Godwin has a penchant for community service, but one student has exceeded the standard – both stateside and abroad. A large part of senior Cassia Waligora’s life revolves around spreading hope and helping others.
Born in China after her parents moved to East Asia in 1997 to pursue mission work, Waligora grew up with an appreciation for many different cultures. They moved from Chengdu, to Kunming in the Yunnan Province, and back and forth from China to America. She saw the poor communities of rural China and Tibet and orphaned children begging for money in the streets of the city.
“Ever since I was little I have always felt a need to help people based on the communities I was exposed to, and because of those experiences I want to give back and help as much as I can,” said Waligora.
Up until eighth grade, safe public transportation and street food were familiar to her.
“I do really miss the food there because it was amazing, like bubble tea, grilled meat, veggie kebabs, and noodles,” said Waligora.
Her school, Kunming International School, barely broke 300 students across 12 grades, but “that made it like a family because everyone knew each other”. Waligora had no problem opening her family to others.
While attending Kunming, she led something akin to SOHO. Older students sat down with younger ones and helped them read, sometimes supplementing the teaching that they were receiving in their classes.
Helping out with elementary school students wasn’t new to Waligora. Tibet was near her home in China, and she often traveled there with other missionaries to visit underprivileged schools. They brought new school supplies and spent time with the children.
Just sitting and speaking with someone can be powerful, as Waligora discovered during visits to leprosy villages. Leprosy is a chronic disease, and sufferers of it are often isolated from the rest of society.
“We were there to give them companionship,” said Waligora.
In addition to companionship, they sang to boost the morale of a group of people who everyone else would usually avoid.
The first move abroad took place for Waligora’s eighth grade year.
“It was exciting at first, moving from China to America, because I had never lived for a long period of time and experienced American public school, but I feel after that one year was up I was ready to go back to my home in China,” said Waligora.
She had helped so many people, but halfway through her freshman year it was Waligora who needed help. Her little brother was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Halfway through her freshman year, she found herself back in Richmond, where her brother could receive medical treatment in the proper facilities.
Despite the sobering reason behind the move back, Waligora has made the most of finding herself back in America.
She plays indoor and outdoor track and field, and participates in Asian Culture Club, National Honor Society, BETA, SOHO, and choir.
Waligora intends to continue her work by majoring in International Relations at Wheaton College in the Chicago suburbs, which would allow her to become a missionary, or serve as a diplomat or an ambassador.
“It fills me with joy and gratitude to know I have provided a means of hope and relief to someone, even if it is a small act, because you never know how much a person will be affected by just one deed and how much they really needed that moment of comfort,” said Waligora.