Will Scott Award

Will Scott is an organic farmer, horticulture student, and bike enthusiast. His expertise is in practice and promotion of healthy sustainable living and community improvement. He has abundant appreciation and enthusiasm for life and community well-being.

Will Scott volunteered in Ethiopia at Common River for 2 months in 2008.  He had never been to Africa, but had always wanted to go there and farm.  He did just that, cultivating a large demonstration garden and engaging the community and Common River students in the process.  He also taught the children and community about healthy habits, the importance of biodiversity, and good farming practices. The entire community loves Will and awaits his return someday.  They continue to enjoy the fruits of his labor by eating the vegetables he planted.  Upon return to the US he helped organize the “Salaam Triathlon” in August 2009 and raised $5,000 for Common River. Now working at Fresh Run Farm, he has provided the Common River with large varieties of seeds for planting in Aleta Wondo.

Common River has created the WILL SCOTT AWARD since 2008 for volunteers who live up to his exemplary contribution as a volunteer. He is the first recipient of this award and we are honored to name it after him. It is presented annually to the next recipient.


YEAR             RECEPIENT                                    PROJECT

2008               Will Scott                                Horticulture development

2009                Sammy Novick                       Soccer Coaching and Equipment Drive

2010                Natalie Urban                         HIV+ prevention education

2011                Kai Brewer                              Donkey Cart Library

2012                Greet and Harald                     Seniors, Bamboo Builders, Malaria, Woodwork

Recipients of the 2012 Will Scott Award:  Geert Somers and Harald Kirschner

They came together from Brussels, Belgium and were outstanding volunteers!  Some of their contributions included:

  • Building a picnic table and bench with student helpers
  • Interviewing Sidama seniors to collect case histories
  • Designing a brochure for Tafesse Enterprise ( a hut building company)
  • Conducting a community malaria survey
  • Being the BEST BIG BROTHERS to our students!


Recipient of the 2011 Will Scott Award: Kai Brewer

Kai returned to Ethiopia for his 4th consecutive summer providing community service to Common River.  He started a Donkey Cart Library project when he was a freshman in high school and was able to see it through as a working mobile library, now as a graduating senior.

Starting in 2008, he bought a donkey at a livestock market and a used cart.  He donated his childhood books and hand-carried them to Aleta Wondo every summer.  Going around town, he stops at various locations and reads books to the crowds of children who gather once they see him coming.  Over the four years, Kai accomplished his goals through the following activities:

  • Donkey Cart Library  (2008-2011)
  • Data entry for the UT medical students  (2011)
  • Built a foot washing station for students  (2011)
  • Taught English and Math  (2008-2010)

This summer was the culmination of many years of service and in commemoration of his graduation from Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley, California, in June; he was honored to sacrifice a goat as a traditional Sidama Rite of Passage.  He is a cross-cultural ambassador who represents the US as a natural born global citizen.  He has travelled to 27 countries by the age of 17.  He plans to return to Ethiopia every year, as he feels he found his community in Aleta Wondo.  He is pursuing a liberal arts education with an international focus at Dickinson College.

Kai is a committed community developer. It is part of Kai’s nature to be in service to others. He is truly making the world a better place as an intelligent, curious, and compassionate soul.

“Musselhoff,” Kai’s donkey, whose name means “Books” in Amharic, has pulled the cart of books to a spot, where he stops as Kai and others read to children.


Recipient of the 2010 Will Scott Award: Natalie Urban

Natalie, an 11th grader at Branson High School, in Ross, California, followed the large footsteps of Will, providing community service to Common River, in July 2010.  Natalie volunteered for three weeks in Aleta Wondo. Ethiopia.

Natalie’s desire to volunteer in Africa was totally self-initiated. Prior to her visit, she researched various volunteer positions in Africa herself and chose to work with Common River.  She wrote a grant proposal to her high school to research the HIV/AIDS situation in an African village.  Her school, Branson High, funded her proposal.  She came alone without any other volunteer friends, which was a courageous move on her part. It was unusual to have a solo teen volunteer, so it may have been a bit harder for her, not being part of a group.  That is where her self-confident and independent nature was clearly displayed.  She immersed herself in village life and became one with the community.

While in Aleta Wondo, she accomplished her goals through the following activities:

  • home visited families living with HIV
  • accompanied HIV +  patients to the health center and hospital to assure proper treatment was received
  • provided follow-up to persons living with HIV/AIDS to ensure compliance
  • taught classes in HIV/AIDs prevention to the Common River students

She also accomplished the following additional activities:

  • organized and catalogued the entire school library
  • conducted a library class on “how-to” use the library
  • taught art classes to the Common River students
  • learned to cook traditional Sidama food

She contributed beyond expectation to Common River.  Her goals to teach HIV/AIDS prevention were met, which she accomplished with finesse and professionalism.  She did more than her original plan, as she saw where there was a need and where she could contribute (in the library). She is inquisitive and interested in culture and learned to cook an entirely unique new cuisine.

She is a great ambassador to represent the US as a natural born global citizen.  She is ready to show up and work for a large cause with conviction. We only hope that she returns soon, as she has a whole community waiting for her, since she is now considered one of their own daughters. She plans to return to Ethiopia, as she enjoyed helping those less fortunate than herself and would love to share the experience in the field with her family.  As she teaches children to ski at home in California, she is adept at working with children and the children just loved her. There were many tears shed upon her departure.

Natalie is an exceptional self-motivated and committed community developer, and is mature well beyond her years. It is part of Natalie’s nature to be in service to others.  We can foresee her truly making the world a better place in her lifetime, as she is an intelligent young woman with a compassionate soul.

Recipient of the 2009 Will Scott Award: Samantha Novick

Sammy, a 10th grader at Marin Catholic, followed the large steps of Will, providing service to Common River, in July 2009.  Sammy volunteered for three weeks in Aleta Wondo. Her plan was to teach soccer, which she accomplished with finesse and professionalism.  Prior to her service, she spent months preparing, conducting numerous soccer drives throughout Marin County.  She collected hundreds of used soccer cleats, jerseys, gloves and shorts, mainly through the Mill Valley Soccer Club.  She packed the goods into large duffle bags, bringing in over 500 pounds of luggage, filled with at least 80 pairs of cleats, 28 pairs of shin guards, 110 plus soccer balls, and a ton of uniforms.

While in Aleta Wondo, she organized a soccer camp for over 250 children daily, conducting drills and soccer games, bringing her years of athletic training to the children. Sammy has trained hard in soccer since she was in Kindergarten, and she has developed into an incredible athlete.  She displayed immense enthusiasm and talent in training others.  Having talent is always a gift, but having the ability to share that talent is an added gift.  Sammy possesses that gift.  She was readily accepted as a “favorite coach,” since she was so friendly and encouraging to all age groups from 5 to 15 years old.

Sammy represented America as one of our best ambassadors. We are grateful to Sammy’s dedication and compassion.   She is incredibly generous, giving away her personal possessions readily.  Not only is she generous with materials, she has a generosity of spirit   She plans to come every summer, as she enjoyed helping those in need and less fortunate than herself.   Sammy’s smile is something that shone constantly and one of the reasons that the community anxiously awaits her return.  It is part of Sammy’s nature to be in service to others.  We can foresee her truly making the world a better place in her lifetime, as she is a natural giver and very compassionate soul.