Dover police officer paying it forward internationally

Dover Police Department Master Cpl. Keith Hester was honored as the 2013 recipient of the coveted Enrique Camarena Award for the Maryland, Delaware, and District of Columbia district, for his work with Dover-area youth. Next month, Cpl. Hester will assist Builders Without Borders to construct four 15,000-square foot buildings in Rwanda, Africa to be used for schools. (Dover Police Department photo)

DOVER — While Dover police officer Keith Hester has worked to encourage the city’s youth to find a positive path in life for the past 20 years, he always felt as if there was something more out there that he could do.

When Master Cpl. Hester learned what the nonprofit group, Builders Without Borders, has accomplished in other countries, he knew that was the place for him.

So he went out and raised $2,705 on a GoFundMe internet page and is now preparing to head to Rwanda, Africa, to serve as a volunteer builder July 21-31.

Mr. Hester said it will be his first time out of the country, other than a trip to the Bahamas, and will be a different type of challenge.

“I’ve been working with kids for so long,” said Mr. Hester, a 28-year veteran of the Dover Police Department. “I think this endeavor is going to get me out there in a different light in a sense.

“(By leading) the Police Athletic League, some people know who I am, but I think this is just going to take it to the next level to show my commitment. It is international.”

For 10 days, Mr. Hester will volunteer and assist Builders Without Borders, which has partnered with Africa New Life Ministries to build four 15,000-square foot buildings in Rwanda, Africa.

The buildings will be used for school and administration facilities. The school’s plan is to enroll more than 600 students.

Mr. Hester has helped out with Central Delaware Habitat for Humanity in the past and also has done some out-of-pocket projects helping the needy.

“Of course, there will be some questions as to why doesn’t he do something like that here in America?,” Mr. Hester said. “I think today there needs to be a better understanding on how important education is.

“From what I have learned, the children in Africa, it’s almost like they have to pay for their education to have a better life.”

Mr. Hester added that a lot of the local youths who he has encountered during his career often take the things they have, like education and other opportunities, for granted.

He does not expect to see the same kinds of attitudes in Rwanda, one of the smallest countries on the African mainland.

“I just want to see it for myself and be able to come back and pass what I’ve learned from this endeavor to the kids that I serve every day,” Mr. Hester said.

He said the construction project in Africa will not only provide children with a privileged education, it’s also geared to educate local volunteers to be self-sufficient and self-sustained to meet the needs of their community.

Dover Police Chief Marvin Mailey isn’t surprised by anything that Cpl. Hester does when it comes to assisting other people.

“Keith’s always been a very giving person,” Chief Mailey said. “He loves kids, he loves helping kids and assisting them in their lives, so I think it’s outstanding. Keith’s just a great guy.”

Chief Mailey said that for Mr. Hester to use some of his vacation time and spend it away from his family to give back is going above and beyond the call.

“That’s missionary work,” he said. “That goes well beyond police work and Keith is just that kind of person. He’s an outstanding individual.”

Cpl. Hester has served as a resource officer at Central Middle School for the past 11 years and took over leadership of Dover’s Police Athletic League early last year.

Master Cpl. Keith Hester, of the Dover Police Department, gives instructions to kids involved with the Police Athletic League at William Henry Middle School in Dover. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

He said his upcoming trip is just another step for him in his life’s pursuits and he thanks everyone who has supported him in raising funds for his trip to Africa.

“It’s not just an individual thing,” Mr. Hester said. “I have had sponsors and I’ve got friends and well-wishers. I like to represent not only the Dover Police Department, but all the men and women in blue who go out here every day to make a difference, especially in kids’ lives.”

“I can’t wait. It’s like I’m paying it forward, but now to an international level.”

While he will be in a foreign land and away from his family, he said he truly appreciates their support.

“They know this has been my life,” Mr. Hester said. “This is what I signed on to do and giving back is the kind of thing that I truly care about.”

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