If Crispin Booker, 31, had it his way all children would have access to computers and the internet. The founder and executive director of Veronica’s Way, a non-profit with a mission to promote computer literacy and ending hunger, aims to level the playing field for children in impoverished communities. And, he’s starting in Brooklyn, New York and in the Caribbean. “The best way to support children on the islands is through computer literacy. If they know how to use a computer they’ll have access to better jobs and then they can help their communities,” says Booker, a Brooklyn, NY born IT professional, who has family ties to the island of Grenada.
The focus is to build computer labs on each Caribbean Island. These computers provide students access to information and ideas that increase their capacity for learning but, “it also provides an opportunity to be on the same playing field as kids in America,” says Booker. And “once you have access—anything is possible.”
A little over a year ago, Booker was the subject of a viral video in which he shared some of his greatest accomplishments with a crowded NYC subway car. In the video, where he compared himself to Luke Cage, the Marvel superhero character on Netflix’s eponymous show, he spoke of his plan to donate computers to schools in Grenada and to date he’s done all that and more. Named in honor of Booker’s late grandmother, Veronica Paul who was a teacher, Veronica’s Way has donated 38 computers to the school system in Grenada in 2016 and 29 computers to two schools in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti in 2017. The two computer labs built by Veronica’s Way are now used by 1,400 students. Stateside, the non-profit has also provided four computers and printers to an after-school program in Brooklyn, NY, and reports that it has provided meals for 70,000 people, plus comforters and toys to a family shelter every during its annual #WinterIsComing candlelight dinner held in December.
What’s next for Booker and Veronica’s Way? The island of Jamaica in October 2018. Below, Booker details more about his mission and vision.
Passion Meets Purpose: What has been your biggest accomplishment to date?
Crispin Booker: Starting a Non-Profit in memory of my grandmother Veronica Paul. Providing 80 computers to students in the Caribbean.
PMP: When did you discover this was your passion and that it had a greater purpose?
CB: I was grieving for over a year. Later that year I was reintroduced to Momentum Education, a program that supported me in focusing on achieving results in the midst of my grief and healing. It was through Momentum’s Leadership program that I uncovered that I wanted to honor my grandmother by starting in non-profit in her name. I used grief to fuel my desire to spread my grandmother’s love.
PMP: What do you want your legacy to be?
CB: I want the entire world to know the love my grandmother shared for me and this planet by providing computer labs to children in need, starting with the Caribbean [where she was from].
Veronica’s Way has donated 38 computers to the school system in Grenada in 2016 and 29 computers to two schools in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti in 2017. The two computer labs built by Veronica’s Way are now used by 1,400 students. Stateside, the non-profit has also provided four computers and printers to an after-school program in Brooklyn, NY, and reports that it has provided meals for 70,000 people.
PMP: Have you always done what you were passionate about?
CB: Once I am passionate about something I dive into it completely. I’ve always been passionate about being in service to my community. It started as a child with my grandmother hosting feedings on the street in Brooklyn, NY. I pledged [the fraternity called] Groove Phi Groove, 13 years ago, to join like-minded men being in service to the young men in their communities. Now, I am most passionate about providing the children of the Caribbean with computer labs. I want each island to have Veronica’s Way Computer Labs, so students can become computer literate and give back to their respective islands.
PMP: Did you have any fears about pursuing your passion/purpose and how did you overcome them?
CB: I have fears about pursuing my passion daily. I deal with self-doubt and the fear of not having a background in running a non-profit. I overcome these fears by remembering my “Why.” Also, I have surrounded myself with a great board and people that support my vision. They also hold me accountable.
PMP: How do you generate courage for yourself in the wake of fear?
CB: I pray to God and my grandmother. I ask for strength, guidance, and courage daily.
PMP: What is your self-care practice?
CB: Four years ago, I started practicing archery. In Archery you focus your target and you shut out all outside noises. The Archery range has become a safe haven for me; a place where I can rest all of my thoughts and worries down and focus on just hitting my target.
PMP: What types of obstacles did you face while going for starting Veronica’s Way and what did doing so teach you?
CB: In my head, all children should have access to computers, but it’s never that simple. I faced several obstacles trying to get computers to the Caribbean. Some of the obstacles were generating finances for shipping costs, acquiring working computers, and navigating each country’s political red tape. I learned sharing my vision and documentation are key. When Veronica’s Way became a 501(c)(3) I gained validation in the eyes of many. From donors to sponsors and Caribbean governments and organizations. In addition, I share my vision and progress on social media and in my daily conversations. I believe people want to read, follow, and support positive movements.
I have fears about pursuing my passion daily. I deal with self-doubt and the fear of not having a background in running a non-profit. I overcome these fears by remembering my “Why.” Also, I have surrounded myself with a great board and people that support my vision. They also hold me accountable.
PMP: What advice would you give to others on how to pursue their passion and make a profit?
CB: My one and only piece of advice is: Have a strong Why. Once you have a Why (or the reason behind pursuing your purpose) that will be your driving focus. Your Why should be your focal point in the midst of every storm. I believe if you focus on your Why, you can overcome anything.
PMP: Most influential book(s) and why…
CB: “Rising Strong,” by Brene Brown. Brene spoke about how to continuously get up every time life knocks you down.
PMP: Words you live by…
CB: Every day is a new day and a fresh start.
To support Veronica’s Way’s mission, visit: http://www.veronicasway.org and follow them on social media at @veronicasway