barely speak and understand the language. At the time, I didn’t see how I could adjust. I thought my dreams of becoming a physician were over. 

Fortunately, I had a teacher who believed in me. Mrs. Bauer, my ESL instructor, was committed to my success. She encouraged me to listen to NPR, read the New York Times, and read books to improve my vocabulary and speaking skills. To my surprise, it didn’t take long to see the progress. I felt hopeful and empowered.

Still, I longed for the community I had back in Haiti. and that’s when I found buildOn.

With buildOn, I found a safe space. no one cared that I had an accent or where I was from –– they cared more about what I had to offer the world. I once again found purpose and joy through service. In college I served as the chairperson for community service and student engagement. For my spring breaks, I joined the UMass Boston Beacon Voyages for Service and tutored students on the South Side of Chicago. I volunteered as a patient transporter at mass general hospital. The confidence to get outside of my comfort zone started with buildOn. Suddenly, my dreams of becoming a physician felt more within my grasp than ever before. 

Now 10 years later, I’m a buildOn Boston board member. I’m also a college graduate, a research assistant at Boston Medical  Center, a molecular technologist at Foundation Medicine, and a volunteer at Boston’s Immigrant Family Services Institute. More than ever, I am committed to increasing access to medical care for the most vulnerable populations. And today, I’m even interviewing for medical school. 

I know that there is a great deal of suffering in the world, and –– even as a physician –– I know I can’t save everyone. But maybe I can save the world one patient at a time. One act of service at a time –– like bringing someone food, or helping someone learn a new language. 

Your presence here today is proof that you want to live in a better world. But in case you need more context — as a teacher, how do you help that struggling student? As a researcher, is your subject pool representative? As a physician, did you connect that depressed patient to a social worker in addition to a therapist? The list can go on. But the essence is that, no matter what you do or where you are, you can always create a better world starting with those around you. All you need is your heart, and the right intentions.

My experience with buildOn –– from serving my Boston community to building schools in Malawi and Senegal –– has taught me that every act of service, no matter how small, can be the seed that grows into something much bigger, much more powerful than ourselves. or it can be like igniting a fire. I ask you this evening, what seed will you plant for future generations? What fire do you want to start? What does a better world look like to you? Once you’ve figured it out, I hope you will stop at nothing to make that dream come true. That’s what I plan to do.

Thank you.