THE BLOG

Haward: Before, After and Paying It Forward

06/30/2010 01:11 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

About 10 months ago, a 22-year-old young man, Haward Alvarez Morales, appeared on Vittana.org. He was just one semester away from finishing law school in Nicaragua. Through a combination of scholarships, part-time jobs and help from his family, he'd been able to get this far. Now, however, his father had lost his job and though Haward was earning enough to get by, he would need two or three years to save enough to finish his last two months of school. The amount? $1,000.

Here is Haward's original loan request:

We first interviewed Haward back in October last year:

Over the course of a few weeks last October, 11 Vittana lenders from Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago and other cities from around the world made loans from $25 to $300. Haward was able to get his $1,000 loan and sign up for his final classes.

Haward finished law school and graduated in January. He sent us a scanned copy of his diploma. He didn't just graduate -- he graduated cum laude, in the top 10 percent of his class. Since then, he got a new job and promptly received two raises.

Last weekend, we got an e-mail from Haward. He wrote:

"I wanted to let you know that I'm currently working on corporate issues (contracts, advisory services, etc), taxes, and property. With that in mind, I'd like to offer you our company's legal services. Garcia & Bodan is one of the best law firms in Nicaragua, and if you are interested in receiving legal advice, whether for Vittana or for AFODENIC, I would like to try to get a pro bono arrangement for you."

We were floored. Here was our Haward, a student that had won us over with his million-dollar smile back in October, a student that had needed our help to get his $1,000 loan to finish his last semester, coming back just a few months later to offer his time pro bono as a grown-up, full-fledged lawyer. He couldn't directly help another student right now, but maybe he could help other people help students?

He's just amazing, isn't he? It's just mind-blowing to see how, in just a few short months, Haward has gone from a scrappy, youthful student to a professional, transformed young man -- you can see it in his clothes, his books, his confidence, his articulateness. I know he'd protest but, as I sit here in our offices late tonight writing this, I am just so inspired by Haward. He's a amazing example of what's possible when you believe in someone and give them a real chance.

I see this happening every day. Yes, Haward is an amazing, inspiring, special young man, but he's not as rare as you might think. Every day, as student after student comes through Vittana.org, you hear an amazing story after amazing story: the single mother who was able to go back to school after working full-time and raising her son for four years, the woman who endured "we don't give loans for school" from a half-dozen banks before finally finding Vittana, the first in a family of rice farmers to attend college and become a professional chemist, and so many more. Every week, because of people like you, dozens of students like Haward, Nardith, Kathy and Ngoan come through Vittana and are able to begin making their dreams a reality.

I learned two lessons today. You might be surprised how little it takes to make a difference sometimes. And, when you help someone, you might be surprised what you yourself get back sometimes.