Feeding the world because she knows what it is to be starvingCourtesy Rise Against Hunger
The odds were stacked against Edna Ogwangi’s favor from the moment she was born in Kenya. Soon after her arrival into the world, the country entered an extended era of a devastating drought that resulted in widespread starvation. On top of that, to say that “girls were not prioritized to attend school,” as Ogwangi put it, is a polite understatement. Fast forward to a time when things turned around for Ogwangi; she made it to the United States, where she was able to obtain an education, even going as far as to earn her masters in social work. This prepared her to fulfill her life’s calling, which she describes as “returning to her home and literally handing out food to young ones.” After all she had been through in her childhood, all Ogwangi wanted to do with her life was to be physically present for the world’s poor children. Ogwangi is continuing to make this happen through her work as Chief Impact Officer at Rise Against Hunger, an international hunger relief organization that distributes food and provides life-changing aid to the world’s most vulnerable, and has committed to ending world hunger by 2030. As of today, Rise Against Hunger has provided more than 300 million meals to the hungry. In addition, and perhaps most importantly, by reaching out personally to the poor, Ogwangi is able to teach them—and with the empathy of one who has experienced it herself—that through education and perseverance, anyone can be anything they want and make a difference in the world. As Ogwangi likes to say, “Children are not the leaders of tomorrow; rather, they are the leaders of today.” Here are creative ways you can volunteer and make a difference.
Helping kids gain access to the sport he had no access to growing upCourtesy National Winter Activity Center
As a young African-American male growing up in the housing projects of the South Bronx, Schone Malliet never even dreamed of skiing—a sport typically associated with affluence and whiteness. Then in his 20s, he found himself at the top of a ski slope in Park City, Utah, having been “dragged there” by a squadron-mate from the Marine Corps, in which Malliet was doing a seven-year stint that he ultimately parlayed into a college education and also an MBA. Despite his strong athleticism, Malliet experienced what many adults who weren’t exposed to skiing as children: awkwardness, discouragement, embarrassment, and a feeling of not quite belonging. Nevertheless, after Malliet left the Corps for a successful career in business and finance, he gave skiing another shot, and this time, it took hold along with a powerful idea: What if people of color, and especially children of color, had no reason to feel out of place on a ski mountain? Nice idea, but who was going to believe it, right? And who was going to pay for all those kids to get to the mountains, let alone have access to the necessary gear, clothing, and equipment? And who was going to pay for the lessons, because anyone who has skied even once knows that you can’t do it without lessons? Well, fast-forward to 2010, when Malliet, a successful businessman, was finally ready to do something to make it happen. To that end, he co-founded the National Winter Sports Education Foundation whose mission is to encourage teens, especially teens of color, to get over the fear that was once associated with “country clubs of the 50s and 60s” and venture outside their perceived limitations as well as into the fresh white powder. Malliet also founded the National Winter Activity Center in Vernon, New Jersey, the nation’s first 501(c)(3) nonprofit facility/outdoor winter environment dedicated to improving the lives of youth through winter activity. Through its program “Elev8,” the Center provides instruction, healthy meals, equipment, and role model/mentoring. Through partnerships with YMCAs, Boys & Girls Clubs, Schools, and other youth-serving agencies, the Center served more than 1,160 children this past year and expects that number to increase to 2,200 in 2018. “I know that I would not be where I am in life without the guidance I received from those who protected or sheltered me from things that could have gotten in my way growing up. The Center is a culmination of everything I’ve done in my life,” Malliet says. “I’ve invested my heart in this. To be able to run a business and be in the industry I have passion for, while also giving back and actually seeing the excitement and changes in the kids, makes this experience truly mean the world to me.”