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Giving Back from an Early Age

Earlier this week, I got the chance to interview Georgie Badiel, a model, philanthropist, and recipient of the 2004 Miss Africa award. The reason I wanted to talk to her is because she has been able to do something amazing: make time to help others by founding a nonprofit organization, despite being young and in the midst of her modeling career. Georgie has taken on the challenge of bringing potable drinking water to Burkina Faso, her homeland in western Africa. In Burkina Faso, 80% of the population does not have access to clean water.

Why is this particular story so important? Because hundreds of peers I have interacted with in the past few years are torn; like Georgie, they want to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems. The roadblock, however, is that being young, we are all under pressure to advance in our careers, take steps in the direction of financial security, and potentially start planning to have a family one day…and as everybody has discovered by now, there is little room to accomplish any of this in the nonprofit sector. There are also virtually no resources or training opportunities available. So, the big dilemma remains in our mind, beginning to eat away at us:

How can I help solve major problems in the world when I have to worry about personal issues, like pursuing my career, supporting a family, etc.?

Luckily, Georgie has an answer. She faced a similar predicament from an early age. Growing up in the poor town of Réo (Burkina Faso, Africa), her grandmother used to wake her up at 6am every day to go fetch water. She hated it, and thought about how to make an improvement. Georgie endlessly swamped her grandmother with questions.

“Why do we have to walk so many miles to get water? Why is it not closer? Why is the water not clear? Where is our water?”

Her grandmother did not know how to explain the situation. She simply responded, “I hope you will understand one day and change it.”

Unfortunately, before Georgie got an opportunity to do so, she fell victim to personal complications (as many of us do). When she was just 14 years old, her father told her that he could no longer afford to pay her school tuition. Georgie had to get creative and find a side job. She hustled and hustled. Eventually, she settled on modeling regionally. She built up some contacts in Burkina Faso (while making money to pay for school), and within two years, she gained enough popularity to win the Miss Africa title. Fashion designers noticed her, and from there, she began a modeling career in France and New York.

In 2009, after jetting around the world, Georgie returned for a visit back home. At the time, her sister was close to nine months pregnant. What stunned Georgie, though, was the discovery that her nine-month pregnant sister woke up between 2am and 4am every day to go collect water. Nothing in the town had changed. Georgie thought back to her childhood desires of wanting to fix the water difficulty in her area. According to her, this is the first part of the answer to our problematic question.

We need to find a cause or topic that we are 100% passionate about. How do we know when we have discovered something we are energetic about? I have found that there are two distinct signs:

1. You will constantly feel like you can do more. When you love a cause or topic, you will never settle, and always think of new ways to do more than you already are.

2. Nobody will have to tell you to work on your cause or nonprofit. For example, if you love playing the piano, nobody will have to force you to practice. You will make time to practice on your own. On the other hand, if you hate something, like history, you will never study it unless someone pushes you to do so.

Armed with her own compelling cause, Georgie dove into fixing the lack of water in underdeveloped African regions. She planned to build wells in various cities, but quickly ran into the big dilemma we all face. Georgie already had a career as a model. There was no money for her to make by exclusively building wells in Africa. So, she again had to get creative. Georgie made modeling a side career (just to ensure she had income) and focused the rest of her time on founding a nonprofit organization that would bring water to Africa. This is the second part of the answer to our question.

We need to find a flexible job on the side to create income, which we can use to support ourselves and also use in our journey to solve the world’s problems (by founding nonprofits, etc.). Eventually, we should also branch out into every single income-generating activity related to our mission. For example, Georgie raised additional money for her nonprofit by working with two authors to create a unique children’s book on water access. She also is in the process of establishing her own for-profit water company. Thus, she is still staying on the general topic of water, but is finding creative ways to make money while simultaneously building up expertise that pertains to her life mission. We should strive to do the same.

Georgie Badiel Foundation

Through these two strategies, Georgie has been able to help solve a major problem in the world. In fact, up to this day, her nonprofit organization staff has built five wells and provided clean drinking water access to more than 25,000 people. She believes it is just as possible for all of us to lend a helping hand to humanity and overcome the fundamental dilemma we discussed earlier. What do you think?

Learn more about Georgie Badiel and her nonprofit organization HERE.

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