The Power of Connections

By Amie Callaway

At some point in our lives, we have all heard the saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” While this may be partly true, I think both are extremely important.


Rewind 10 years to 2007. My mom had just adopted my 2nd sister from Haiti (4th overall) while playing an active role in the Haitian community. Wanting to follow in her footsteps, I asked my middle school teachers, Mrs. Hellewell and Mme. Lugo, at the Language Academy here in San Diego to help me organize a supply drive to provide French books and school supplies to the children in the orphanages my mom worked for at the time. It was a success, and we were able to collect a massive amount of school supplies that my mom and I would be able to bring with to distribute to those in need. We were even able to organize a visit from the Haitian Ambassador and the Governor of Haiti, where they spoke to my middle school class through my French-speaking classmates, thanks to our dual-immersion school.


Three years later, during Thanksgiving break, I visited Haiti for the second time. I went with my basketball coach at the time, Lonnie Jones. With the help of a professional Haitian basketball player, we were able to organize a basketball clinic to help discover talent and get them to the US. My coach and I left back to the States, but my mom and four adopted siblings stayed behind, as they were living there at the time.

The basketball clinic in Haiti, November 2009


On January 10th, 2010, less than two months after coming back from Haiti. I received a voicemail from my mom after one of my basketball games. A 7.0 magnitude earthquake had just struck Haiti and my mom was calling me to let me know she and my siblings were safe. Although the initial call eased my mind, the lack of cellphone communication that resulted from the cell towers being down did not help, along with news of the numerous aftershocks. However, the good news was, my mom was able to get my siblings back to the US on military planes while she followed soon after, making sure to help those in her community. I was able to emotionally gather myself after a few days, and with the help of my basketball team, I was able to kick some fundraising into gear. Thinking about who I should contact, I automatically reached out to my middle school teachers again for assistance. Without any hesitation, they asked me what I needed and what they could do to help and ended up playing a huge role in the recuperation of my mom’s community. (See link for more


Today, I am enrolled in a Sports MBA program that gives us the opportunity to visit the Dominican Republic to study the role of baseball in the country, as well as observe the culture of the Caribbean country. This past June, while visiting the Dominican Republic, SMBA ’18 was able to make a small difference in the lives of children of the schools and communities we visited. Prior to this trip, I knew I wanted to fundraise to provide these kids with school supplies and books. Once again, I reached out to my middle school, who eagerly agreed to participate for the third time. The supply/book drive did not have the same sense of urgency as the one in 2010, but my former English teacher, Mrs. Hellewell, was able to provide a wide variety of books and school supplies for my class to ship to the Dominican Republic with the monetary donations we raised as a class. 


In addition to the supplies, I was able to collect 3 volleyballs, 4 footballs, 12 softballs, 17 baseballs and 45 shirts; all from the CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) office in San Diego thanks to John Labeta who is the Assistant Commissioner for the CIF San Diego Section. My UNLV teammates were also willing to donate their old shoes, which resulted in a collection of about 15 pairs that I was able to donate to the schools we visited. All of these donations became possible due to the network I have created from being a former San Diego and collegiate athlete.

Some of the equipment donated by John Labeta and CIF


Baseballs and softballs donated by John Labeta and CIF (on the left)


T-shirts donated by John Labeta and CIF


Me pictured with some of the children at Escuela Batey Inocencia in DR


Ms. Hellewell and I with some of the donations from the Language Academy


My passion for and success in fundraising resulted in the connections I have made throughout the years. What I knew provided me a baseline for what kids in a country like the Dominican Republic needed, but who I knew helped make it possible. Never underestimate your knowledge, and never underestimate the power of a connection.