Randy Weinberg '70, a Princeton graduate, was class valedictorian, state champion wrestler, and a Rhodes Scholar. More than 30 years ago, he also became a Buddhist practitioner – and, in the process, changed his name to Kittisaro. Yet, much of his work in South Africa as the director of the Dharmagiri Hermitage and founder of the Dharmagiri Outreach project is unknown to many in the Baylor community.
According to the organization's website, Kittisaro and his wife, Thanissara, created Dharmagiri Outreach in response to the needs of people in the Sisonke and KwaSani Districts of South Africa, who are still suffering the brutal effects of Apartheid. Dharmagiri Outreach provides student sponsorship, school computers, water systems, school building upgrades, support of prison meditation groups, skills training, and numerous loans to help with funerals, buildings, and general welfare. One aspect of the Dharmagiri Outreach is the Khuphuka Project, which focuses on HIV and AIDS community care and support. The work includes training community care workers, providing child support, and promoting HIV awareness among the youth, as well as providing information, support, and "advocating for the needs of those both infected and affected."
Becky Davidson (pictured with Kittisaro), who served as a dorm parent in Lowrance Hall until recently deciding to move off campus, traveled to the area for two weeks in April. Working to help build gardens for HIV/AIDS victims, Becky was able to see firsthand the positive difference that one of our Baylor alums is making in a region of the world that has tremendous needs. "The people in uMqatsheni have food security issues and need to have nutritious food to take with their AIDS medications, among other things," says Davidson. "Kittisaro's work with the Khuphuka Project and Dharmagiri Outreach is inspiring. These are life-changing programs for very sick people that also empower a new generation of young South Africans eager to change their community. It is truly amazing."