In our twenties, we realize the cost of basic life, and, sometimes, it’s a rude awakening. Mom and Dad aren’t buying the paper towels and toilet paper anymore, and we realize that life is…expensive. But we also become grateful for having the opportunity to have our basic needs met, especially since so many people around the world don’t have the same luxury. Developing countries are filled with “lack” – lack of water, sustainable food systems, and adequate resources to provide for everyone. Although monthly bills can be a stressor, our twenties are a time when we start to realize just how lucky we truly are.
This attitude of gratitude pushes many twentysomethings towards giving back to others. Many of us find our calling to help those in need with a cause we find near and dear to our hearts, whether it be hunger, poverty, child welfare, etc. Trevor, 23, is one of those twentysomethings and he decided to improve the education of not only those in his community, but for people around the world.
Two years ago, Trevor started TeachTwice, a social venture that educates children and their communities through stories and the exchange of culture. The concept is simple – a single book, written by authors from a developing country, provides parents in the global marketplace stories to read to their children, and gives financial support to schools in the country where the book originated. “I really believe education drives the economy which drives development,” Trevor says.
With a team of like-minded student volunteers, Trevor began TeachTwice with the mission of improving education systems in developing countries and exposing U.S. students to different cultures. They have already published two books, from Uganda and South Africa. And they hope to be a model to other nonprofits worldwide.
Through his work with TeachTwice, Trevor hopes to demonstrate to other organizations how to be more business savvy and sustainable. He stands behind the belief that even when TeachTwice is not making a lot of money, they are still accomplishing great things with their business model by employing writers and illustrators who are making an impact on the industry, economy, and education of their country.
Trevor and the team have recently realized the importance of distribution channels in order to reach as many markets as possible. They are currently selling books domestically and using any profit to integrate the books into the education systems of the originating countries. Right now, they are exploring the many ways to sell books in America, despite a dying publishing industry, through online book space like Amazon to physical space like local bookstores, schools, and libraries.
And their hard work is paying off. TeachTwice has been featured on the local news, they’ve signed a significant contract for distribution, and have formed a partnership with Nashville’s Public Library system.
Since graduating in 2012, Trevor, looking for not only a steady income but also a way to continue doing what he cared about, turned down a consulting job for a part-time opportunity to work with the Vanderbilt Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery. This job allowed him to work with TeachTwice as much as he needed. The Center, knowing Trevor, “really understood TeachTwice and supported it,” he explained, and they let him work as many or few hours as he needed to in order to continue to support his organization.
As fate would have it, Trevor’s work at the Vanderbilt Center led him down another career path. He realized the importance of what the Center was doing – creating drugs and making huge strides forward in medicine for diseases such as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and Schizophrenia. After being inspired by this work, he felt like he could add more value to the Center by giving them his marketing and business skills he gained through leading TeachTwice. Since most of the employees are researchers, they had not put the time into thinking about how to market themselves and become more business savvy. Trevor pitched himself for a new Business and Marketing position – and the Director created it for him.
One of Trevor’s favorite one-liners to give when people ask for advice is, “I think success is in constantly moving forward.” For example, there were months when nothing would happen for TeachTwice, and then ten wonderful things would happen within one week. Trevor believes that if you pursue what you’re passionate about and focus on doing what you love, things will move forward for you.
Let’s say you’re a twentysomething who manages to land a job right after college. Let’s say it’s a good, grown-up type of job; you know, the kind where you don’t have to live in your parent’s basement. And let’s say you really like this job—but (isn’t there always a but?), despite all of that, there’s a tug in your heart to do something more meaningful. This was 26-year-old Britton’s life.
After graduating from Elon University, Britton worked with Red Bull for four years as a field marketing specialist. In those four years, Britton moved to three major cities in three states, got promoted and was exposed to many creative circles.
“It was a crazy, fast ride,” he said about his experience with the company. “They supported youthful thinking and a big idea approach to life. You could really make a name for yourself at a young age.” After all, this was the same brand that sponsored a man diving from space, and its international campaigns target and endorse athletes in extreme sports.
But as great as the gig was, Britton struggled to find a sense of true fulfillment.
“When I was in high school, my identity was wrapped up in sports, but then I got injured, so I turned my focus to sports media and marketing,” he explained. “My friends thought I was going to be the next Sports Center anchor, and I did, too—and that became my identity.”
After accepting the position at Red Bull, Britton became “Britt from Red Bull” to everyone he met, and his identity once again became synonymous to his occupation.
“I found myself longing to do something that made a difference in other people’s lives,” Britton said. Because he didn’t know what that would look like for his future, he began to pray for God’s direction. While the clarity didn’t come immediately, perspective did.
Because Red Bull was such a forward-thinking hub, Britton began to see his time there as a unique training ground for what would eventually come next, even if he wasn’t sure what that would be.
“I was still giving Red Bull one hundred percent, and praying for God’s will for the future,” Britton said.
Six months later, Britton encouraged his friend Blake, who had just launched a non-profit called beremedy, to enter a team in the Red Bull Soapbox Race.
“I thought it would be a fun, creative way to get the organization’s name out there in front of its target audience,” he said.
Blake’s team got accepted and partnered with Atlanta Mission to build a soapbox car. As race day approached, Britton got better aquatinted with Atlanta Mission’s team and purpose. It just so happened that Atlanta’s largest and longest-running provider of services to the homeless had an open media marketing position.
“I had a bit of apprehension at first,” Britton admitted. And while going from Red Bull to a homeless organization didn’t seem like the most logical career move, it became more and more apparent that it was the answer to Britton’s prayers.
Today, Britton is the Media Relations Manager for Atlanta Mission. Looking back, a little over a year later, Britton is thankful for the path his career has taken.
[The interview took a brief pause when a homeless family who is currently being served by Atlanta Mission walked by the coffee shop patio. The kids called out "Hey Britt!" The family approached for a quick visit with their friend Britt. A very cool moment for this interviewer to witness.]
“Even though it’s only been a year, I feel like I’ve gained 10 years of experience and connections,” Britton said. From valuable lessons in grace to connections with a wide array of Atlanta Mission partners, to serving Atlanta’s homeless community, Britton feels beyond blessed for his new role.
When asked to give a piece of advice to his twentysomething peers, Britton warned about the cons of over-involvement and over-committing yourself.
“It seems as though a lot of twentysomethings lack focus when it comes to being involved and serving causes,” Britton explained. “They want to be involved in everything, which only ends up creating subpar involvement and sense of community.”
Britton’s advice to his peers is to focus on serving one (or maybe a few) organizations or causes well.
“The best way to move forward and grow is to build off of a foundation of existing success,” Britton said. “You can’t build a reputation of success when you just dabble in a lot of things.”
Photo credit: Morgan Blake
There are many seemingly simple experiences that can drastically shape the outcome of one’s life. For Ezrah, that moment came during his senior year at the Passion Conference of 2010.
“I was awakened to social justice and how it related to worship and global problems,” says Ezrah about his experience.
Many nonprofits and global ministries had experiential booths at this particular conference, and the one Ezrah encountered, Living Water International, consisted of students carrying five gallon buckets of water for 1/8 of a mile. This demonstration was to help students feel a fraction of what many women around the world feel as they carry buckets approximately four or five miles a day to access clean water.
In the fall, Ezrah began college at Texas A&M and became an environmental studies major. While there, he met Henry, the co-founder of the Wells Project and college outreach advocate for Living Water International.
The Wells Project is a branch of Living Water on Texas A&M’s campus that raises money to build wells around the world through an annual fundraiser called 10 Days. The program picks one region or village to build wells in—last fall, it was Rwanda. For ten days each fall, students pledge to give up coffee, soft drinks, and anything but water, and give the money they would have used for drinks to the 10 Days project to build a well. Ezrah signed up immediately.
“I said to myself, ‘this is what worship is,’” said Ezrah.
Now Ezrah is finishing up his senior year and serves on the Executive Board of the Wells Project. Over the past few years, they’ve raised awareness about global water problems and continue to foster new leaders within their organization every year.
The fundraiser 10 Days has grown from a Texas A&M-only event to a vehicle for college campuses to get involved in solving the water crisis issue. It has now become the advocacy group for Living Water International in colleges around the country. Now, 204 schools are involved, and they have raised over $200,000 in the last three years. This last year alone, they raised $147,760 to provide water for seven communities in the Ruhango district of Rwanda.
Although Ezrah’s heart lies in doing ministry work, Ezrah isn’t sure what the future holds. For now, he’s working hard to continue changing the lives of less fortunate people all over the world, one step at a time. Because even one changed life makes all the difference. And to think where he’d be if he skipped the Passion Conference in 2010?
“Dream big and go for it,” he advises other twentysomethings who aren’t sure of their paths. You never know where you might end up.