Inspired by His Parents, Teachers and a Milk Carton –
Gehlen Catholic Grad Seeks to Change Lives in Tanzania

“I always knew I wanted to do something positive for the world!” Brian Singer, Gehlen Catholic 1989 graduate. Brian’s desire was fostered by his education at Gehlen Catholic School.

Some of Brian’s first memories were as a 1st grader in Miss Nemmers’ (Now Mrs. Betty Shea) class. After Religion, the students enjoyed milk and a snack. On Brian’s milk carton, was a picture of Mother Teresa accompanied by a plea to help her efforts by collecting coins in the milk carton.  Brian emphatically stated, “I knew from that moment, I would help! I didn’t know how. To start, I wanted to fill my carton faster to help Mother Teresa!”

Brian was actively involved in band, choir, speech, drama and Student Council. Brian never saw himself as an athlete. “Then one day, Mr. Tom Skram told me I was a good runner and he asked me to join cross country. Mr. Skram made me believe cross country was something I could do.” Brian went out for cross country, but his tenure was brought to an abrupt end that year due to a ruptured appendix that put him in the hospital for a week. Brian never returned to cross country.

But he never forgot Mr. Skram and his teachers’ belief in him. “It’s powerful!” Brian exclaimed!

After graduating from Gehlen Catholic, Brian received his Bachelor’s Degree at Buena Vista College (now BVU). Then, he served 2 years in Tanzania in the Peace Corps teaching math.

While in Tanzania, Brian helped a family of four orphan boys. Brian fell in love with the country and wanted to provide ongoing support to the boys.

Brian was at a precipice. He could remain in Tanzania helping the 4 orphan boys or return home and pursue his Master’s degree. Inspired by Mother Teresa and many teachers at Gehlen Catholic School, a resolute Brian did both.

Brian’s passion and education grew into a full fledge mission-Project Zawadi. Project Zawadi is a non-profit organization led by a Board of Directors.

After celebrating his 30th class reunion this summer, Brian reflects on his  life. “My parents taught me to work hard, like them, and be careful not to splurge on anything unnecessary.”

Gehlen Catholic also instilled in him another important virtue. “When we are able to improve somebody’s life, like providing them access to a quality education, it is not about us giving to them…it’s about us receiving! We also receive the joy others experience when they succeed!” Brian proudly said.

Story by Lisa Niebuhr-Gehlen Catholic School

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