This past week, I attended a screening of the documentary, Girl Rising. Focusing on the beneficial consequences of educating girls, the film tells the stories of seven girls in developing countries around the world. Some are in school and see themselves continuing their education; others are already married at the age of 11 years old, illiterate and trapped into a life no freer than the women who came before them. As a young woman who was given every opportunity possible to have the finest education my family could find, I have always been deeply grateful that my parents valued learning above all else. That gratitude has been a driving force behind my desire to work with others, whether it is by mentoring, teaching, or making someone a meal, as I believe that the best way for me to honor this gift of education is to give it back to my community and to those who do not have such opportunities as I have had. Perhaps it is the only way I will ever be able to repay such an enormous debt for the life I have been afforded.
From its beginning roots, I have always wanted Sustainable Shanti to have a greater purpose than to simply be a business, confined to the traditional structures that exist in the commercial world. Everywhere I look I see so much suffering in our world today, both human suffering and environmental suffering, and I feel compelled to change it even if in some small way. I dream of one day running a company that supports small family farmers who grow crops sustainably, a company that gives back to its community by volunteering and by offering grant programs for other women entrepreneurs so that they can make a difference in other peoples’ lives. Business as usual, for me, must be business that puts people and the planet’s health before off-the-charts profit.
Without a doubt, it is important to dream, but in many ways, it is more valuable to act upon those ideas, regardless of how small the steps may be. Grandiose dreams drive us to strive for something more, to create the change we wish to see in the world, as Ghandhi once taught. Actions, no matter how seemingly minute, bring us eventually to those changes. Watching Girl Rising stirred something within me to act. I can sit and plan how Sustainable Shanti will evolve, hopefully changing the world around it at the same time, and while I can’t help with as much of an impact as I dream of one day having, it doesn’t mean that I can’t begin now.
Starting today, this company, founded with a dedication to benefiting people and planet, will do just that. I have created a Sustainable Shanti lending team on Kiva.org, a non-profit that gives each of us the opportunity to help another human being, no matter how small the donation. I am asking you to actively join me in this effort. Maybe right now I can’t afford to build a school for young girls, creating a safe space in which to learn and to grow. Perhaps today I can only buy school supplies for one young girl, but perhaps it will be those pencils and pieces of paper, those supplies which we so easily obtain here in the developed world, that will change her life by giving her the tools to learn to read and write. Perhaps one day, through her literacy, that young girl will change her family, her village and her country. She will, without a doubt, change her life and that of her children.
Consider this your call to stand up for the change you want to see. Consider it the beginning of an answer to a deeply-seated desire, a yearning you have felt stirring within you your entire life: the wish to help someone else, to make another human being’s life easier, better, brighter.
We can all make a difference and we can all start today. Please join me in creating the world of which we dream.