I’ve been very lucky to be involved with organizations throughout my lifetime that have introduced me to some really amazing, inspiring people. I’ve shared rooms with some of the most creative and philanthropic people and continue to be astonished by their work and dedication to others each and every day.
I call this series “More than a Millennial.” I’ll profile Millennials who, I think, are doing some really incredible things - young people who ignore all of the flack our generation catches and continue to do incredible things each day to change the world.
I begin with this story.
A dear friend of mine, Matt Maroon, who is himself, an incredible representation of the Millennial generation, whose story you can read here, put me in touch with a wonderful young woman, Abbie, who has just returned to the U.S. after spending nearly two years in Malawi, Africa.
Abbie, a 2012 graduate of Kent State University’s College of Education, began her love of abroad travel at the age of 14. Since then, she has traveled to Europe, Australia, Central America and all around the United States. As a sophomore in college, she partnered with Matt’s organization, Determined to Develop, and spent two weeks volunteering in Malawi. “It was the first place I felt a deeper connection to. I felt like I could really spend some time there and wanted to go back again,” Abbie said.
And that is exactly what she did. Her junior and senior years of college were focused on working to save money for her epic journey to Malawi. When graduation came in May 2012, Abbie prepared as best she could to spend time abroad. Coordinating with the Determined to Develop team, Abbie left in August 2012.
While in Malawi, Abbie used her skills from college to take on a teaching position with a local secondary school. “I could have taught anything, really. But I decided to teach Math because that what my focus during college. It was good for me professionally to teach a different curriculum and to challenge myself with the sever lack of resources,” she said.
Teaching on a year-round schedule, she lived in a house at the school. “I’m not an outdoorsy person, but I found myself living in a place with no electricity and no running water, and I was cooking over a fire. But honestly, I think I needed that,” she said.
Abbie’s time in Malawi offered sobering moments – moments that put things into perspective. In the middle of a lesson she was teaching to her sophomore-level students, the headmaster took a quick student poll – a poll that showed her first hand how many of her students were living as orphans. “That moment put a lot of things in perspective for me and opened my eyes to what serious barriers to education my students – and other students all over their country – are grappling with.”
Many Millennials, like Abbie, are discovering the art of skill-based volunteerism. By definition, skill-based volunteers use their talents, experiences, and resources to strengthen the nonprofit organizations the work for. A degree in education and a passion for youth made Abbie a perfect candidate to teach in Malawi. And now, with this experience added to her resume, it’ll make her a perfect candidate to teach anywhere.
“So why did you do it?” I asked her.
“After college, most people get into the 9-5 swing and it’s the same thing every single day. I wasn’t ready for that,” she said.
“Are you now?” I asked.
“(laughs) I’m not sure. Maybe.”