by Matt Robertson
In 2008, at the age of 17, I traveled with a group of other teens to Zambia and South Africa on a philanthropy-oriented trip organized by YouthGive. We went to look at how microfinance, a method of lending small amounts of money to people so they can start a livelihood for themselves, could help address poverty in the region. The trip also was designed to help us learn about current solutions for problems like Malaria and HIV, and to broaden our perspective by visiting a completely different culture. We wanted to better understand how to help resolve many current global issues by pooling our knowledge and connecting under shared goals.
The first thing that struck me when we arrived was how badly people needed basic things that I took for granted back home, like a good school to go to and clean drinking water. I learned that an almost unimaginable number of people lacked access to these most basic things. I learned about many of these problems in school, but always assumed that other people would solve them. On my trip, I realized two important things: (1) I could offer the resources in my life to help those less fortunate than myself and (2) it doesn't take much to make a difference.
After I came home, I realized how much potential for positive change there is. We made short videos to help educate our peers about what we learned on our trip and to show them how our generation can help. You can see my video on clean water here.
I am a co-trustee of a family fund called the One Earth One Spirit Foundation, which supports projects and people that help alleviate some of these pressing problems. After my trip I began to get more involved with the organizations we support. Last year I volunteered with the Cambodian Children's Fund, and wrote about my experiences in the Huffington Post.
My trip to Africa was an amazing experience that has influenced how I now live my life.
Matt Robertson is a contributing writer for YouthGive.