NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A Vanderbilt graduate has dedicated his life to changing the lives of thousands of people in war-torn Sudan. Now, his facial hair might grant him the opportunity to provide an education to the Sudanese population located in the Nuba Mountains.

Ryan Boyette, a Vanderbilt University graduate, says his passion began after he visited Sudan on a humanitarian mission and was surprised to find out the only thing people really wanted in the region was an education.

“I asked them, ‘What is your greatest need?’, and they would always say, education, which really surprised me because I thought you need food, you need safety,” said Boyette, “But they said, ‘We’ve been in war for years. We know what that’s like, what we need is education to get out of conflict.'”

Boyette married his wife in Sudan and the couple later pursued higher education at Vanderbilt University in the midst of their humanitarian work with a foundation Boyette started called “To Move Mountains”. Now what started as a vision has become a reality filled with stories of success and hope.

“My original thought process is that we will make one school and maybe train a few teachers to teach in that one school. Well, part of our model is we bring people from all over the Nuba Mountains, which is about a million people in an area about the size of Massachusetts,” said Boyette, ” So, we bring a lot of different groups together, and we talk to them about this education system. And they’ve really expressed we need this in every village. So, the impact is exceeding what I originally thought.” 

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Boyette is now one of five finalists in “Benevolent Beards” a contest run by Wahl Grooming Products Company. The contest looks to discover bearded men who are doing good through charitable efforts. Wahl Grooming Products Company will award the winner $20,000 for themselves, and $5,000 for their charity.

Voting will remain open until August 5. To vote for Ryan and his foundation “To Move Mountains” click here.