Here at Operation Broken Silence, we bring the stories of others to the world. We nourish relationships, inspire communities, and bring people together. Members of our movement have laughed together, cried together, and been there for each other through thick and thin. Volunteers come and go as seasons of life pass by, but the relationships always continue. Many of our past volunteers still keep up with us and each other. Our movement has transformed into our family.
It is with great sadness today that we bid farewell to an amazing member of our family. But before we do that, we want to tell you a little bit about him. This is Adam’s story.
Following our first field visit to Sudan in 2012, we piloted a small volunteer program to help us understand how to grow our movement. The very first individual to come forward and offer to be part of this experiment was Adam Hairston, a student here in Memphis, TN who desired to pursue a degree in International Relations. When we posted a volunteer opening on our website, Adam sent us this quick message:
“My name is Adam Hairston. After hearing about Operation Broken Silence from my cousin, I got the feeling that you and I may be living a similar story. I am hoping to get my degree from the University of Memphis in International Relations with a focus on Human Rights. Operation Broken Silence is the first opportunity I’ve come across to really get plugged in to international crisis. I love that the main goal is to find people with intensity; this gets my super fired up, because so often you have to be reserved about situations you have passion for. I’d love to talk about what you could suggest for somebody like me who is realizing that they want to help on a more personal level than just donating money. I also wouldn’t mind hearing a little more about the internships. Really, any advice or words you can throw my way would go far. Can’t wait to meet up.”
We sent out our volunteer coordinator to meet with Adam to talk about what we were doing and how we could best use his time and talents. The entire interview became a conversation about personal reflection and development and how college students needed to be viewed as assets to society who were more than capable to become involved in global issues. Amazing. We welcomed him with open arms and our volunteer team grew around his leadership.
We quickly found that volunteers needed more than just fundraising goals and event planning tasks. They needed more of a hands-on experience. Fundraising became frustrating and advocacy was exhausting. Adam and other volunteers worked together to help us understand that future volunteers could be more involved beyond basic tasks and needed more resources when fundraising. They were right, even Adam expressed frustration with how difficult fundraising could be as he showed us his personal experience with it. He was the first person to ask when he could visit Sudan to meet our new friends there. He understood that to be fully involved, there was a need for organic relationships. Ultimately, it was his kindness and virtue that drove him past obstacles, gave him the power to impact people, and gave us the ability to better empower volunteers in the future.
Eventually the pilot volunteer program came to an end. All the students involved began embarking on new journeys, all of us with new friends made and lessons learned. When we sat down with Adam one last time to get his final thoughts and hear about his future, he had only the most encouraging things to say. As we said our goodbyes, he said, “I wish I could have done more while I was here.” For those of you who know Adam and how much he has always done for those around him, you also know he always wanted to do more.
We made a promise to ourselves that day. Our doors would always remain open to the past even as we pushed forwards. We have grown a lot since then, and that is in large part because of people just like Adam and what they have helped us accomplish. Our movement has grown. Our family has grown.
When we heard that Adam passed away, we feIt heartbroken just like many of his friends did. The outpouring of love on his Facebook page shows just how amazing he was. Adam reminds us of how we got here and why we get up everyday to keep people just like him in our lives, even if they live as far away as Sudan.
As we move forwards, we remember that all of our individual stories can be an incredible part of something much bigger than ourselves. Adam is a testimony to that because of how many people’s lives he touched through his personal relationships and extensive work with charities. He never stopped believing the world can be a better place than it currently is, and we will always be inspired by his legacy.
Farewell to our friend, our brother, and our hero.
UPDATE: Many of you have asked to donate to our work in honor of Adam. After speaking with members of Adam’s family, we have opened up this donation page as a way for you to do that. Gifts made in honor of Adam through this page will go to support teachers who have fled from the war in Sudan and desire to educate the 25,000+ children who have fled to refugee camps in South Sudan. Adam’s legacy can now help impact an entire generation.