I spend a lot of time talking about how to save the world as a Millennial. Now it's time to celebrate those who are already doing it.
Meet Sara Minkara. Sara is the Founder and President of Empowerment Through Integration (ETI), a nonprofit focused on the empowerment and inclusion of youth with visual impairment in the Middle East-North Africa region. Sara herself is a Blind Lebanese American who lost her sight at the age of seven.
Through my work in the international development sector, I know that people with disabilities like Sara are often overlooked by societies around the world. In developing nations, where it's hard to obtain even basic medical care, it can often be ten times as difficult to get the care you need when you have a special medical situation. Family and community members can also struggle with how to support those that have a disability of any kind. As Sara discusses in the video below, some parents and family are ashamed of their children, others become over-protective and don't let their child out of the home.
Sara founded ETI out of her own personal experience and passion for empowering blind youth to be the catalysts for change in their communities. She is an internationally recognized advocate in the areas of disability inclusion and social entrepreneurship. Her personal and professional commitment to disability rights and youth empowerment began while she was an undergrad at Wellesley College and continued throughout her time at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government. Since founding ETI, Sara has continued her work in the social sector while also growing ETI from a summer camp to an organization that today reaches over 3,000 individuals across Lebanon and the United States.
Give it up for Sara! Go save the world!
Now, Rachel, these problems that you listed in your last post are huge! Gargantuan! How can I possibly make a difference in any of them, let alone a “substantial impact?”
We’re getting there. Chillax.
For each of the issues you’ve decided that you’re personally passionate about, there about 1,000 organizations out there that are doing good work in that area. You just need to find them and plug in. Like a cell phone on 10%. YOU can do almost anything when you're plugged in.
Think both nationally and internationally. Where are you connected? What organizations have you heard about that are doing good work?
Again, let’s stick to the top five for each of the five areas you're really passionate about. This may take some homework to fill out the list.
Here’s my list, as an example:
1. Women and Gender Equity
A. United State of Women
B. Domestic abuse hotlines and shelters in my area
C. Women for Women International
D. National Peace Corps Association Girls’ Education and Empowerment fund
2. Eliminating white supremacist terrorist cells in the USA
A. Southern Poverty Law Center
B. Life after Hate
C. Anti-defamation League
D. The Stop Hate Project
E. Do we really not have more than four organizations working on this? REALLY?
3. Eliminating child labor in W. Africa
A. Friends of Ghana and C’ote D’ivoire
B. Pencils of Promise
C. World Cocoa Foundation
D. NGOs on the ground in Africa
4. Increasing intercultural understanding
A. National Peace Corps Association
B. Peace Corps Alliance for Intercultural Understanding
C. Artist Exchange programs in my area
D. Church of Unitarian Universalists
5. Inspiring others to lead lives of service
A. United State of Women
B. Service Year Alliance
C. Peace Corps Writers and their stories
D. Americorps Alums
E. Unitarian Universalists
This is a pretty good list of organizations I have natural ties to, and /or within easy reach of me and my work. And yet, these organizations are making great progress on some of the issues I care about most, and working on those issues with them will directly help feed into meeting the Global Sustainable Development Goals I've previously identified as the top issues I want to work on. This is the method to my madness- connecting to organizations that are working on issues that are important to me, yet also feeding into a global vision of a better world.
We’re all part of a bigger whole - a planet of people just trying to make it all work. Just because your working at a local soup kitchen on the weekends doesn’t mean you’re not contributing to a bigger picture. Remember that when you start to become overwhelmed by the enormity of the world's issues and problems. Local action can mean global change and vice versa. We’re all connected to each other.
Now comes the truly dizzying chore of deciding what you will do to save the world. That’s not easy. You can dedicate yourself to helping out in your neighborhood, but people across the world live in far more devastating poverty than almost anyone in the U.S. Shouldn’t you help the most desperately needy rather than the people within easy reach? Climate change will have disastrous results, shouldn’t we tackle that first? What about this terrifying rise in white nationalism and the “alt-right.” Shouldn’t we be working to ALT_DELETE those crazy neo-Nazis?
Yes, yes and yes. There are a thousand ways to look at this. There are plenty of problems we desperately need to tackle. So, let’s look at a couple of ways to make this decision.
Sustainable Development Goals
In 2015, world leaders came together from 193 member states of the United Nations and decided what the most pressing needs were to make the world a better place. There are seventeen global goals set for 2030:
Now, these world leaders that came together to hammer out these goals are a lot smarter than I am. If they can take all of the major problems of the world and hone them down into seventeen items, who am I to argue? Anyone who's ever participated in a model UN type program will tell you that getting anything past 193 member states is HARD. If this is what they came up with and a good portion of the world agreed on it...that's certainly something to consider focusing on.
Now, take a look at those SDGs. Does anything speak to you? Are you passionate about food and making sure children are fed? Are you really into saving the oceans? Something else? None?
Ok, so let’s make a list of everything you’re really into…topics that really motivate you to get up out of your chair and do something. Just the top five.
Chances are that whatever you wrote down actually fits into one of the SDGs. They were designed to be pretty broad. Draw a dash after each topic you wrote down and write down the SDG that most closely aligns with your passion. Like this:
Boy, I'm really into that SDG 16, huh?
There. Now, I’ve narrowed down all of the top world problems that I’m potentially going to work on to five. Five is a manageable number. I can do this. Maybe not all at once, but in a sustained manner over the rest of my life, I can make a substantial impact in these five areas.
What's your top five? Post a comment with yours!
Like it or not, everyone has limitations. I know we try to be good at everything, multitask 100 percent of the time, and stress ourselves to the max. But, if we’re going to be successful, we need to start acknowledging the things we can’t do, and the things we pretty much suck at.
Why is that important? Well, the moment you start working with a non-profit, they’re going to ask you to do all kinds of things. That’s their game plan. You donate a box of cookies and next they’ll ask you to hand out the glasses of milk. Then they’ll ask you to donate the ice cream for their next social, and so on and so forth until you wind up with a position on their Board and a commitment to pay Board dues. And most of us are just not ready for that yet.
I know how this works. I’ve been the one asking for the donated cookies and ice cream for over a decade now. I will take every opportunity to get you more engaged the moment you show the slightest hint of interest in our work. While I, and some of the more experienced leaders in the non-profit field, will tailor my asks to your interest and commitment level, there are some non-profits out there that just aren’t as big and savvy. They’ll ask you for anything, and you, being the lovely bighearted person that you are, will do it whether it’s your forte or not.
And why wouldn’t we take that opportunity? We Millennials love to help others. We love social impact. We’re actually re-shaping the way that non-profits talk to and engage their donors. Millennial donors won’t give more than once if the organization doesn’t clearly communicate their impact - i.e. how the donation changed people's lives. We want to know what our money and our volunteer hours are contributing to in the world.
If an organization can really get under our skin, lure us in with their sexy impact talk and data and stories that make our little hearts beat faster, then we’ll go the extra mike for them. However, if we’re going down a road that we’re not really good at or well-equipped for, that extra mile will be for nothing.
So, let’s make sure we know ourselves and our capabilities right from the start.
Make a list of the top ten things you hate to do or you’re not really good at. I’ll do it with you.
Things I’m not good at:
1. Being subtle
3. Being micro-managed
4. Detail-oriented data entry
7. Attending evening or weekend meetings in person….if I can’t call or skype in, count me out
8. Protesting…I got a kid to raise
9. Anything that requires a large amount of physical activity
10. Doing anything that requires substantial travel.
Your turn. It might feel painful at first, but after you get it all on paper, you’ll feel better at having owned up to your limitations. Write it/type it up and put it wherever you have the worksheet and exercises from last week.
Common objections to putting in the time and effort to save the world and why they don't get you off the hook:
Oh, but Rachel, I work two jobs just to pay back the massive student loan debt I acquired. I don’t have time to do anything like this!
Yeah, I been there. Look, when I was in my early twenties, I worked two jobs, went to the gym four days a week, slept eight hours a night, and I still volunteered for the Adopt a family program with Christmas in the City in Boston. You make time for the things that are important to you. Make this important. Because if you don’t those torch-bearing Nazis are going to start rallying in your neighborhood. Do you want that to happen? Do you?
Besides this guide is all about doing something that’s right for you…something that fits your level of time, talent and treasure to give. So don’t worry. You can do this. Just keep reading.
Oh, but Rachel, I’m an older Millennial, and I just had my first kid! I can’t go out to all those protests or do anything outside of nap time!
Congrats, but you’re not off the hook on this. In fact, you’re the one that should be fighting even harder than all the rest because what we do today is going to determine what kind of country your kid grows up in. You have to make sure you don’t hand off such huge, shitty problems to your kids to solve like the Boomers and Xers did to us. You need to give your kids a world that’s better than the one that we got.
Again, this manifesto only asks for what you can give. It asks for you to give as much as you can. To strain the limits of what you thought you could offer. But I’m not asking you to kill yourself doing it. So take a deep breath and keep going. We gotta do this for our kids, for our future.
Oh,but Rachel, I work at a small non-profit. I spend every waking hour trying to make the world a better place. I don’t have the money to be a big donor to other organizations, and I don’t have the time to give. Don’t I get points for what I do already? Do I really have to do more?
Well, you picked up this book, so obviously your subconscious thinks you do need to do more. And you should. We need every one of us to be all-in. And non-profit leaders have the skills and expertise to shape a movement and give it life. You have more to give and you know it or you would have stopped reading about three paragraphs ago. So, let’s not put off the inevitable.
Okay. Is everyone done whining and procrastinating?
Good. Now let’s go.