Never say you can’t make a difference because you can, let me share with you how
Because you can if you just think about it.
I truly believe that and am going to share with you some examples from my life where I was able to do amazing impactful things with little to no money, expertise or resources. This is probably the first time I write about my impact work because I have been in hiding but am unleashing my Superhero for good alter ego, The Envisioneer. Future post about this to come so hang tight.
Without a doubt, humans are capable of amazing things when they are fueled with passion and determined to do something, anything.
My goal of this post is to inspire you the reader to assess your environment to identify what you can do now to make a difference, no excuses, you can do it if you really want to.
I don’t know how this was developed within me but professionally it occurred in my first real job outside of college. I was a credit manager at Wells Fargo Financial “selling” debt consolidation during the rise of the economy into the free fall of 2008 and early 2009. That is another story but during that time early on, I realized that no matter what we did, the problem was the customers financial literacy, not the debt.
Seeing this, I made every effort to educate my customers on how they could truly turn things around. I like to think that it helped changed many but in reality some of the guys that had worked in the branch for years would see some customers like clock work once a year. Outside of educating my customers and doing well at work, I was compelled to do something more.
I thought of what I had available, my brand and my financial literacy to teach to youth. So I found some curriculum that Wells Fargo had created and has to this day called Hands on Banking. This was the entire curriculum to teach a class the basics of banking and financial literacy. They learned so much and operated a kid bank in the after school program and led up to a big public event at the end where we had a Jeopardy type finale. That did not cost me a single penny, just time and piecing together resources available to me.
Anyone at any job can do something similar or create their own. There are nonprofits out there that coordinate professionals to go teach their trade at an after school program. They teach you how to create your curriculum and some even pair you with Teach for America for added classroom support.
Personally, I first started this with Citizen Schools back in 2007 but have since expanded how I make an impact. Anyone can do something similar, it is about wanting to do something and thinking of how you can go about it with what you have available.
Another example where I was able to make a huge impact and has been snowballing since 2011 is when I worked at Dell. Two things happened there that I VOLUNTEERED to get involved with that has since put me on an amazing path of doing very impactful work that really is making a difference.
First, Dell sponsored the Global Social Innovation Competition and there were participants from all over the world that were in university level, literally thousands of applicants. So as the sponsor, Dell asked for employee volunteers. I was one of a few dozen in a company of 100,000 employees. I paired up with deaf young man from Kenya who was studying in D.C. at the premier deaf and hard of hearing university in the world. He had this idea to get rain water collection tanks back home in rural Africa. He was thinking of it being a traditional nonprofit but I challenged him to think of how he could make it sustainable. We settled on the idea of allocating enough water to a family and then excess would be used to teach youth entrepreneurial skills by starting water based businesses. We ended up getting 17 tanks and then that led to bee hives which then led to starting an NGO called Deaf Empowerment Society of Kenya (DESK).
After first meeting Jacob in 2011 while at Dell, this past year, 2018, I went to visit him and be his best man in his wedding. The organization has grown now to a staff of 10 and doing great work all over the country because previously there was no real support for the deaf and hard of hearing community. In 2018, we also completed a pilot with USAID and United Nations Development Program along with various Kenyan government agencies to teach 151 deaf people entrepreneurial skills while also funding their micro-enterprises. This past week, we just submitted our proposal for an expansion of the program to all of Kenya through a joint $2M grant. Fingers crossed that all these years of hard work and grant chasing leads to these funds to scale this nationally. I have not kept count how many hours I have helped the founder since first meeting him in early 2011 but it has cost me very little money, I would say I have donated less than $500 in that time frame. The real value came from my vision and direction in guiding him on what to do.
When I visited him, I took my wife on a tour to the Kibera, the slums of Nairobi. There is something like 1 million people in 2 square miles or something crazy like that I don’t remember. I had visited slums in Lima, Peru before but this was my wife’s first time. Luckily, I found this great tour company that shows you all the great social enterprises started by the people to using what they have available to make money, really cool stuff and I will write about it in another post. I soon found out that the founder of Kibera Tours is a resident of Kibera along with all the guides, a dozen or so. When on tour, you have 3–4 with you because they are on all of your sides because this is not a place you would visit without an escort. I highly recommend anyone take a guided tour of a slum in a developing country because it will change your perspective on your world and day to day experiences. The guys were great and at the end of the tour they share with you that 10% of everything they earn goes towards this vision they have for building a youth center in the slums to teach kids a variety of things from arts like song writing, singing, dancing to sports and other subjects one would learn in school. Hearing this, I told them that I would help them figure out how to build a school. I have never built a school but I know how to develop a clear vision and identify the building blocks and that is what we have been doing since August 2018.
In our first call it became clear quickly that they just had the idea but never thought it through BUT had already saved $3k USD. Week by week we have been building out the business plan and we are going to make it happen just like I helped do with DESK. Just costs me time and waking up extra early every Wednesday morning to have a call with them to go over the assignments and deliverables discussed since the last call.
The second thing that happened when I worked at Dell was that they had given grants to 25 organizations in the USA. I recognized one that was based in Austin so I volunteered to be there employee champion to drive engagement. I quickly took this on and got the largest employee resource group to endorse the organization and that led to all types of access to volunteers and an additional $10k in grant they had as a group. I introduced Day at Dell where we had 17 teenagers come for some social media training, career panel, 1x1 mentoring and a roundtable luncheon. It has since gone on annually, going on its 8th year. I also introduced video conference after school mentoring by having professional field questions regarding career and path to get there. When I left Dell I remained involved with the organization, Latinitas, and have been on their board. Some accomplishments are that I helped create and introduce Startup Chica where we teach youth entrepreneurial skills through a pitch competition. We also introduced the first tech conference for female at risk youth of color in central Texas where we introduce and teach them coding skills through game, app or site development. Both we have done 4 years now. This has cost me little to no money, just time, creativity and effort.
I have plenty more examples but will save those for another post because this is way too long, sorry about that, but if you have read this far, thank you so much, I really appreciate it.
Go make a difference however you can. If you are having trouble thinking of how, message me and I will help you, no problem because together everyone achieves more. Let’s do our part to make this place a better place.