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The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Remembering Awad Abdelgadir: Sudan’s giving tree

Awad+Abdelgadir+%28left%29+and+Kathleen+Fite+pose+for+a+picture+with+a+product+from+Nile+Valley+Herb+Inc.%2C+Sunday%2C+May+22%2C+2022%2C+at+Abdelgadirs+home+in+Austin%2C+Texas.

Awad Abdelgadir (left) and Kathleen Fite pose for a picture with a product from Nile Valley Herb Inc., Sunday, May 22, 2022, at Abdelgadir’s home in Austin, Texas.

Born in 1954 in Az-Zawrat, a village in Northern Sudan alongside the Nile River that didn’t have health care, safe water or good schools, Awad Abdelgadir was determined to make it a better place for his family and neighbors.
He grew up to create a water purification system and a health clinic and assisted in making a better school for Az-Zawrat. His love for others and his village was so strong that Abdelgadir’s long-term illness of seven years wasn’t known by many, placing great sadness among the thousands of lives he touched when Abdelgadir died of that long-term illness on March 7, 2023.
Although he had always loved his village, the big inspiration to do something for Az-Zawrat was rooted in Abdelgadir’s experience in graduate school at Texas State, then Southwest Texas State University.
After arriving in Yemen in 1977 to work as a legal advisor and teach Arabic and ESL at Sana’a International School, Abdelgadir married his wife Linda Boxberger in 1986. In 1988, the newlyweds moved to Austin, Texas, so Abdelgadir could receive his master’s degree in early childhood development from Southwest Texas State to pursue his dream of educating students.
In Kathleen Fite’s graduate-level early childhood education class, Abdelgadir struggled to find an idea for a class project. He had the idea to create a children’s chapter book, “Life on the Nile,” about animals, food and cultural aspects of Az-Zawrat. It made his motivation to share his love for Az-Zawrat grow stronger.
“When I first had him in class, he was very different in appearance and behaviors and everything from my other students because he just arrived in America and things were different for him,” Fite, a retired Texas State professor, said. “He was very bright; he was very energetic, but when he came, he didn’t really have in mind what he wanted to do for a class project. That’s how we really bonded.”
Soon after graduating, Abdelgadir and Fite went on to do professional presentations about Az-Zawrat in elementary schools, including schools in Austin ISD, Dripping Springs ISD and Eanes ISD as well as the University of Chicago and a couple of youth groups and detention centers.
After sharing a glimpse of Az-Zawrat with American students, Abdelgadir took on his first project in 1994 to give Az-Zawrat safe water. He was a member of the South Austin Rotary Club soon after arriving in Austin in 1988 and received a Rotary International Grant to start drilling in the ground and create pumps to purify the water in Az-Zawrat.
The project was officially completed in 2001, and now all houses in Az-Zawrat have a distribution system for clean water. Along with the grant, other funds were raised through Nile Valley Herb Inc., Abdelgadir’s hibiscus tea shop dedicated to funding his projects.
After Abdelgadir’s water project was a great success, he took on another to create the Kolomiseed Health Clinic in Az-Zawrat. The Rotary Club could not fund buildings, only equip them, so Abdelgadir had to find another solution to raise $169,000.
He established the Mother Maryam Foundation, a charitable organization created to honor Abdelgadir’s mother, Maryam Saeed Ahmed, in 2006. The foundation started off with multiple board members, including his wife Boxberger and Keith Smith, past president of the South Austin and Austin-Westlake Rotary Club and other Rotary Club members.
“The clinic opened in July of 2011 fully equipped by the Rotary but with the building it took us six years to fundraise and build,” Boxberger said. “It’s been running ever since then. As we’ve gone on over the years, the clinic has started to be more and more community-run. It’s like we used to say, ‘we want to have this happen’ and its gotten more and more where they’ll tell us what they’re going to do and I really like that.”
With the help of the Mother Maryam Foundation and Nile Valley Herb Inc., Abdelgadir and the board members of the Mother Maryam Foundation were able to remodel Kolomiseed Elementary School, build funds for an elementary school in Gambia, deliver 281 wheelchairs to disabled people in Sudan and more.
Allison Batlin, a South Austin Rotary Club member, believes Abdelgadir embodied the Rotary Club’s purpose.
“Rotary’s motto is ‘service above self,’” Batlin said. “He personified it in everything that he did. Everything that he did. He set the bar for what we all strive to be.”
Abdelgadir’s legacy will continue through the Mother Maryam Foundation and Nile Valley Herb Inc.
“Even though Awad was the leader, it’s not just Awad; it’s the foundation and we’re going to be carrying it on,” Boxberger said. “The other board members and I have reassured everyone. It was just that strength of Awad wanting to do things to help others that just made him a really welcomed presence in this world. He’ll be missed by many people in Austin and many people in the states that I didn’t know that were touched by him.”
To donate to the Mother Maryam Foundation, visit https://mothermaryam.org/donate-now/.

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