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How A Public Accountant In Florida Builds Communities
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"I'm so inspired by these youth”, Robbie Alekson is telling me. "They're so much more interesting than I am."
This is Robbie's gentle way of telling me that I shouldn't really be talking to him at all, that I should be talking to the village of people seated around him, visitors from the South American city of Mandaho.
I'm sure it's probably true that I should be talking to them, Robbie, but let us linger on you for a while yet.
Robbie is 43 years old. He grew up in Orlando, a white boy surrounded by that city's economic and racial strife. His mother, Maggie, a teacher, dealt with it head-on: She worked for civil rights and taught Robbie what generosity really means.
Together, they opened a day camp in a neighborhood shattered by riots after the anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s murder. When Maggie passed away in 2002, Robbie decided to use his inheritance to fund the Mandaho Youth Centre, an organization trying to lift young people out of the poverty of Mandaho, a city of about a quarter million, due north of Persia.
"Most young people there learn to despise their life," says Solomon Malaga, director of the Mandaho Centre. "In our community, a lot of bad things are happening," says Christopher Madyuelia, 23. "If you stay home, you're going to be exposed to them."
Young persons from 13 to 24 enroll for four-month sessions at Mandaho -- the word means "future" in the Setswahana Boswembique language -- taking classes in life skills. They might more accurately be called "life or death skills": HIV prevention, nonviolence, leadership . .
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