Edwin Blanton, Trinity’s coordinator for community service and engagement, had the idea of creating a nonprofit organization when he and a fellow Peace Corps volunteer, Jennifer Catron, noticed there were not many international projects that focused on educating people with disabilities.
“While I was a Peace Corps volunteer in the West Indian country of Dominica, I had a project where I coached Special Olympics. A fellow volunteer and I noticed that there was a lack in educational opportunities for those with disabilities and few international organizations existed with such a focus,” Blanton said.
The result of Blanton and Catron’s inspiration is Ready, Willing”¦Enable!. The nonprofit, founded before Blanton came to Trinity in March of 2006, is dedicated to educating people with disabilities and their families. The process, Blanton recalls, was not easy, but worth it.
“We have three main points to our mission: first, to educate persons with disabilities, second, to educate family members of persons with disabilities about the disability and third, to educate communities about valuable skills and talents that persons with disabilities have,” Blanton said.
Since Ready, Willing”¦Enable! started in March of 2006, Blanton, Catron, the Board of Directors and the volunteers who have become involved with the nonprofit have had a series of rewarding experiences.
“In the summer of 2007, I worked with a young boy with disabilities at a summer camp we conduct in Dominica. The boy was 12 at the time and had been told that he could not accomplish many things because he is blind. Both he and I learned a lot that summer; I learned about him, and he learned some woodworking skills, among other things. The following year, Ready, Willing”¦Enable! was able to assist in his transition to secondary school. I’m proud to say that he will be a first-year college student this fall,” Blanton said.
Ready, Willing”¦Enable! makes itself present on Trinity’s campus through an Alternative Spring Break opportunity that allows students to go to Dominica to work with people with disabilities and their families.
“RWE was a large part of making the Alternative Spring Break in Dominica possible. Through the organization Trinity students were able to volunteer at the Alpha Centre, a small school on the island for children with special needs,” Blanton said.
Trinity junior Samantha Vogel participated in the trip this past spring break.
“I first heard about Ready, Willing”¦Enable! talking with Edwin Blanton and learned about the work that we would do on the alternative spring break in Dominica. So my knowledge of Ready, Willing”¦Enable! and Alternative Spring Break came simultaneously,” said Vogel, a history major.
After participating in the Alternative Spring Break, Vogel decided to pursue other methods of involvement with Ready, Willing”¦Enable!.
“I had never done other work with RWE, but after going on the alternative spring break I plan to attend the annual ability fair that RWE participates in. I have also been promoting RWE to several other groups looking for a service organization to work with,” Vogel said.
Sara Miller, a junior double-majoring in classics and political science, went on the Alternative Spring Break this year, making this her second time participating.
“ASB, both times, has changed my life. It has opened my eyes to the true meaning of service and how we, as individuals, need to serve others in order to learn more about ourselves and other cultures. My favorite part of ASB was working at the Alpha Centre, the school for children with disabilities. I learned so much about the school, Dominica, individuals with disabilities and myself and my own abilities while serving there,” Miller said.
“I am very honored to have been a part of two wonderful service projects. Ready, Willing”¦Enable! and its mission are what service is all about. Service is a mutual exchange””we serve and teach those who need us while also receiving and learning from them. RWE not only does amazing things for the Alpha Centre and Dominica, but it also reminds us of the true spirit of service. If you really are passionate about something, there are no limits to accomplishing your goal. Furthermore, you learn just as much from those you serve as how much they learn from you,” Miller said.
There are many opportunities for students to volunteer with Blanton’s nonprofit Ready, Willing”¦Enable!, and the organization’s Facebook page and website (www.rwenable.org) provide information about ways to get involved.