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Georgetown student creates Facebook page honoring janitors, other campus workers

by: Brianna Chambers, Cox Media Group National Content Desk Updated:

Umberto "Suru" Ripai is a worker at Leo O'Donovan Dining Hall on Georgetown's campus. He has worked at the school for more than 20 years. Unsung Heroes helped raise more than $5,500 to fund a trip reunite Ripai with his family in Sudan.
Facebook/Unsung Heroes

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Georgetown University business student Febin Bellamy was one of hundreds of college students on the school's campus who completed his daily routine -- going to class, eating on campus, studing at a library -- focused and with few distractions. Throughout his days, he encountered professors, friends and other students and greeted them without skipping a beat. But one group of people went largely unnoticed by Bellamy and his peers.

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"There was this space, like ice, separating us," Oneil Batchelor, a janitor who worked on the campus, told The Washington Post

But eventually, Bellamy spoke up. He began by saying hello to Batchelor and later graduated to making small talk with him. From there, the two started talking about more meaningful topics: their experiences as immigrants, their entrepreneurial dreams, politics and music.

Batchelor was one of many people around campus --  including dozens of cafeteria workers, janitors and maintenance workers -- who Bellamy felt were being overlooked.

"Once you see it, you can't unsee it," Bellamy said.

Bellamy, 22, immigrated to the U.S. from India when he was 5. When he was a child, his parents worked during the day, and they attended night school to earn their college degrees. 

Bellamy told The Washington Post he could empathize with workers on campus, many of whom are immigrants working for better lives.

So he created Unsung Heroes, a Facebook page that highlights campus workers with personal profiles. The profiles detail their lives, providing background information and a peek into the lives of the people who work to keep the campus operating efficiently.

Among those people are Batchelor, who immigrated from Jamaica with dreams of opening his own food business in the U.S., a dining hall cook who fled El Salvador during a civil war and another cook who was separated from his parents as a child during the Vietnam War.

The page, which began as a class project, gives a name and a story to many previously ignored workers at Georgetown.

"Everybody's in their own world," Batchelor told The Washington Post.  "A lot of students have good hearts and were raised right. It's just not always easy for them to get to know people around them."

Unsung Heroes helps students do just that -- get to know the people around them who matter.

The page introduced students to Batchelor and raised $2,500 for him to jump-start his dream of creating a Jamaican food business, which he launched on campus.

The group also raised more than $5,500 to fund a trip to Sudan to reunite a cashier with his family, who he hasn't seen for more than four decades. 

"I walk through campus now, and people are waving at me, saying 'hi' all the time," Batchelor said.

So far, 19 unsung heroes have been featured on the group's Facebook page.

Read more at The Washington Post.

 

Unsung Hero #17 - Umberto "Suru" Ripai, Food & Service Worker at Leo O'Donovan Dining Hall
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Unsung Hero #10 - José Manzanares, Food & Service Worker at Leo O'Donovan Dining Hall