From Desperation to Inspiration- A Personal Reflection

Desperate Brooke (2 years ago): Working at a restaurant in San Francisco finishing up college and living with a boyfriend that drained her that she really wasn’t very fond of in the first place.  She is pictured here after she cut all her hair off in a desperate attempt to change her identity.  Clearly, that didn’t go over so well!

Inspired Brooke (today): Living in Thailand working for 2 incredible organizations that empower people to change the world for the better by giving people opportunities that they never had before. She also has found herself in a happy and supportive relationship that proves to her that there really are great men out there.  She is pictured below with Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Dr. Muhammad Yunus… in Bali!

My HERO! Dr. Muhammad Yunus

If you would have asked me 2 years ago where I thought I’d be or what I thought I’d be doing today, I would have NEVER imagined that I would be here.  Through what turned out to be an extremely fortunate series of events, even though it didn’t appear to be that way at the time!

It all began in mid-2006.  I was fast approaching the end of my undergraduate career, and I was feeling overwhelmed with the state of the world.  I was an International Relations major with a focus in Latin American studies and had been learning about how it seemed that everything had gone wrong in Latin America.  In what was the span of my lifetime, there had been corruption, violence, intolerance, genocide and torture and the situation didn’t appear to be getting any better.

Then, one sunny mid-May afternoon, my life would be forever changed. We had a guest speaker in my Latin American Foreign Policy class.  He was a torture survivor from El Salvador and he had come to America to speak to us about his experiences.  At this time, I was also a double major in Spanish, so as he told his story, I could understand directly what he was saying, without the filter of a translator, and it was one of the most intense experiences of my life. Not only did this man look and sound similar to my own father, he also was kidnapped on my exact birth date.  Needless to say, I felt a deep connection to this man and his experience.

After he left, I sat frozen in my seat not knowing what to do with myself.  I was so deeply emotionally shaken by his story that I didn’t know how to move forward.   What if this had happened to me? What if this had happened to my father? How can stories like this still be continuing today!? Torture is no joke.

Not long after this, the semester ended and I decided to take a semester off of school. Sure, I was 1 semester away from graduating but I became painfully aware that this particular area of IR just wasn’t for me.  I thought, “If I am this emotional over guest speakers, how could I possibly be effective in this field? How would I be able to live a happy life when I personally felt so attached to these types of experiences?” I needed time to figure out what gave me strength. I knew what seemed to weaken me and make me feel helpless and overwhelmed, and while I knew that I wanted to be part of “the greater good”, I didn’t have the slightest idea about how I was going to contribute to it.

Lucky for me, I had an opportunity of a lifetime to help out with a small start-up non-profit based in San Francisco.  Through my Nana, I learned that my grandfather’s cousin’s grandson (so this makes second cousin twice removed.. maybe?) was helping to build a website that had “something to do with international relations and the internet” my Nana had told me.  She said, “It sounds like it’d be right up your alley. You should contact him.” I wrote an email to this newfound “cousin” of mine and learned that they were just started what would turn out to be Kiva– the world’s first online microlending platform that lets you connect directly with an entrepreneur in the developing world and loan them as little as $25 to start or grow their small businesses. A few days later I met with the handful of people that were starting and I became more involved.

From the moment I stepping into Kiva’s humble looking office I knew it.  I knew that I had found my inspiration.  I was in a room full of young, creative, motivated, energetic and intelligent people that were all working towards making the world better. They wanted to be the change they wanted to see in the world.  And from this mixture, Kiva was born.  I just happened to be in the right place in the right time- both physically and mentally.

Me and Matt from Kiva watching a Cambodian Silk weaver

As I continued to work with Kiva doing whatever they needed me to do, I found myself still struggling.  I was working with Kiva on a volunteer basis and was still earning my money from hostessing at a restaurant.  The incestuousness of the restaurant got the best of me and before I knew it I had been living the chef-turned-boyfriend in our apartment for about 4 months.  Things went bad really quickly and I found myself extremely unhappy with my restaurant job and my relationship.  I knew I needed to make a real change.  I knew that a better life was possible. I needed to make a move.

So I ended the relationship, quit my job and bought a 1-way ticket to Bangkok, Thailand! Talk about a bold move!  Before I knew it, it was bye-bye San Francisco and helloooooo Bangkok!

Not too long after my move I decided to look for a job in the social business sector.  Social business is essentially a business that does something to make the world better. Not just selling a product, but actually doing something with the primary goal being to help 1) a marginalized group of society (often poor or uneducated or physically disadvantaged people), 2) the environment (helping to do things such as restoration, recycling or having little to no “carbon footprint”) and 3) make enough money to stay in business and ideally to expand.  So basically, it’s a business with a triple bottom line: people, planet and profit.

Through some research and emails I got a job as a “Regional Coordinator” at amazing organization doing incredible work here in Asia.  The organization is called ChangeFusion, and they believe that any young person with innovative ideas, commitment and vision for social change should have a chance to emerge as a force to create a lasting impact by helping to solve global challenges. ChangeFusion is currently working with 23 ventures in the South and East Asia region, ranging from fair trade crafts venture in India to a social outsourcing venture in the Philippines.

Pretty exciting stuff if you ask me!

Now, I’m trying to think of how I can blend my passion for Kiva with my new found excitement with the profit making social business sector….

Now I\'m trying to figure out my next move...

If you get anything from my story, please let it be confirmation that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE once you take good hard look at yourself, take a chance, make a change and follow your passion!


19 Responses to “From Desperation to Inspiration- A Personal Reflection”

  1. MarilyneL Says:

    Wow, that’s a MOVE! 😛 I really admire your determination and passion about what your are doing. Thanks for being the person you are, and for making a change in the world:D
    We certainly need more of Brookes!

  2. Lydia Says:

    I’m blown away by your journey.
    Kudos to you for being who you are and for making a difference in the world.

    Thank you for sharing your inspirational story.

  3. Lola Says:

    Thank you very much for sharing your story! You’re a role model to all young people like me who struggle a little bit about what to do with their lives..
    It’s very inspirationnal! =)

  4. Alyssa Says:

    Wow your story is another sign to me that sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith. One of my favorite quotes is,
    “First you jump off the cliff and you build your wings on the way down.”
    My situation isn’t as darastic as yours, but I recently decided to transfer to a school in Los Angeles, I’m from Connecticut and I’ve never seen the school or even been to California. I don’t even know how I’m going to afford it, but I know this is the best thing for me to do, and I know that it’ll all work out.
    Your story is really inspiring. I’m off to check out the Kiva website. My ultimate career goal is to own my own business and right now I’m taking baby step towards that, I know you need money to start a business and if I can help someone else with just as little as $25, I will definitley make a donation.
    Thanks again for your story 🙂

  5. t Says:

    wow thanks for sharing! I love reading real-life inspirational stories, especially since I’m approaching the stage where I should be deciding “what do I want to do with my life/future/career?”

  6. Kendra Says:

    Amazing story! Thank you so much for sharing this with the GBD community!

    Kristin and I meet Brooke in Thailand while doing a Teen Workshop. Her wonderful family welcomed Kristin and I into their home to conduct a fun weekend with teens.

    We have asked Brooke to join the GBD blog and share with us her journey’s and experiences.

    We hope you find her just as brilliant as we do 🙂


  7. Maguii Says:

    Thanks for sharing your story, Brooke!! 😉
    That was so brave of you, and I admire you for that!
    Beautiful way to let us know what you’ve done…
    Congratulations for the big change of life!

    Hugs! =)

  8. G Says:

    It’s always good to read a story about a gutsy girl that just up and did something and it worked out for the best. Very up-lifting and inspirational. 🙂

  9. Danny Estin Says:

    As Brooke’s proud father, it is my joy to read and watch what this wonderful woman has endured and embraced in her life. She will be one of many in this generation who will make a positive difference in the world. She will always have my support, admiration and love as she actively changes people’s lives with her work, commitment and passion.

  10. Brooke Says:

    WOW!!! I have to say I am blown away by all of your supportive and wonderful comments! As I was writing this I was thinking that I should keep it short or no one will read it. I was also wondering if my story would be of interest to any of you! I posted the blog late last night before I left work around 8pm, and I just woke up to get ready for work and decided to check out my email and I was nearly brought to tears by all your comments!

    I really think that this community is doing something extraordinary. We are creating our OWN community where we can relate to each other’s struggles and truly support each other’s successes. I feel such a strong connection and investment in you girls even though we are sort of strangers! This GBD community is such an inspiration and I look forward to being involved!


  11. taylor nikole Says:

    @ brooke
    well its an amazing story
    and im really not sure what to say,
    because it would almost be the same as others
    but it has sparked a certain interest in topics to talk about (between chris and i). Its kinda cool…
    alot of it is about risks and the potential 🙂

    Oh it is, alot of us have found a home here…
    where we can truly express ourselves and come with problems and receive support and no judgment.
    I love it.

  12. skahahoo Says:

    This post is awesome. Kiva is awesome. I’ve never been to Thailand, but I’ve heard it’s awesome. I did, however, have Thai food today (Pra Ma Muong), and that was awesome. :d

    Thanks for posting your story Brooke! I’m looking forward to reading more about your adventures. 🙂

    Oh, and I agree – GBD is awesome. 😀

  13. Emma-Lu Says:

    @Brooke, That’s such great story, so inspirational.
    It sounds like you put so much energy into your passion in life! That is really cool. I’d love to go to Thailand one day, it’s sounds like such a peaceful, spiritual and beautiful place.
    And you’re right, the GBD community is the best. It’s become a really safe haven for a non-judgmental attitude towards expressing oneself; with a great bunch of really considerate, supportive and caring members.

  14. Ver0nik21 Says:

    This is very inspiring! Brooke!
    I think changes are great! specially the ones that make you grow as a person! sometimes you just need to go out there and face the world!
    you’ll gain so much out of it!
    I tell you from experience too!

    thanx for sharing this!!!

  15. Danny Estin Says:

    As Brooke’s proud father, it is my joy to read and watch what this wonderful woman has endured and embraced in her life. She will be one of many in this generation who will make a positive difference in the world. She will always have my support, admiration and love as she actively changes people’s lives with her work, commitment and passion.

  16. Ashley Says:

    Congrats!! Sounds like you’re getting to where you wanna be.

  17. Kailin Says:


    “No guts, no glory,” is my motto. Congrats on realizing you were in a rut and had to move on. And what a BOLD move it was! From San Francisco to Thailand and then around the world.

    I love that your organizations are not just social organizations, but they offer budding enterpreneurs the opportunities we take for granted in the U.S.

    I visited Thailand when I was 21, and it changed my life, too. I was there with a group of American college students and we visited Thai colleges and orphanages. One orphanage in particular pulled at my heartstrings…the orphanage where deformed babies were abandoned and left to die. It was run by nuns and they basically didn’t have enough of anything…nurture, food, toys, hugs. My visit consisted of going around, hugging, holding, and talking to the babies. Of course that was how much I could do at the time. Afterwards, I went home and started a simple Toy for the Thai Orphanage drive at my local church, collected toys for the holiday, and mailed it over to the orphanage. It was a simple drive, but doable, and I encouraged children to participate by donating their old toys with a letter to the orphans.

    I think what Brooke has done with her life is extraordinary. She is definitely an inspiration, and for those of us who cannot make a BOLD move like hers, there are little ways to still help out in the world, such as starting your own toy drive, donating to legitimate well-organized charities, or volunteering your time at a homeless shelter or battered women’s shelter (I have done both, and it is definitely something that will open your hearts.)

    Brooke – you’ve come a long way, baby, and wow, you’ve inspired me!

  18. Brooke Says:

    Hi Kailin,

    Wow, thank you so much for sharing your story! I think that it is great that you were able to point out that each woman will have her own journey and while we wont all look a like or make the same moves, it’s important to know that we are the captains of our own lives. Every little bit counts towards your own journey. After all, how you spend your days is how you spend your life.

    This is a short synopsis of a very emotional and rough journey that I had to take in order to get here, so please don’t be fooled by the ease of it! This was my first post so I wasn’t quite sure how much I should share or what the community’s response would be. But trust me, it was no walk in the park!

    Discovering yourself and really LEARNING to know yourself is tough, but once you understand yourself and what you need to be happy, the world is so much more beautiful and alive.

    I really love being a part of this GBD community and look forward to all the discussions we will have!

  19. Kailin Says:


    Thanks for pointing out that every girl/woman need to follow their own paths toward self-discovery. I know this must have been hard for you to open up to the world on this blog about your very personal journey. But because you have, you will inspire others to have the courage to embark on their own journey.

    I agree…once you’ve discovered who you are and what your purpose in life is, you feel so much more alive.

    I just want to encourage girls who are not yet ready to take such a leap because of their age (still in high school) or because they are simply not ready…to take small doable steps toward helping the world around them.

    I certainly believe your journey was very rough and emotional…of course maybe we can hear more of it in detail in the future?

    I love being part of the GBD community, too, and sharing my views just like everyone else here. Thanks!

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