"[College Unbound] is the only place I could be a mom, work full-time, and still get good grades; it just fits me!"
In the latest installment of our Student Snapshots series, we are pleased to highlight Rochanda Delves and her project, Love Thy Neighbor. Rochanda has been making great strides with her project. I sat down with her one Wednesday afternoon and really got to know more about this incredible woman and her inspiring project.
CU: Let’s start with an easy one: tell me about your project.
Rochanda Delves: I am the co-founder of Love Thy Neighbor, a non-profit project that collects donations to pass out to the homeless and those in dire need. We focus mostly in Rhode Island, though just a few weeks ago, we sent out two huge boxes of donations to North Carolina for the victims of Hurricane Matthew. The idea actually came from Lisa Costa who wanted to give back, but it wasn’t really my thing until this one particular night. I was driving down Broad Street with my kids and I saw the homeless population that roams up and down Broad St. and I just…I wanted to do something to help.
CU: What communities do Love Thy Neighbor serve? How has the community response been to your efforts?
RD: Anywhere that we see a need, we serve, but right now, we are focusing in Providence and Central Falls, but we are looking to expand in Pawtucket.
CU: Why did you pursue a project within the non-profit sector?
RD: Because it hit home for me. I know what it’s like to be someone in need with nowhere to go to get a little help. I know what it’s like to suffer in silence. I know what it’s like to have that need and not have that need met. And I don’t want anyone to feel that way.
CU: How did you come to College Unbound (CU) and what effects have you seen in your life as a result of being at CU?
RD: My cousin, Dannielle Delves, graduated from CU and she kept talking about how great it is. Of course, I was hesitant at first because I had started and stopped school so many times. Life just got in the way every time and so I felt discouraged. I didn’t think I was ready, but something in the back of my head told me to just do it!
The first term at CU, I felt like I wanted to jump off a bridge [laughs]. Seriously, I felt like I was all over the place; but now that I am really in the program and I have a flow and a rhythm, it’s been the best experience. That’s why I always tell my classmates, “If you can get past the first two terms, it will get better!” CU just fits my lifestyle. I tried CCRI, RIC, PC and this is the only place I could be a mom, work full-time, and still get good grades; it just fits me! I’ve always wanted something, but there was never a real goal. With CU, I see the real goal now and that it's a possibility. I don’t feel stuck; I have a goal and a plan to get it! I’m learning to advocate for myself and advocate for others when, in the past, I didn’t feel I could advocate. Now I can tell my kids, “I’m going back to school because I don’t want to struggle.”
CU: What's the biggest issue your project solves? Where do you see it going in the future?
RD: First, can I just say people don’t want to help? [laughs]. I’m kidding. Kinda. I think the biggest issue is that there are not enough donations and services to truly make an impact in these people’s lives. As for where I am going, I would love to have a documentary. I would love to see a Love Thy Neighbor chapter in every city in Rhode Island, in every state in the country, even! I just want to help people that don’t have the support - I want to make a difference.
CU: When was the last time your project inspired you or humbled you?
RD: Actually, it was recently. Love Thy Neighbor was completing a distribution of donations to the homeless around Providence. There was one woman there with her young daughter and I was passing out a bag with some lotion and other little toiletries. She reached out, took my hand, and said, “I prayed for someone to come and give me a bag so I could give my daughter some lotion.” I started tearing up. As a mom, I know what it’s like to want to give your child something and how grateful you feel when something or someone comes along and offers you that thing you were hoping for. In that moment, I knew I needed to be doing this project.
CU: Where can I find Love Thy Neighbor (online or in-person)?
RD: We have a Facebook page and you can also drop off donations at It’s Hair Barbershop, on 824 Broad Street in Providence.
CU: In the spirit of giving back and using your voice to help others, who would you like to spotlight for helping you and your project thus far?
RD: My friend, Keith Spady. He has been my friend for the past 13 years and every time I felt like I wanted to give up, he’s always found a way to say something that reminds me of why I am doing what I’m doing.
CU: Is there anything else you would like to say about Love Thy Neighbor?
RD: We collect toiletries so if anyone would like to donate, please feel free to drop off your donations at It’s Hair Barbershop on 824 Broad Street in Providence. We accept trial sizes, too! I think giving back is truly a good feeling.