As many of you know, I’m the Founder of a non-profit organization called Humans of Change which builds schools in rural villages to promote quality education and create sustainable change.
A good friend of mine is part of a University club at Davis and asked me to come and speak to the new and recruiting members of the group.
Public speaking has always been a fear of mine. As a shy highschooler growing up who would dread anything involving speaking to the class and believing that Speech and Communications 101 in college would be the death of me, I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed giving a speech to the club at Davis and I’m so humbled and grateful for their support for Humans of Change.
The powerpoint presentation outlined four topics: Humans of Change, Background on Myself, Change in Kenya, and Creating Change to Positively Impact the World.
To be frank, I wrote this speech a day before the actual event because 1) I caught the flu a week prior when I had originally planned to work on the speech and 2) I just work better in cram-mode.
You know, when you procrastinate on something and cram it in last minute, but because you’re so focused and have dedicated so much consecutive time on it you actually end up producing something better than you would have imagined.
Yeah, that kind of cram-mode.
That being said, it created something that had a good amount of information, answering questions that I believed the public audience would ask and reciting thoughts that were genuine to me in a lot of ways.
I thought I would share it with you, because I know not everybody could attend the speaking event at UC Davis, but perhaps there are some details in here that could potentially answer some of your questions, some insights that will get you thinking about life, and hopefully some inspiration that can help you grow as a traveler, social activist, and human being.
Provided are snapshots of the actual powerpoint presentation that I used because I’m such an extreme visual person and I put a tremendous amount of effort into any project that involves sight – so I hope you think it’s as pretty as I think it is. 🙂
The Power of Change
According to Webster Dictionary: Change is to make the form, nature, or content different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone. To transform or convert.
I’m someone who highly believes in the importance of change and am constantly evaluating whats around me and asking myself, “Is there anything about my life that I want to change?” Is there anything that I would do differently, or transform, or try something new. I’m always looking for different ways to grow and I think that starts by noticing what I need to change.
We’re all here today because we believe that education is an important role in every person’s life, but we all know that not everyone has the right to a quality education in the world.
We’re all together to make a difference, to change that current social issue of the world.
Humans of Change was founded in 2013. What was originally a side hobby of mine to figure out ways to impact the world, blossomed into an organization of people and supporters who share the same meaning and goal.
Humans of Change originally started in Zimbabwe at Mosi-Oa-Tunya Secondary School. That is where I’ll always consider the seed for Humans of Change to be planted because that’s the moment that changed me the most which propelled me into creating a non-profit organization.
I was 18 years old, traveling through 6 different countries in Africa, and during my stay in Zimbabwe, I stumbled upon the Mosi-Oa-Tunya Secondary School. The Head Master himself, who is the Principal, showed me around the school and took me through classrooms to meet the students. The best part was being able to have genuine conversations with students and teachers about their goals in life, what they wanted to achieve, and how education played a very important role in their future success.
This was the first time I’ve ever encountered poverty education in a third world country, and it left me speechless how devoted each student was to their education and how each of them understood that education was something they wanted more than anything.
As someone who was studying Education back at home, I was already passionate about the subject, but having this experience really helped me realize that I had a passion for Global Education and Poverty Alleviation.
I came home from that trip completely changed about my life goals, what I wanted to do in life, what I wanted to do at that moment, and the best outlet I could find was working closely with similar non-profits in my area and learning from them about the issues and solutions for Global Education and Poverty Alleviation.
Throughout this process I learned a lot, and made a lot of important and valuable connections in life and the non-profit field. But two non-profits stuck the most with me: Free the Children and Kiva.
Free the Children is an international charity and education partner who work both domestically in Canada and the United States, as well as abroad in Kenya, India, Nicaragua, China, so on. Their goal as a non-profit organization is not just to provide quality education to rural parts of the world, but in a holistic model. Which means they also consider the elements of water safety, agriculture, medical and health care, and alternative income. This was a development model I didn’t find in any other organizations I worked with, and I believe it’s very important to understand poverty alleviation as a whole as opposed to individual elements.
The other non-profit, Kiva, is an organization based from San Francisco, California which provides a micro-lending platform for people in first world countries to lend loans to those seeking financial assistance in third world countries.
How Kiva works is if a farmer in Kenya needs a cow to start his milk business, but doesn’t have the financial capital, he can ask for a loan from a local bank which partners with Kiva, and Kiva acts as the bridge between us and that farmer to help one another. So for example, if the farmer needs $100 USD to buy a cow and doesn’t have the money, he can put his profile up on Kiva, and as lenders, we would notice this farmer, and say if four of us loaned $25 USD each to this farmer, he could then purchase the cow to start his milk business. With his new business and cash flow, in two years this farmer slowly can pay us all back our loans with 0% interest. That means, in two years, we would have had our loans completely repaid, the farmer, who is now an empowered business man, now has this cow which he can utilize to sustain his family and lifestyle. That’s how Kiva’s sustainable model works combined with their efforts to promote global financial inclusion.
Both of these nonprofits embody two parts: Empowerment and Sustainability
The model of each organization is not about a hand out, but a hand up. It’s not about us helping the people, it’s about how we can help the people help themselves. It’s about creating sustainable change and creating something differently that’ll last even without our inclusion.
An important thing to realize is that the people we want to help and empower know the issues far better than we ever will. So it’s not our responsibility to come and tell them what’s right and what should be done. Rather, we should all help each other to understand what they want, and what they think needs to be done. They know the solutions that they need for their community and we’re just acting as facilitators for them to create change and sustain themselves.
So Kiva and Free the Children were very important to me. And the more involved I became the more passionate I grew. The more passionate I grew, the more I spoke about these global issues to others around me and I quickly realized that a lot of my peers didn’t know 1) about the education crisis in third world countries and 2) what Microfinance even meant.
That to me was a problem. One that I wanted to change.
So, I created Humans of Change as a non-profit organization to build schools in rural villages to support a model of sustainability as well as include the aspect of Microfinance because it was a simple solution that nobody knew about.
From the very beginning, we’ve partnered with both Free the Children and Kiva to build schools in rural villages and provide international micro-finance loans.
That is how Humans of Change was started.
It started with a change in myself from stumbling upon the school in Zimbabwe, to a change in direction when I came home and wanted to branch out more globally with my Education studies, to a change in wanting to educate others about the issues I was passionate about, to a change in my life now and what I’m currently involved with Humans of Change.
As I mentioned before, I’m a local Bay Area girl with a focus in Education for my studies.
Right after graduating high school, I decided I wanted to travel the world.
The way that I saved up my budget for travel was being a full time student of 20-22 units a semester, while also working full time as a waitress for about 40-45 hours per week.
This helped keep me on track with my goal to save up for traveling, and when school breaks would come around I would jetset off for about 2-3 months at a time. Then come back and repeat the whole process again.
Fast forward four years later, I’ve travelled to over 30 countries on 6 continents, all before the age of 22.
In the meantime, I’ve built up my social platforms and have created an audience combined of more than 33,000 devoted followers who are passionate about travel and creating change in the world.
This type of medium has provided me with a great source of inspiration to reach out and find others who are on similar journeys or paths in their life, as well as help others who are trying to understand how they can travel or how they can make a difference in the world.
So how did I get started? How did I go from being a fresh high school graduate to traveling the world and starting a non-profit at such a young age.
Again, it all started with change.
My change in life after high school. I made the decision to work full time as well as devote myself to school full time. The change in myself I felt before I would go on trips and when I would return on trips. It’s very intimidating to think that you’ve saved up a lot of money, have done your fair share of research of a country, and then get on plane to go somewhere you’ve never been before and not speak the language. But what I always advise people who are looking to travel and are having difficulty doing so – is to just do it. Just go. Don’t let anything stop you, including yourself, and realize that you’re traveling for yourself and you’re traveling to grow and to understand things that are different to you. In the end it’s the hope that inevitably you’ll grow. That being abroad and losing parts of yourself but learning so many more new things are all components of an experience that you can take back with you and essentially have for the rest of your life. Which is how I felt every time I returned home from other countries. The change that you find in yourself and in the world around you, and the change you want to create after having such new experiences are all part of the reason why people choose to travel.
“Travel always teaches. The curiosity of the unfamiliar–whether it is a neighborhood or a country over–strengthens human connection and broadens the view. In seeing new sights and meeting new faces, we are reminded to rearrange routine and take the long way home every now and again.” – www.artifactuprising.com
If I had never chosen to change anything in my life, I would never be where I am now.
So where am I now? Four years later, 30 countries, what am I doing?
Like I said earlier, I’m currently living in Cape Town, South Africa with my boyfriend and puppy who’s 1.5 years old.
Everyone always asks why make the move to Cape Town? I’ve visited Cape Town many times before officially moving, and on a trip to Cape Town about 2 years ago my boyfriend and I adopted a puppy from the local animal shelter and because dogs don’t travel well, we decided to plant our roots somewhere and realized that Cape Town was the best fit. We already had friends in the city, knew the area well, currency conversion from USD to South African Rand was in our favor, so we packed up all of our belongings (which was really only two duffle bags of clothes) and bought a house in Cape Town. We’ve been loving our experience so far and now consider it home.
At the moment, other than working on Humans of Change, I’m continuing to pursue travel and find an area of business that works well for me where I can be location independent as well as still educate others on global issues regarding Education and following your passions.
I wanted to discuss about the projects currently going on in Kenya, as well the change that is being created in the communities.
Change is such an important part of life and an important part of the non-profit community. Through change we can measure our level of impact from our efforts, as well as cultivate inspiration for further ideas.
Change is always a key element in our goals for global poverty alleviation as well as a strong positive influence in the developing world.
In the Maasai communities in Kenya, we see change every day. From the little girl who can now go to a private school in her village, to the mother who can receive proper maternity care in a health clinic, to the little boy who runs home and teaches his father what he learned at the school garden about growing crops, and the mothers and the villagers and the community who put in a strong effort each day to uplift themselves and their children for a better future.
The best way I can explain to you all the level of change and impact these communities have created, is through storytelling:
This is a photo of the Kisaruni All Girls Secondary School in the village. These girls are given a sponsored education by someone who chooses to sponsor all four years of her high school and the girls live at the school in dorms. These girls are not only some of the most grateful students I’ve ever met, but also the most hardworking. Usually their day starts at 5am, and they clean the facilities, study, do what they need to do before the school day starts, then attend classes from 7am to 4pm. After, they have two hours of extracurricular activities, then study, then clean the school and area some more before going to bed. Surprisingly, this schedule is all governed on their own terms. Nobody says that you have to wake up at 5am and start cleaning, or you have to do 2 hours of an extracurricular activity. All of their responsibilities throughout the day show how grateful they are to receive a quality education by someone supporting them and how hard working they are as female students. What I find most incredible is how these girls are selected for the private secondary school. Female students who enter generally don’t have to have the highest grades, or are the most talented. Girls who are chosen exemplify dedication to their community and how likely they’ll return after their studies to give back to their communities from all that they’ve learned. Coming from the States, and Universities are a great example, it’s all about academics and how high of grades you’ve earned. At this school, it’s about how hard you work and how likely you’re going to return and uplift the members in your community to create change and positivity.
This is the Baraka Health Clinic of the village. It’s the only health clinic within miles of the community. A huge aspect of the clinic is the maternity program where women can learn about giving a healthy birth and come to give birth in a safe environment. One day, a woman rushes in and is frantic and yells at the Doctor, “We need your help, my friend from our village is in labor.” The Doctor says, “I’m sorry but we can’t help you because your village is miles away and we don’t have an ambulance to get to her on time.” The women yells, “No, she’s here!” The Doctor rushes out and finds a woman lying in a wheel barrow who is clearly very pregnant and about to give birth. The women and her friends traveled for hours from their village, while she was in labor with contractions, through bumpy and dusty African roads just to come to the Baraka Health Clinic and have a safe birth for her child. This type of act goes to show how valuable a local health clinic is to a lot of local people who understand the importance of health, medicine, and proper facilities.
Mark and Craig, the Founders of Free the Children, were approached one day by someone asking if they could bring their work as a non-profit organization into a village nearby. Marc and Craig went with the man to see his village but unfortunately had to tell him that it was impossible to do any work in their village because there weren’t any accessible roads for vehicles to pass through. That’s how rural this village was. Mark and Craig explained they were sorry they couldn’t do much for him and said farewell. Three months later, the same man comes back and asks Mark and Craig if they would reconsider their decision to work in his village. Mark and Craig again said, “No, we’re sorry, but there’s nothing much we can do without accessible roads to get basic supplies to the area.” The man says, “No no no, but we’ve built a road.” So in just three months, the community came together to build a road for Free the Children to be able to provide their work and build schools within the community to help empower their people.
As I mentioned, Free the Children works with a holistic model, concentrating on five key aspects that play a role in poverty alleviation:
- Education – Giving a child an education is the best way to set them up for success and break the cycle of poverty.
- Clean Water and Sanitation – Children—especially girls—can only attend school if they have access to clean water. It frees girls from the daily task of collecting water for their families, and prevents waterborne illnesses that make children sick and unable to go to school.
- Health – Children can only attend school if they and their parents are healthy. Clean water is one solution, but families also need access to health care, and programs that teach disease prevention and healthy living.
- Agriculture and Food Security – Children can only attend school if they are well fed. Hungry, malnourished children are at best inattentive, at worst, sick.
- Alternative Income and Livelihood – Children can only attend school if their parents have the financial means and time to invest in their education and their basic health.
The change in the community revolves around these five pillars. Through building schools, we provide quality education for students and help facilitate teachers. We work with communities to provide sustainable clean water solutions like wells and hand pumps, and for girls who can now go to school and collect water before coming home. We partner with communities on health initiatives like clinics and vaccination programs. Thanks to the founding partner PotashCorp, we work with communities to provide programs that promote food security and improved agriculture, like school gardens and irrigation projects. This ensures communities have better access to healthy food, and food to sell, improving economic outcomes as well. We teach parents, often mothers, skills such as artisan crafts that help them generate an income and accrue savings.
We talked about the change that happened in my life and the change I wanted to see in the world, therefore creating Humans of Change. We also talked about the change that’s going on in developing countries and specifically in the rural villages of Kenya. But how can change be implemented in your life and how can you utilize change as your driving force to positively impact the world?
Here are my five tips for creating change for a positive impact:
- Start small – Change doesn’t happen overnight, or all at once, but in small noticeable and measurable steps. I didn’t come back from my trip to Africa and suddenly start an organization. I spent months researching nonprofits, then contacting them, then volunteering all of my free time to learning what they had to offer, and eventually I founded my own organization. What you can do, if you’re beginning, is to search for non-profits that coincide with what you feel needs to change in the world. Whether you’re passionate about education, woman rights, nature conservation, whatever social issue you feel gravitated to, there’s most likely an organization out there doing what you’d love to do, and most likely they’d love to have on board supporting them. So go out there, find an organization, contact them about volunteer opportunities or ways you can help, and then devote your time to learning about the social issues and solutions.
- Find your passion – Mine is very clearly travel and education. If I had never understood my love for education, I never would have pursued a path that taught me more about the fundamentals of the education system. If I never had pursued my love for travel, I would have never gone to Zimbabwe and stumbled upon the school which changed my life entirely. Because I knew what I was passionate about, and I pursued those passion, I created opportunities for myself which taught me so much about what I wanted to do with my life, and ultimately with those experiences. I also discovered what changes I needed to make in order to create positive impacts in the fields that I was passionate about.
- Say YES – Life is an incredibly scary and intimidating thing, but it’s created by a medley of small choices we make everyday. When people ask what’s my best travel advice, I tell them to just do it. To say YES rather than NO. Yes to what you want in life, yes to what makes you happy, yes to what you want to achieve, and yes to what you want to do just for fun. I feel that growing up we say a lot more No’s than Yes’s because we’re afraid to try something new or we feel bound to our current responsibilities that hold us back. But truthfully, nothing is holding you back other than yourself. Those fears and scary thoughts in your head will always be there, it’s what you do with them that says what kind of person you are. Those responsibilities you feel so tied to are always going to be there whether you stay or you leave. It’s all about prioritizing your life. It’s understanding what’s important to you and putting those things in front of all the other noises in your life.
- Your Happiness Matters – Try to understand at an early age what makes you truly happy. Generally your passions and happiness will play hand-in-hand, but somewhere along the line we learned that our happiness doesn’t matter. That financial stability and other people’s expectations matter more. So the happier you are as a person, the more positive you’ll be about life and the choices you make. If you’re constantly making choices out of happiness, then you’re bound to create change that positively affects others and the world around you.
- Educate yourself – It’s important to gain experiences and act on your goals, but you need to have the proper skill-sets and background to be sure that you’re making more positive changes than negative effects. If I had come back from my trip to Africa and started a non-profit immediately, influencing people with the little knowledge that I had and perhaps creating actions that were either inappropriate or outdated, then I wouldn’t have been making the sort of positive change that I thought I was creating. It’s because I was so involved with other organizations and took the time to educate myself on the issues before acting on them is why Humans of Change has continued to be successful. Take the time to learn as much as possible about something before taking steps toward actionable change. Knowledge is such a powerful tool that will play a strong role when creating positive change.
To wrap everything up that we discussed:
- Humans of Change was founded in 2013 to create sustainable change by building schools and providing quality education in rural villages, as well as promote global financial inclusion through Kiva.
- I’m an advocate for creating positive change in the world who’s passionate about travel and education.
- Change is implemented in Kenya through five pillars: Education, Clean Water and Sanitation, Health, Agriculture and Food Safety, and Alternative Income and Livelihood.
- Tips to create positive change in the world are to start small, find your passion, say YES, remember that your happiness matters, and to educate yourself.
I hope you guys enjoyed my mini-presentation. I hope that you all could take some inkling of insightful or valuable information that could hopefully change your life or help you create change and positive impact in the world.
Remember, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi.