The story of John Carnevale, a member of the EPHS Class of 2000, is an inspiring one. With the support of his classmates and teachers, he thrived at EPHS. He played three varsity sports – football, basketball and baseball – and was captain by his senior year. Working on teams taught him unity and team chemistry – two traits he carried to Worcester Polytechnic Institute where he went on to study engineering. During his senior year at WPI, faced with questions about how to approach his future after graduation, he made a fateful decision.
Carnevale knew that he wanted to make a difference in the world, so he enlisted a non-profit organization named Sovhen Uganda to take him to a rural area in Uganda known as the Kyssanko Village. He used his experiences working with teams and studying engineering to address serious problems in a desolate area.
“There, I was able to see the most critical community and individual needs in a truly poverty stricken area,” he said.
Carnevale's favorite memory of his first visit to Uganda began on the day he arrived. He enjoyed walking through the beautiful jungle by himself, but what he enjoyed the most was being followed by children from the village. On the day after he arrived, the children immediately took a liking to him. During his time there, he built roads and kitchens for underprivileged families – some of the same children who followed him around.
Working in an area with primitive facilities, however, took its toll on Carnevale.
“I was working very long days, which probably lowered my immune system, then I contracted an aggressive strand of malaria. I watched my body break down in a matter of just a few days," he said.
That experience gave Carnevale the determination to bring about a change in the way that families receive health care in his adopted village.
"I made a promise (once I was better) to return to Uganda to build a medical center,” he said.
Once his health improved, Carnevale returned to California with a plan to build a medical center in Uganda. He was hired to work as an engineer for the Department of Defense, but he quickly figured out that he would not be able to afford to live in San Diego and also raise money for his project. After much consideration and support from his family, he began living out of his car and he watched his expenses closely. This did not come without serious consideration and Carnevale had to do some serious soul searching, but his memory of Uganda guided his actions.
“If you feel something is right, you should never let anyone convince you otherwise. Your heart will guide you, take the risk and follow,” he said.
Carnevale spent a minimal amount of money on himself with the intent of saving as much as he was able to in the smallest possible time frame. He did this for almost a year, spending many nights on the beach. His goal was to create a facility that would be designed especially for patients stricken with malaria.
“When you have a dream, you have to put your money where your mouth is before you can ask others to contribute,” he said.
It took him over a year to save enough of his salary to be able to finally build the Donna Carnevale Medical Center, the medical facility he named after his mother. He also built the Camilla Guest House (named after his grandmother) that houses doctors while they work in the medical center. Both the medical center and guest house were completed on September 19, 2011. Carnevale built both facilities with only his own funds.
A positive mindset is a quality that Carnevale wishes everyone could have. He makes a suggestion to students who roam the halls of East Providence High School.
“Be a sponge! Utilize your resources and teachers, and make yourself a dynamic person. Most importantly, love and care for others and never be under the pressure of society.”