The Joy of Service
How one parent went from chaperone to CEO and taught an important life lesson about making a difference.
Ten years ago, Amy Javaid P’24,’27 accompanied her 6-year-old daughter as a parent chaperone on a Sidwell Friends class volunteer trip to A Wider Circle, a nonprofit devoted to ending poverty. “I remember leaving that day feeling a shared sense of values,” she recalls. Today, Javaid is the organization’s CEO, and this fall, she was honored with the Junior League of Washington’s Mary Harriman Community Leader Award for her work with the group, which continues to be an integral part of the service curriculum at Sidwell Friends.
The journey from chaperone to CEO didn’t begin right away, however. Four years after that visit, as political tensions in the United States ratcheted up to new extremes in the wake of the 2016 election, Javaid’s then–Middle School daughter, Simra Javaid ’24, threw her arms up in disgust and said, “No one can do anything to make the world a better place.”
Javaid knew she had to prove her daughter wrong—and not with a long talk. “I had to prove her wrong through action,” says Javaid, who, before starting a family, had a long career in international aid, working with highly vulnerable populations around the world, including those living with AIDS, suffering from domestic violence, and experiencing food scarcity.
Javaid soon started volunteering regularly at A Wider Circle, and the shared values grew deeper. Before long, she was coordinating the Middle School’s monthly Sidwell Friends trips. Then she developed a workforce-development program at the nonprofit. And that’s when things really took off: She expanded A Wider Circle’s initiatives, did grant-writing for the group, became vice president of programming, senior vice president of development, and held a host of other positions over five years, including interim director, before being offered the job of CEO in 2021. “I didn’t come to A Wider Circle with any intention of making it a career,” says Javaid. “I didn’t intend to expand my repertoire, but opportunities kept coming my way.”
Over the summer, Simra, now a junior in the Upper School, did all of her Sidwell Friends service hours at A Wider Circle. “Her pride in her contribution was evident,” says Javaid, who credits the School with introducing her to the organization she now leads: “It has been formative for me and for my family.”
Now, a new crop of 7th and 8th grade students have started working with the organization. “Service helps students perceive larger connections,” says Middle School teacher and advisor Fei Reed, who regularly accompanies her students to A Wider Circle. “They develop an awareness of and connection to the DC-area community.” For their part, Reed’s students wrote reflections about their experiences: “The most compelling part was knowing our hard work would help people who need it most”; “I loved being able to see the kids take stuff with joy”; “I will remember the joy of helping people for years to come.”
Photo of Amika Bibolov ’27, Sydney Seay-Lee ’28, Sasha Schooling ’27, Fei Reed, Louie Merriam ’27, and Olivia Bianchi Alves ’27 courtesy of Fei Reed
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