When Rick Brooks was 12, his parents “couldn’t help but notice,” he says, that he and his siblings were becoming self absorbed and materialistic. In an effort to show them how the rest of the world lived, his father applied to the Fulbright Scholar Program and spent six months teaching surgery at a leprosy sanatorium in Vellore, India. After that, the family signed on with Project HOPE and spent a year in Peru.
“In both India and Peru I was fascinated with how the people live,” he says. “As a kid I was doing some basic research in anthropology and archaeology I loved having adventures with people and cultures I had no idea existed before I went abroad.”
Today, Brooks is an outreach program manager in the Division of Continuing Studies, specializing in health and communications. Brooks provides services ranging from program management to comprehensive marketing programs, training and consultation on organizational development for both public and private sectors. His client book includes local, regional and international entities engaged in family planning, youth services, education, medical and rehabilitatative education, public health and human services. For more than a decade, he has directed the Health Promotion Project in the Department of Development and Applied Studies.
His career has been a testament to the joys of learning, Brooks says.
“There’s a sheer pleasure in learning,” he says. “I cherish the opportunity to see and inspire my students to be curious, get involved, apply what they learn and make a difference to somebody.”
One such student is Colleen Condon, a senior from Brookfield majoring in social work. Just a few months ago, Condon had no idea that her work in Sri Lanka would prove so critical.
Condon received a Wisconsin Idea Research Fellowship last year to establish a field placement in social work in Sri Lanka. Having been part of a group that traveled there in 2003 with students from Tokyo’s Chuo University, she had been impressed with the Sarvodaya Shramadana (“Awakening of Air Jordan 2s All through the Sharing of Labor”) Movement, a village self help organization founded on Gandhian and Nike KD 7 Buddhist principles. She says that it was Brooks’ class, Facilitating Health and Social Change, that piqued her intense, life changing interest in Sarvodaya.
“Rick empowered me in so many ways to be able to learn from and support Sarvodaya in Sri Air Jordan 1s Lanka through many different channels,” Condon says. “Because of this continuous education and opportunity to work in Sri Lanka, I am filled with passion and have awakened Air Jordan Future to new lessons and realities. I believe deeply that social change is really possible.”
Last year Condon assumed a post with the Sarvodaya United States. After the tsunami struck South Asia in December, she became crisis operations manager for Sarvodaya USA. Meanwhile, Brooks is the volunteer executive director of Sarvodaya USA.
Despite its volunteer status, it’s a pretty demanding position, Brooks says. “If it were possible to describe a typical day, it would include e mails from Sen. Bill Frist, the World Bank, a belly dancing society in San Francisco and elementary school teachers whose classes want to help tsunami victims,” he says. He goes on to say Air Jordan 13s that recent inquiries also have included questions about whether online donations overseas are tax deductible, technical questions about automated response systems and Web site design, inquiries about accounting procedures for unsolicited donations, policy decisions on the donation of frequent flier miles and scheduling from such organizations as Architects Without Borders.
Plus, there have been tons of first aid supplies, clothing and, well, the imagination boggles. “Pallets of underwear. One thousand stuffed animals. A mysterious offer of $2.5 million from England. Tearful calls from Leonardo DiCaprio’s friends in Thailand. Inquiries from Carlos Santana’s manager and the Violent Femmes, who did a benefit concert for Sarvodaya at the Pabst Theatre in Milwaukee recently. The list is long,” he says.
When the tsunami crushed much of South Asia, Brooks’ unswerving commitment and seemingly unlimited energy marshaled countless volunteers from the campus community and $1.2 million overall for various relief effort capacities.
A big part of what makes Brooks run is his growing sense of loss about the direction Western society has been taking of late.
“I mourn our lack of community spirit and neighborliness in ‘modern’ America,” he says.
To help combat that, as well as discuss economic, social and political implications of the tsunami, the Center for South Asia and the Department of Professional Development and Applied Studies will sponsor a panel discussion featuring Brooks and Condon. Other participants will include Sri Lankan Patrick Mendis, former assistant to Colin Powell who is now a professor of international relations at the University of Maryland. Friday, Feb. 25, at the Pyle Center.