When we listen to our dysfunctional congress and our eyes glaze over from the nightly news, it’s time to remind ourselves of Margaret Mead’s famous quote:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Our last column on Inequality: a Global Problem highlighted the work being done by four individuals who have chosen to use their financial resources and positions of influence to change the world. The famed anthropologist, Dr. Margaret Mead implies we can do that too.
No, she did not mean that a small group could solve every problem in the world. But a small group can do enough to change the world for whatever number of people are affected by the problem the group chooses to tackle. And as so often happens, groups changing the world have come into existence because one person saw a need and figured out how to tackle it without the benefit of substantial financial resources or positions of significant influence. It’s as simple and as wonderful as that.
The following vignettes are examples of what a small, committed group of people can do.
The San Lucas Toliman Scholars Program in Guatemala was started by Dennis Evans around the year 2000. Evans, who had both taught and served as a principal in Guatemala, was frustrated with the government for failing to provide free education beyond the sixth grade. It hurt him to see good students quit school because their families couldn’t pay their tuition, so when he received some funds from a group in Wales to help local children, he used it to send a few needy students to junior high school. In 2004 he was joined in that work by a small group of people from St. Paul, Minnesota who wanted to help him grow the program. Today the SLT Scholars is a registered non-profit with over 800 children currently continuing their education at a cost of $250 a year for their sponsors.
Neither Dennis, the Program Director, or the Executive Director in Minnesota, or any of the board members receives a dime for their efforts. Between them, they also support a large number of students.
The program’s administrative costs in 2014 totaled a mere $139. To be accepted into the scholarship program the children have to test in the top 20% of their class and be recommended by their sixth grade teachers. The photo above lists the honor students in each junior high and high school class and those highlighted in yellow are the scholarship students who are highly motivated to succeed.
Skip1.org was started by Shelene Bryan of Los Angeles after a guest confronted her about the pictures of 2 African children on her refrigerator saying, “How do you know that those kids are even real?” Shelene’s fascinating story in the May 2015 issue of Guideposts follows her journey from that question to Africa and the children in the photos and how what she found changed her life and her family’s as well as the lives of countless others around the globe. Now through Skip1.org, which she and her husband Brice started over 11 years ago, she invites all of us to skip a meal, a pair of shoes, or an unnecessary luxury and donate that money to one of the many small projects the organization funds. They are changing lives by sending beds and mosquito nets, building wells to provide clean water sources and planting crops to help hungry children survive.
Instead of adding a third vignette, I’d like to know what you are doing to change the world. Please email me care of [email protected] and tell me in a few paragraphs about the small group of thoughtful, committed people you are working with and exactly what it is you are doing to change the world. I’d also like to know if you started the group yourself and, if not, how and where you found out about it and about the impact your efforts have had on your life.
Thanks for caring.