Race for Charity
Ian Cross '07 did not wait long to start looking for a job after graduation; his first interview was scheduled for the day after commencement. Hebron Academy, a boarding school located in Hebron, Maine, hired Cross as a Calculus teacher for the fall of 2007. Cross cherishes his time spent on the Hill as a mathematics and physics double major, but what he has accomplished since graduation is truly admirable.
A Rome, NY native, Cross decided on a small liberal arts college with the help of his father. "[Colby] was probably the first campus that I visited where I felt pretty at home," Cross says. He was dedicated to the Men's Swimming and Diving team at the College throughout his tenure, although he was the only male diver on the team. Cross also enjoyed running in high school, which encouraged him to join the Track and Field team during his final two years at the College.
Cross's athleticism continued during the summer of 2007 when he and a friend hiked the Appalachian Trail. They were dropped off at Mt. Katahdin on June 12; Cross hiked the Trail for one month, and his friend followed it all the way to Georgia. "It was convenient because that's where he lived," Cross says.
Fortunately, Cross has recently been able to use his passion for fitness to benefit the less fortunate: he ran a marathon on behalf of an African orphanage for which he volunteers. "I was sort of offered this great opportunity by a couple that I work with here at Hebron," Cross reveals. Janet Littlefield and Bill Flynn encouraged Cross to become involved with the orphanage that Littlefield started in the 1990s. The Little Field Home is stationed in the Chigamba Village of Malawi. This is the institution's fourth year as a registered non-profit organization; Littlefield founded the orphanage out-of-pocket. "There are more orphans here than anywhere else in the country," Cross says.
The number of children in residence is roughly "50 full-time and 20 other kids who come and go. Some kids just come from an extremely impoverished background and their parents send them [to Little Field] for a bit to ease the burden," Cross says. He first visited Malawi after his first year of teaching, and he knew he wanted to help raise awareness and money for the organization immediately upon his return to the United States. "[Littlefield] said, 'I think I want to do the Death Valley Marathon.' I trained for it...and we went [to Death Valley] in the first week of February in 2009," Cross recalls.
When the group arrived at the location of the full-length marathon, the intended course had been washed out due to record amounts of rainfall. "We ended up just driving out to the desert....It was pretty flat, but we were running in slippery and slimy dirt the whole way. I don't know if I'd be ready to do another one anytime soon," Cross admits. Cross finished well in the race, but his true victory was singlehandedly raising more than $2,000 for the orphanage.
Although he has already devoted a lot of time and effort to the orphanage, Cross just can't seem to stay away. "I went back [to Little Field] this last summer for two months this time. I helped the adults [who are working there], and I helped diffuse situations. It's pretty tight quarters living-wise." Cross also made many repairs to the orphanage's van, which is needed in order to transport the children around Malawi. Both high school and college-aged students volunteer at the orphanage. Students from Bates College and Bowdoin College have already worked with the orphans, and Cross says he would "love to get Colby kids involved."
Among the variety of responsibilities that volunteers have, one of the most important is teaching the children English. "English is their national language, but they speak a language called Chichewa," Cross says. In order for these children to succeed later in life, they need to establish a basis for a more resourceful language now.
Cross intends to return to the Little Field Home every summer for as long as he can. For this reason, among others, he hopes to continue teaching at Hebron Academy for at least a couple more years. He "can't imagine having a job where [he doesn't] have summers off to be able to go to Malawi."
Littlefield and Cross are currently busy trying to set up a talk at the College to raise awareness about the orphan crisis in Malawi. Cross would ideally like to establish a Malawi JanPlan in the future, but he recognizes that this plan remains in its beginning stages. For now, Cross says it would be a start for students on the Hill to recognize that they "can make a huge difference just because [they] come from a first-world country."