How To Be a Fashionable Do-Gooder

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If you know my story at all then you probably know that Sseko Designs founder Liz Forkin Bohannon is pretty much my Changemaker hero. But if you don’t, here’s the 4-1-1:

So way back in October 2012, I was fortunate enough to be invited to a small women’s leadership lecture at Coastal Carolina University. The lecture was given by a young woman, Liz Forkin Bohannon, who is the founder and CEO of Sseko Designs. Sseko Designs is a footwear and accessory company that provides scholarship and job opportunities to young Ugandan women during the 9 month gap period in which they raise money for university cost. Liz and Sseko completely changed my life. Liz taught me about reaching outside of your comfort zone, embracing the awkwardness and failure that life can leave on your doormat, and welcoming all that lies ahead–good or bad. After the lecture, I became consumed by human rights, particularly women’s rights and education equality. That lecture led me to founding this blog, and then to founding my organization, and now to my gap year with Thinking Beyond Borders. 

And once again, Liz and Sseko are helping change my life. We’re two weeks in to fundraising, and I have raised $3,600 for my global gap year! Now, Liz has agreed to help. Up until May 6, if you use the code “MattieAdventures” at checkout, 50% of your purchase will go to funding my gap year! How amazing is that? Now you can be the fashionable do-gooder you’ve always wanted to be.

Invest fashionably in a life dedicated to human rights and empowerment. Shop Sseko Designs!

Want to donate directly to my fundraiser? Go to: http://igg.me/at/TBBempower/x/6680532.

Empowering Beyond Borders–Because You’re Worth Your Dreams

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Sitting next to me is a mason jar housing a few remaining Hershey’s Kisses and Charleston Chews. One of my best friends inscribed “Happy Pills: Take as Needed–Unlimited Refills” on an attached label and prescribed them to me a couple months back. I’d like to say it’s the last vestige from that rough patch, but I’d be lying (and that’s a general no-no in the blogging community.)

You see, back in late January-early February, I received rejection letters from both my childhood dream school and one of my back-up colleges. To say it was a tough blow would be an understatement. Any semblance of self-worth went flying out the window–along with “the thing with feathers.” Where I was once fearless and optimistic, I became scared and cautious. I no longer knew how to have faith in the future–something I once held so dear. But, I was still waiting on three more letters. The old me would have spent the months of waiting consumed by day dreams of What Could Be. The new me built an army in my mind to fight off any thought of the best case scenarios. I refused to wear my coveted Brown sweatshirt, and I ran from any conversation about college (which were unfortunately frequent).

Then the fateful day came. I opened up my web browsers, and to my surprise, discovered I had been wait-listed at both Brown and Princeton. Remember that self-worth that shot out the window before? Well it came flying back in, eager to bask in the pride and joy. For the first time in a long while, I beamed. I beamed because I believed in the possibility of the future again.

But, what I have come to notice lately, is that outside influencers only offer temporary self-validation. No college can prove to me my worth. That is something I am going to have to figure out for myself. I have been evaluating these past few months lately, and I still wonder if I’ll ever be the girl I used to be before everything happened. Especially on days like today, when I am afraid of what lies ahead, I try to be that girl. But what I am slowly realizing is that not only can I never be that girl again, it’s okay that I can’t be her. Who I am now is who I am supposed to be. I have a greater self-worth than ever before, and it’s not reliant on anyone or anything other than myself. And maybe this fear I am feeling is just because I finally understand what is at stake here. Maybe my dreams are just bigger than ever before. And how grand is that? To know that your dreams are so big they scare you? I think that means you’re starting to truly live.

So what’s my fear you ask? Well, I have been invited to participate in the global gap year program Thinking Beyond Borders next year! This means that hopefully this September I’ll venture with 18 other students to Ecuador, Cambodia, India and several other countries for nine months to study global development issues. Basically it’s an educational year full of training for exactly what I want to do with my life (an international journalist–read: Nick Kristof/Sheryl WuDunn). Our year will consist of living with host families, fieldwork with local experts, academic study, language learning, and independent travel opportunities. Unfortunately, it does cost money. The total cost is about $30,000, but Thinking Beyond Borders has agreed that for every $1 I raise, they’ll raise $2! This means I need to raise $10,000 to experience this global gap year.

Understand my fear now? There are some nights that I am gripped by the panic of not reaching my fundraising goal. Then there are other nights where I think of how important this gap year is to me, how much it can teach me, and the incomparable lessons I will learn, and my optimistic soul says there’s no way the universe could take that away from me. But somewhere in the middle there’s a voice of reason, reminding me that I am going to do everything in my power to raise this money. And, after all, that is all I can ask of myself.

Last night I launched my online fundraiser: http://igg.me/at/TBBempower/x/6680532. I have 60 days to raise this money through the site (and then I have until July 1st to commit to TBB). I will host fundraisers, a letter writing campaign, a video campaign, apply for scholarships, and so much more. Yet, even with all that said, the fear still haunts me. It was especially prevalent today as my anxiety was high due to the recent fundraiser launch. I eventually calmed myself down by repeating, You are worthy of your dreams.” Because at the end of the day, I think that’s where fear of failure lies–in the belief that we are somehow not worthy enough for our dreams.

I have news for you (and for myself): if your dreams are big enough to scare you, you’re plenty worthy of them. It takes courage to dream big; to put your heart and soul on such a breakable limb; to look the unknown dead in the eye and continue walking forward. You see, fearlessness is not the absence of fear. It’s having the courage to keep dreaming even after you’ve been rejected. Look, I may not ever be the girl who never allowed the idea of the worst case scenario to haunt her again, but I am the girl who believes in the best case scenario, even with the worst case in mind. And that’s just as fearless.

To donate or understand the trip in full detail, please go to: http://igg.me/at/TBBempower/x/6680532