Archive for the ‘Empowerment’ Category

From Desperation to Inspiration- A Personal Reflection

November 18, 2008

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!