Berkshire welcomed Robert Fleming to campus last week to meet with sixth formers in the new Global Leadership Studies class and fourth formers in English IV. Fleming is the founder of Malayaka House, a school and orphanage in Uganda that began by chance in 2005 when Fleming was traveling in Uganda and was asked to care for a brand new infant. Malayaka House has grown to 50 children who, as they get older, help care for the younger children and learn the skills to help keep the entire home and program operational.
Fleming discussed Malayaka House's modest beginnings, the development of its self-sustaining businesses (a pizzeria, a bakery, and a craft shop), and its role in shaping Ugandan citizens who will serve and thrive in the local community.
English teacher Bebe Bullock '86 found Fleming's work tied in well with her goals for her students in English IV. "On one level the talk provided a look at an African country while the class is studying African literature," Bullock said. "And on another level, Robert's insight helped us look at privilege and equity as we begin work on our year-long project focusing on the UN Millennium Goal of creating equality between countries and communities."
Fleming's talk covered the personal narrative of his suddenly becoming responsible for the care and well being of multiple children, to the feasibility challenges of the environmental and financial sustainability of running a school and its multiple self-sustaining businesses. "I am so glad the students heard about the challenges of being a 'post-colonial' within the community," explained Bullock, "and also the sensitivity it takes to work within and honor a local culture."
Fleming, who was born in California and lived in Vermont for many years, travels to the United States for a few weeks each year to meet with students in hopes of inspiring the gift of giving back. Fleming's overall message--that the best agents of positive, sustainable change are educated young adults working to revitalize their local communities--rang true through his powerful story