Breaking the Cycle

Submitted by Martin G

UPDATE: On May 8, 2015, Ganda's story was published in the New York Times Sunday Book Review: I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/10/books/review/i-will-always-write-back-how-one-letter-changed-two-lives.html?src=twr&_r=0

When Martin Ganda '07 CLAS was growing up in poverty in Zimbabwe, a chance pen pal friendship with a Pennsylvania girl changed his life.

Recognizing his academic gifts, Caitlin Stoicsitz and her family helped Ganda stay in school. Stoicsitz sent her babysitting earnings--$20 here and there-which "paid for my fees, books and even helped buy food," Ganda recalls.

Earning a scholarship to Villanova, Ganda majored in Mathematics and Economics while holding down a job and sending money home. He never lost sight of his goal to get the best education possible and find a good job. And he would "pay it forward"-by helping others gain access to the same knowledge, technology and opportunity.

Ganda is a founder of Seeds of Africa Foundation, a nonprofit that provides financial support to economically disadvantaged students in Zimbabwe. An immediate goal? To build a knowledge center that will feature educational resources for individuals and communities.

Now an analyst Goldman Sachs, Ganda reached out to his alma mater. Four Mechanical Engineering students-Thomas Bennington '11, James Kruse '11, Sean McIntosh'11 and Ethan Loiacono '11 (COE)-designed a photovoltaic system to meet the knowledge center's power requirements.

Radio host Maggie Mistal '85 VSB is helping publicize the foundation's mission. "Villanova is about appreciating who you are, what you have and the support you've been given," Mistal says. "Martin Ganda exemplifies that.'

Says Ganda, "I'm where I am because someone believed in me."