This past May, A Better World Founder Eric Rajah received an honourary Doctor of Laws degree from Andrews University, Michigan in recognition of his many years of humanitarian work.
In a letter to Rajah from Andrews University President Niels-Erik Andreasen, Andreasen said that Rajah was nominated by the selection committee who, “Carefully considered (his) lifelong, exemplary and admirable commitment to the betterment of life for many disadvantaged children and young people around the world.”
In his letter, Andreasen also informed Rajah that the university commonly confers such honourary degrees during its graduation celebrations so that recipients of the honourary degrees can be held up as examples to the graduating students.
Rajah said it was surprising to learn of receiving the award, particularly because he did not have any real strong connection to the university.
In addition to receiving the award, Rajah was asked to be a commencement speaker for two of Andrews University’s three graduation ceremonies, which Rajah said was quite touching.
“That was a very special honour,” Rajah said. He added that he also appreciated the opportunity to speak with a young audience, that he might share his passion with them. “It was a double honour in a sense.”
However, Rajah’s surprises were not to end with the nomination and subsequent receipt of the honourary degree.
This past weekend, on June 22nd, friends and colleagues of Rajah’s planned a surprise party in Lacombe to celebrate the achievement.
Rajah said he was surprised not only by the party, but by the number of people who showed up to celebrate with him and show their support by donating to a project set up, unbeknownst to him, in his name.
“I was very surprised by the number of people and the generosity of the people to make this thing happen and it made me feel very special.”
The project set up in Rajah’s name is building a new kitchen and dining room at Male Secondary School.
Rajah said that the A Better World organization already has a number of projects going on in the Kenyan community of Male (pronounced Ma-lay), which is near Mt. Kenya.
The price tag assigned to the kitchen and dining room project was $45,000 but as of June 23rd, $58,000 had already been raised.
Rajah said the excess funds will be used to furnish and equip the dining room and kitchen.
This project will be the first organized by A Better World to have Rajah’s name directly attached to it.
It is also something Rajah finds somewhat uncomfortable.
“There are so many other people who give,” said Rajah. “But it is humbling.”
Rajah did say that, while he might be slightly unnerved with having a project built in his name, it is fitting for it to be in Male, a community he has a personal connection to.
It was in Male that A Better World first began doing community projects in Kenya. Rajah added that, while he may be the one getting recognized, he is not by any means solely responsible for A Better World achieving its goals.
“This recognition may be centered on me, but it’s really a tribute to the community that has let us achieve this,” said Rajah.
“Nobody arrives alone at these milestones. These achievements I am getting are really because other people decided to stand with me.”
Other projects for the Male Secondary School include a dormitory that is currently being built, planting a vegetable garden and the addition of three classrooms that have been constructed.
Also, a water system utilized by about 3,000 people was recently installed in Male.
This week, Rajah left for a month-long trip to Kenya.
During that trip, Male will be one of his destinations on the trip and Rajah will be able to get the new kitchen and dining room project underway at the Male Secondary School.
Rajah founded A Better World approximately 24 years ago in Lacombe.
Today, they have several projects in Kenya as well as Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bolivia and Peru.