Hanley Graham Denning '92


Citation for Hanley Graham Denning, 2002 Common Good Award recipient.

"Hanley Graham Denning, you have dedicated your life to helping the children of the world, particularly those suffering the ravages of disease and poverty.  You have exemplified the Common Good in your tireless service to those children most in need, whether as an outreach worker for Shoreline, a Brunswick mental health center, or as a teacher with Head Start in North Carolina or the Foundation for Children with AIDS in Roxbury, Massachusetts.  Working amid the filth of Guatemala [sic] City's garbage dump, you have brought dignity to the daily lives of countless families and provided an education to students under your care and inspiration to those who know you.

A native of Yarmouth, you were a track champion at Bowdoin while excelling in the classroom as a psychology major.  At Wheelock College, you earned a master's degree in early childhood education.  In 1997, you sold all your possessions and moved to Guatemala despite knowing little Spanish.  You immersed yourself in the language and culture of the country, working with 90 children for a church-based teaching program there.  You have said that working with these children "captured your heart" and prompted you to continue your work for three years.  In December 1999, you hesitantly agreed to visit the Guatemala City garbage dump.  Despite your years of work with those in need, you said recently that "nothing prepared [you] for the horrors [you] saw" there--families living in cardboard houses and digging through the filth for food; few families with running, let along potable, water; scores of children with no formal education; rampant drug abuse.

A visit turned into a calling, and you soon founded Safe Passage, a nonprofit agency providing education, food, and a drop-in center for the children who live in the garbage dump.  Your leadership has created an empowerment program that teaches children the value of education, gives them a safe place to play and study, and provides them with much-needed hope.  You have become a passionate advocate for the children, securing donations to provide them with the books, uniforms, and fees needed to attend the Guatemalan public schools.  In an abandoned church at the dump's edge, you work as Safe Passage's executive director, training volunteers and staff, and overseeing the hundreds of children in the program.  Your work has made a difference in the lives of countless individuals and your selfless devotion has become an inspiration for many.

Hanley Denning, it is with great pride and an even greater sense of admiration for your commitment to the children of Guatemala that we present to you the 2002 Common Good Award."

June 1, 2002