by Lesley Miller ’04
Justin Zoradi ’04 is a guy who’s actually doing what we all said we’d set out to do after graduation: change the world, one person at a time — or in Justin’s case, one face at a time.
In summer 2006, after he spent a year working at a university in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Justin led a group of students to South Africa to engage issues such as global poverty, HIV/AIDS, fair trade, and peace and reconciliation. While working on a building project in the Gulgelthu township, Justin met Anda Sozawe. The ambassador and captain of a local soccer team, Anda exuded ambition not commonly found in the repressed area. “He was so friendly, so nice, so engaging — but the thing that was so fascinating was that he was hopeful despite hard circumstances,” Justin says. “He told me, ‘I want to go to college. I want to help my mom, help my family.’ In a country where only 3.5 percent of black South Africans graduate from college, he stood out.”
Justin grew up playing competitive soccer, and he and his Irish colleagues challenged Anda’s team to a friendly soccer match. “The first thing we noticed was their talent,” Justin says. “These were 16-22-year-old guys, and they were killing us.”
Eric, the South African team’s coach, was one of the first professional black soccer players in the Western Cape. After retiring from the game, he felt a calling to stay in the country and create a team. At first, Eric used his connections to get the kids equipment. Soon he realized he could use their passion for the game as a ministry and teach them about leadership, character development and AIDS. “Eric told me, ‘You have to use what kids like the most and bring value to it,” Justin says.
That summer Justin learned the importance of community, known in South Africa as “ubuntu.” “As a means for survival, they take care of one another, they speak up for one another and they live for one another,” he says. “I’d never seen anything like it.”
The short-term trip changed Justin’s purpose and outlook on life, but he didn’t know how to put the tugging on his heart into solid action. No longer were the people in Africa just statistics in an AIDS documentary or presidential speech. These numbers now had faces, voices, stories and dreams. Justin began talking to as many people as he could to learn how to fulfill the promises he’d made to his friends in South Africa.
Looking at Africa as a whole made the task at hand seem unbearably unrealistic. Instead, Justin started to imagine how he could provide soccer equipment for Anda and his team.
The fall after he returned, Justin began taking tiny steps toward the vision, crammed between graduate school applications, taking coffee orders, and settling into Portland, Ore. “I talked to friends from Westmont and started brainstorming with family,” he says. “It involved asking a lot of hard questions, and we made a lot of mistakes.”
The more Justin thought about his parents paying for all his college expenses, the more he felt committed to giving the South African soccer players the same opportunity for an education.
At first, he tried to figure out how to bring Anda and some of the other youth to America for college. Then he realized, “The point is not to turn these kids into Americans but to have them stay where they are and transform their own communities.” In January 2007 Justin established These Numbers Have Faces (TNHF), a 501(c)3 organization.
Justin wants to go beyond offering scholarships and find a way to empower young people to make significant changes in their communities. TNHF has developed a model requiring scholarship recipients to complete church-based service projects in their communities twice a year, seek advice from mentors and eventually become mentors themselves, learn how to manage their money and save for the future, and give 1 percent of their income back to TNHF for life.
Today, TNHF “invests in the future leaders of South Africa by empowering young people to reduce poverty in their own communities.” The organization supports nine young people attending college; Anda is in his third year at Northlink College in Cape Town studying sports management. The ministry has expanded to include a women’s dance team as well as the men’s soccer team (www.thesenumbers.org).
Justin spends three-fourths of his time as executive director of TNHF and the rest doing marketing for The Mentoring Project. His primary focus is fundraising, and he seeks support from a multitude of small donors. In 2009, he completed a master’s degree in peace and conflict resolution with an emphasis in international development at Portland State University. His wife, Trisha Balicanta Zoradi ’05, earned her master of social work degree there and works as a mental health counselor.
“Westmont gave me an amazing ability to write well and think critically,” says Justin, who majored in communication studies. “From day one, my professors told me that to whom much is given, much is expected, and they encouraged me to live my life in service to others. I came initially to play soccer. But then something happened, and I started reading a lot — Westmont creates life-long learners and a passion for service.”
Justin was the 18th person in his family to go to Westmont. His parents, Steve ’74 and Jan Johnson ’76 Zoradi, graduated, as did his brother, Ryan ’08. People connected to Westmont have been involved with TNHF from the beginning. Chase ’05 and Lisa ’04 Armour chair the board, and George Lee ’04 is a board member. Dominique Rastrelli ’06 worked for the organization for a year and a half. Trisha is also involved with TNHF.
Justin returns to South Africa as often as he can so he will never lose sight of his purpose. “Anda and these people are not statistics on bar graphs and charts,” he says. “They are real people with passions and dreams. I don’t want to be reduced to just a number and nor should they.”