The singing of children in Haiti inspired Meredith Beavers to forge international connections.

Music can bridge cultures. Meredith Beavers discovered the power of this truism while still in high school.

She was volunteering on a church mission trip to Cerca-Carvajal, Haiti, when she learned that summer activities for children were scarce.

“I noticed that, in Cerca-Carvajal, when everyone walks, they sing,” says Beavers, a junior majoring in both political science and smart and sustainable cities. “Music is a central part of their lives. When I suggested a summer music camp, the Haitian community loved it. So we created one.”

She fundraised for the camp in Richmond, Virginia, through community events, public speaking opportunities at her church, and social media campaigns.

During Beavers’ second semester at Virginia Tech, she expanded the summer camp into a not-for-profit organization — Unite Lives! — to fund meals for camp participants and pay the salaries of camp counselors. She uses the knowledge she gained as a first-year student to help train and educate the counselors.

Beavers also taught elementary-school students in Richmond about life in developing countries and encouraged them to donate recorders to the camp.

She then used video to link the two cultures. While in Haiti, she videotaped the summer camp participants singing and playing songs and scales with recorders. Later she asked the Virginia students to accompany the campers.

“Both sets of students discovered common ground through music,” Beavers says, “and they learned about each other’s cultures.”

Through her service, she found her future path. “I want a career working with developing countries, but I’d also like to help the United States advance in sustainable projects,” she says. “My political science major touches on the legal and international aspects of both. My coursework has showed me the importance of global development, sustainability, and partnerships across different parts of the world.”

In recognition of her leadership, the Dean’s Roundtable of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences named Beavers the 2019 recipient of its annual scholarship.

Beavers used that support to explore ways to create sustainable social change in Africa. She took part in a study abroad experience in Lugano, Switzerland, centered on creating sustainable social change. As part of the experience, she focused on a human-centered design project with a nonprofit in Adigrat, Ethiopia.

The scholarship not only helped her afford the trip, but it also gave her the freedom over the summer to be a university orientation team member.

“With this scholarship, I could devote more time to educating people and being part of orientation, which reaffirmed my love for Virginia Tech,” she says. “I’m fortunate to be at a place that encourages me to pursue my interests and passions. And then it’s good to go out into the world and share with others what I’ve learned about service.”

Written and photographed by Leslie King