URI student fulfills mother’s vision for Fiji

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KINGSTON, R.I. –January 20, 2010–Brett Geaber’s mother always envisioned her son teaching children at the Gospel School for the Deaf in Suva, Fiji, where she volunteered as part of her ministry in 2004.

While putting an internship together, Diane Geaber was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She died last June.

“I had to fulfill the promise I made to her so I picked up the pieces and flew to Fiji last Sept. 12,” says Brett who earned his communication studies degree in December. “When I arrived after crossing the dateline, it was Sept. 14, my mom’s birthday. I didn’t plan it, but I knew that it was a sign.”

During Brett’s internship, he kept his cameras rolling while teaching the children martial arts and hip hop to create a variety show for friends and families.

“I was teaching something that a lot of them had never seen before so I wasn’t sure how they would react,” the Kingston resident recalls. ““They loved hip hop and picked it up so fast it was incredible. Everyone in Fiji, even the kids, is open minded and welcoming. They all made me feel at home and part of the family so that after two months I didn’t want to leave.”

When Brett was young, he began creating short films after finding his parents’ old video camera. He combined film with his hobby of recording hip-hop music with friends to create music videos in high school.

His interest in martial arts and performance began when he watched the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Shirley Temple. When the Ichiban Karate Studios in Wakefield opened, he begged to join. His parents finally relented and signed him up when he was 4. A quick learner, he became part of a demonstration team when he was 6. Today he teaches at the studio and holds a fourth degree black belt in Shorin-Ryu Shodokan and a first-degree black belt in Kobudo (weapons).

Hip-hop dance and break dancing expertise followed naturally. While at URI, he was a member of the hip-hop dance team Flavor Unit. He combined all three hobbies during his internship.

“This was a time to reflect and come to grips with a lot of things,” says the 23-year-old. “Through these beautiful kids, I saw reflections of my mom.”

Brett created a 15-minute documentary about his trip. “My message is that you can be a light anywhere in the world. You just have to have faith.”

Professor Alain Alain-Philippe Durand who directed Brett’s internship calls the documentary innovative. “Not only was I impressed by the quality of his film, but I am also very impressed by Brett’s work with the students while at the school,” says the professor.