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susan35

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EXPANDING LIVES
May 20, 2010

My first year with Expanding Lives was truly one of the most profound experiences of my nineteen short years on this planet. I hadn't planned to become so involved with the organization: I knew the teachers who founded it, and I was a high school graduate with a car. I offered to help drive around the three Nigerien women, excited to interact with people my age from a culture that was so foreign to me. What I did not expect was the way my involvement with EL would change my view of the world simply by reteaching me everything I thought I already knew: that we are all created equal; that one person CAN choose to make a difference; and that despite our differences in ideas, beliefs, values, clothes, languages, customs, etc., our humanity unfailingly links us all together. EL is such a special organization because it is so personalized. Everyone involved in the program gets to be inspired by the Nigerien women and by each other. Throughout my two summers with EL I have bonded with the girls over both American and West African music, laughed through multiple card games, listened to and participated in discussions about leadership and conflict resolution, admired their courage as they stretched into daunting yoga poses, enjoyed their cooking and learned their eating practices, admired their physical strength while losing at arm wrestling, and been humbled by their personal strength in the face of the hardships they have endured. The young women were more engaged in their studies here than me or any of my classmates have ever been. They learned how to use computers, speak English, take care of their bodies, and so much more. And what's even more exciting is the fact that they are now at home actively sharing that knowledge with their communities. This is how change happens. I have watched as more teenagers like me have gotten involved with EL and had the same life-altering experience that I had. Each year, EL continues to grow and touch new lives, creating a beautiful community of people that stretches across the continents. Two years ago, I knew nothing about Niger. Now I can say I have friends there.

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I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

the impact it has had on my life and the lives of everyone it touches.

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The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

the most inspirational people I have ever had the privilege to meet.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

change the world.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About once a year

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2009

MY ROLE:
Volunteer & I helped with transportation and participated in a variety of cultural activities with the young Nigerien women.