In March, the Novato resident and member of the Rotary Club of Novato Sunrise embarked on a journey that he won’t soon forget.
“The first thing you learn is what we take for granted,” Major said. “Things as basic as clean drinking water and a public education system that works. We have a basic fundamental right to have an education … and we complain about it.”
As an educator and advocate for youth programs, these topics hit home for Major. And as founder of the Novato Chess Club and leader of the Rotary’s New Generation program, he’s continually working to benefit children. His Facebook page details his efforts.
One reason for the trip was to carry on Rotary Club outreach projects. There are more than 1.2 million Rotarians in about 200 countries; one of the club’s international projects was digging water wells in the African region Major was visiting.
Major, 51, admitted that seeing the poverty-stricken villagers was saddening, but there was an upside. “If you saw how hard the kids are working, it renews your spirit.”
Major said that the young kids in Africa realize the value of an education — it’s a ticket straight from poverty to potential. He said the kids who are afforded an education are in school from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. and are sometimes taught two or three languages.
Coincidentally, March was Literacy Month for the Rotarians.
It’s no small undertaking to make this journey, but Major admits to having personal motivations as well as Rotarian.
“As an African-American, I have always wanted to go to Africa,” he said.
The Rotary Club of Novato Sunrise raised $1,500 to help defray the costs, and Major said, “Once I bought that ticket, I knew I was in it.”
He was still taking pills to ward off malaria weeks after returning and it was “an amazing amount of shots” he endured before embarking.
Major’s hosts, he said, could not have been more welcoming. “Black Americans are treated with tremendous respect and dignity,” he said.
Major had the chance to speak to several Rotary Clubs while on his journey, as well as an Interact Club and colleges.
Witnessing the hard work of the locals was one of the trip’s high points, but so was the global outreach that Major experienced. He reminisced about young volunteers from throughout Europe who were helping the villagers. “I was amazed at the pipeline to get in and help,” he said.