Sara Stevens Nerone ’90, ’95

What’s the source of goodness? Kindness, selflessness and generosity all come to mind, as well as the name Sara Stevens Nerone.

The URI graduate is founder of the Rock-Paper-Scissors Children’s Fund, a nonprofit that provides art and music programs, as well as bikes, to children in Vietnam. So far, the group has helped 600 kids, many so poor their parents make less than one dollar a day.

Nerone’s journey to altruism started when she and her husband, Christopher Nerone, a botanist at URI who died in 2010, adopted two girls from Vietnam – Sophie, now 16, and Phoebe, now 13. Two years ago, Nerone returned to the country with her daughters and partner, Patrick O’Brien, to volunteer.

Back home in Wakefield, she knew what she had to do: give.

She decided to focus on the arts because she thought that would be the best way to improve the kids’ lives and help them learn through music, painting and drawing. Vietnamese schools are so rigid that students rarely have a chance to express themselves freely.

Rock-Paper-Scissors fills that void. “Music and art provide a way for kids to leave the daily struggle of grinding poverty,” says Nerone, an ecologist with the National Park Service. “We’ve created a place where students can share their talents and express themselves among the support of friends and teachers.”

To date, Nerone has raised $60,000 to pay for art and music programs – as well as new bikes – for children in villages in Khanh Hoa Province, in central Vietnam. The nonprofit also provides violins to children and holds art and music camps in ethnic minority villages.

The bike program is exclusively for girls and keeps them in school. Many drop out because their walk to school is too long – three hours in some cases. Now, nearly 300 girls have shiny new bikes, all bought in Vietnam. Nerone’s compassion brings the girls other presents too: a bike pump and extra tires.

Above: Sara Stevens Nerone and her daughter Sophie in Vietnam.