In the war-ravaged country of Liberia, Steve Vincent ’73 and a group of volunteers were given the challenge of a lifetime. With only three weeks to electrify a hospital the size of 751 football fields, the group stayed true to its mission and provided doctors with the power they needed to save lives. “When Faith Lights the Way,” authored by Steve, is the story of this incredible quest.
Steve was working as part of Power from the SON (PFS), a nonprofit he and his wife, Linda, founded in 2008 to improve the quality of life in the developing world by engineering and constructing efficient electrical systems for hospitals, schools, and missions. Since their first project, the organization has electrified several schools and orphanages in Liberia and Honduras with plans to expand to other countries.
Passionate about international outreach, the Vincents decided to make a gift to Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government and Public Service because they believe it serves as a doorway to impact other countries. The couple’s gift of more than $100,000 will fund research that has an international focus or projects that seek to improve global education and health care policies.
SPREADING CORE VALUES
Born in Dallas, Steve spent the majority of his life in Texas. After graduating from Texas A&M with a bachelor’s degree in engineering, he was a principal at Priester Supply Company Inc. for 32 years. Linda, however, grew up moving around the country to follow her father’s naval career until his retirement in Dallas. She received her bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas at Austin and her master’s degree in reading from Texas Women’s University, which she used to teach adult literacy classes for many years.
The couple met while attending a Texas A&M vs. University of Texas football game after graduation. “A mutual friend set us up for the date, warning me that we’d have fun, but we’d never have a future together because we were so different,” Linda remembered. “A year later, he proposed!”
Steve’s experience in Aggieland shaped his passions and aspirations. “The core values at Texas A&M can make a difference in the world, and the Bush School demonstrates those traditions at work,” Steve said. Ranking in the top 10% of graduate public affairs schools in the nation, the Bush School produces well-rounded, intuitive individuals ready to act in public service careers at all levels of government and the private sector. “We’re amazed by the accomplishments and the maturity of the students,” Linda explained.
THE RISE OF PFS
In 1985, Linda encouraged Steve to help their Methodist church group build a church in Haiti. After spending a week aiding Haitians in need, the couple was inspired to reach out to other villages. “Those folks were so happy with the work we had done,” Steve said, “and I found a desire to create that happiness everywhere.” Thus came the inspiration for PFS.
The Vincents’ plan to power a few small villages changed after the United Methodist Church gave them the opportunity to electrify a Liberian hospital instead. Steve didn’t have international work or shipping experience and neither did any of the volunteers; in fact, most of them had never left the country. The team was confronted with challenges like lack of equipment and resistance from the Liberian government, but Steve remained focused to finish the improbable project. “It was like we had blinders on the whole time,” Steve said. “We just figured out a way to do it.”
Today, PFS installs generators and electric systems in poverty-ridden countries and teaches locals how to provide for themselves, moving them one step closer to a better life. Its philosophy states, “Teach a man to build a fishing pole, show him how to fish, and then let him provide for himself and his family.” The volunteers demonstrate the process of building, operating and maintaining the systems, and then work alongside the country’s inhabitants to guide them through the construction process. By the end of the project, the locals know the ins and outs of their new power source. PFS is repaid in sweat equity, meaning the locals dig ditches, help lay cables and learn valuable skills to use for future projects.
The experience in Liberia shaped the goals for PFS and prepared the team for upcoming projects in Honduras and Africa. The couple is rewarded through seeing the pride of the volunteers and locals who construct the electric systems. “We would like to inspire others to find their quest and to do what has always been in their hearts,” they said.
LOCAL TO GLOBAL
The Vincents believe being generous with what they have learned and been given in life is important. “We’re all on this globe together, and we are becoming more interconnected each day,” Steve explained. “Benevolence should not only be a financial gift, but a service gift as well.” They hope that Texas A&M professors and students who share their generous spirit and passion for international outreach might be inspired to volunteer with PFS. As a first step, in August, a trip to provide electricity to a school and an orphanage included faculty members from the Bush School, the Borlaug Institute and Texas A&M AgriLife.
Volunteers don’t need electrical or construction experience to influence change in the world; their willingness to help makes all the difference. PFS volunteers range from accountants, nurses and teachers to dentists, lawyers and city workers.
Helping, providing for and improving the lives of people outside of the United States is a staple value for the Vincents. “We want to make this world a better place, no matter where it is,” Linda said.
To support students or research at the Bush School of Government and Public Service, contact Michael Bottiglieri ’89 at (979) 458-8035 or firstname.lastname@example.org.