Student strives to serve

David Habib wants to someday create a community center in every city in the world to provide resources for people in need.

“I’m definitely a dreamer,” he said.

But the 21-year-old is also an achiever.

The Master of Arts in International Business student was named a 2014 Newman Civic Fellow, UF’s Presidential Service Award and was selected as the Servant Leader of the Year.

“I don’t think these awards are about me,” he said. “It really, truly is about Molly.”

Habib (BSBA ’14) and his friend Nicole Matuska started the non-profit Molly’s Beads in 2010 to sell the Ugandan woman’s handmade jewelry. They met the volunteer translator while on a medical mission trip in Gulu, Uganda.

“I just felt an immediate connection with her,” he said.

The mother figure to many struggled with HIV. But she persevered through her troubles, teaching girls to sew and making jewelry to pay for her medication, he said.

Molly asked Habib to help sell her jewelry in America. She wanted to build a community center where she could live and teach Ugandan women her skills. Habib, Matuska and their business partners eventually sold 1,570 pieces, and sent all $11,000 to Molly.

“I wasn’t just selling pieces of jewelry, I was selling pieces of hope,” Habib said. “I was selling them Molly’s story.”

Habib’s parents were his first major influence about serving others. He said his mother, who also did mission work, took him to volunteer at a free health clinic when he was 6 years old.

“She wanted to educate us and show that people aren’t blessed with the same types of things I’ve been blessed with,” he said.

He continued serving in high school with Pinellas Hope by feeding the homeless.

Habib and Matuska then went to Uganda with the Children’s Heritage Foundation. He said he wouldn’t have gone without Matuska’s example.

“She really inspired me as a person,” Habib said. “She took initiative at such a young age to do something that was greater than herself.”

The experience in Uganda instilled in Habib a foundation for future service. He has since taught English to children in Guatemala. On his 21st birthday, he completed 21 acts of kindness for strangers around Gainesville. He is also waiting for Molly to ship more beads.

But Habib said his immediate goal is to educate others and inspire them to serve. He wants to share the lesson Molly taught him: One person can change the world.

Habib said students who want to serve must start by seeing the world from someone else’s eyes instead of their own. He admits that was his biggest obstacle. Then, they need to overcome their fears of the world being too large and unfamiliar.

“A smile is the same thing in any language,” Habib said. “People are people.”

He said they also need to realize they aren’t powerless to create change, and should find something that makes them passionate and act on it.

“We truly are the generation of change,” Habib said. “Now, more than ever, the world needs us to step up to the plate.”