When a Nonprofit Is Your Friend for Life

Being dedicated to social impact can be a life-long pursuit and passion. Do you have a personal story of when a nonprofit became your friend for life?

My friend for life, AMIGOS, taught me that if you open yourself to discovering other cultures and the way people live in other places, you will build bridges that make the world a better place for all to thrive.

How did we meet? The power of word of mouth

In the Spring of 1987, on the campus of UC Berkeley, I found myself sitting in the Study Abroad office going through piles of pamphlets and flyers of “Summer Abroad” experiences. As a 21 year old self-supporting college student,  I wanted to do something adventurous and meaningful over summer break while improving my Spanish skills.

None of the flyers or pamphlets were compelling. Uninspired… I asked friends what they have done during the summer, particularly a friend who was studying Spanish. He urged me to check out Amigos de las Americas and I was thrilled to find their program was a perfect fit. The program entailed spending 6-8 weeks in a rural community in 1 of 8 different Latin American countries.

How did we become friends? Sometimes it takes a village

Before the internet (when dinosaurs roamed the earth), college students had to make a phone call and request an information packet be snailmailed in order to apply. After receiving my application, I was shocked to learn the program cost $2500!

Keep in mind, at that time, $2500 was the same amount as tuition for a semester of college. At first, I didn’t see how I could apply for the program and pay for the next year’s tuition because I would also lose that income from not working all summer.

AMIGOS was there to help, by providing a fundraising letter template. I sent an appeal letter to family members and family friends, a total of 25 appeals and waited. Generously, donations began to arrive as $100 came in, $50 came in, $25 came in…

I waited to deposit the checks, so I could return the donations in the event I didn’t meet the fundraising goal. With just a few days before the application payment was due, I was still short $500. Then, one more check arrived, exactly $500 from my Great Aunt Harriet.  Aunt Harriet, then retired, had served as the Dean of Randolph Macon College in Virginia for decades.  The note included with her check said,  “the best investment in education is seeing the world.”

I spent 8 weeks in Ecuador that summer which inspired me to pursue a graduate degree in Latin American Studies and embark on a career of working to make a difference in my local community and communities globally.

How did we stay friends? Giving back comes full circle

Twenty-five years after that summer in Ecuador, I was Chair of the Board of Directors of AMIGOS. I wanted to continue my commitment to creating opportunities for other students to change themselves…and help change the world.

What’s Your Story?

Do you have a nonprofit friend for life? I want to hear from you! Share your story in the comments below or contact me. Part of my mission at Vista Global Coaching & Consulting is to help leaders make a difference in the world. Share your story so we can inspire others to do the same!