Rotary Global Scholars are our hope for the future. They strive to find the best in themselves and use their skills and talents to make life better for others in a true demonstration of Service Above Self. Sarah Guidas, District 5150’s Global Scholar for the coming Rotary year, is a prime example. Her scholarship will take her to the University of Sussex in the south of England to pursue a master’s degree in development studies, and her goal is to use the knowledge she acquires to make it easier for the world’s disadvantaged children to attend school. Sarah’s track record in helping others is already impressive, but she wants to do more, and we’re excited to be able to give her the opportunity to further her education in her chosen field.
Sarah, 31, is from Hermosa Beach in Southern California. Her mother graduated from California State University, Long Beach, and then had an administrative job, and her father was a construction worker. Both had modest incomes, and she received a scholarship and took out students loans to attend the University of Southern California. After earning a degree in English, she worked for an educational publisher, with a focus on producing research journals in the fields of education, globalization and social justice. “This work and my passion for education and literature made me interested in supporting access to education and initiatives that advance literacy in a global context,” she says.
In 2016, she moved to Thailand, where she worked first as an English teacher at a public temple and then as an English teacher and librarian at a private school. Her experience allowed her to observe the disparities in access to education as well as differences in resources. Most public schools in Thailand don’t receive enough support or funding, and among the challenges, many children struggle to enroll or stay in school due to a lack of funds for items such as school fees, stationery and uniforms. In addition, migrant children often lack Thai language skills and have difficulty integrating. What Sarah saw sparked a desire to address the inequity, and she decided to pursue a career in international development with a focus on education and literacy, training as a grant writer to support NGOs in Thailand.
Sarah stands among a group of young children. In 2019, she volunteered with Child’s Dream Foundation and traveled to Laos, where she discovered schools in dire need of infrastructure and resources. She now works for Baan Dek Foundation, a nonprofit organization in Thailand that supports access to public services, which include education systems, for children who live in urban slums. The work is meaningful, but to be truly effective and have the kind of impact she hopes to make, Sarah needs formal education in international development. “I feel it is imperative that I gain a broad understanding of the theoretical foundations of development before continuing in my career. I believe that by completing an MA in Development Studies I will be able to better understand development perspectives and barriers to education access, project design and research methods. As a result, I will be more informed—and thus more successful—in my role as a fundraiser,” she explains. She believes strongly that education is a basic human right, and her ultimate goal is to work for an NGO that supports access to education internationally, either in the United States or Europe.
Sarah first became aware of Rotary when she was in high school and participated in a volunteer project organized by a local Rotary club. She also connected with Rotary at a charity event in Thailand and deeply respects the work that Rotarians do. She learned about Rotary Global Grant Scholarships from the University of Sussex and began exploring opportunities in her home state. District 5150 attracted her attention, because she has relatives in the area and has spent a significant amount of time here.
Sarah taking with a Laotian mother with childAll the clubs in the district help to make scholarships like Sarah’s possible by contributing a portion of the District Designated Funds (DDF) they receive each year to District 5150’s global scholarship fund. (DDF is the amount Rotary International returns to the district from the funds members donate to Rotary International’s annual campaign, Every Rotarian Every Year.) Sarah is grateful to District 5150 for the scholarship and to the Rotary Club of Ignacio for being her sponsor, and she expects to maintain a connection with Rotary. “I would love to work closely with Rotary on education projects after the scholarship period,” she says.
She is sad to be leaving her work in Thailand, but at the same time, she’s excited about the opportunity to pursue graduate studies at the University of Sussex. “I look forward to learning more about development perspectives and barriers to education globally and feel that formal education in development will support my work as a fundraiser,” she says. We’re honored to be able to help Sarah in the next step on her journey and wish her a bright future as she sets out to change the world.
If you know someone who would be a good candidate for a global scholarship in 2023-2024, please contact Gina Grant, chair of Global Grant Scholarship Committee, by email or by calling 415-405-5706.