THE BLOG

Why Colgate's Day of Impact Matters

03/20/2015 02:48 pm ET | Updated May 20, 2015

The first thing you'd learn on a tour of Colgate University is that our school was founded by 13 men with 13 dollars and 13 prayers. Colgate loves the number 13 and celebrates Colgate Day on every Friday the 13th. Last Friday, the Colgate community decided to celebrate with our first Colgate Day of Impact. Over 1,600 people -- including around 700 students -- signed up to make an impact together in different ways.

My definition of impact is solidarity. It's not for a spotlight, a salary, or even to feel good: it's about being an ally, shifting your priorities away from yourself, and helping others who want your help, simply because you can.

In order to explain how I try to make an impact, I first have to introduce you to a woman named Haushala Zimba. In 2008, at age 22, Haushala discovered an abusive orphanage and rescued all of its 14 children overnight. She founded Life Vision Academy (LVA), a progressive boarding school and safe home for these kids, and an NGO to fund it, called Children and Youth First (CYF).

Haushala changed my life last spring, while I was living in Nepal to study education and human rights. When Haushala brought me to LVA, the students' self-confidence captivated me. Her school teaches critical thinking, creativity and self-expression through arts, and the deconstruction of gender roles. It's grown to 34 children, aged three to 16. They've triumphed over abuse, homelessness, broken families and civil war to become young leaders. Their potential is high, but their funding is low; they want to build a safe, sustainable, new Nepal, but first they need to build a safe, sustainable, new facility. This is where I come in.

To bring resources, funding, and attention to Life Vision Academy, Haushala asked me to launch and lead a CYF team in the US. We now span from upstate New York to NYC, DC and Florida. We've helped fund the school's operational costs and extended the reach of CYF's women's cooperative by building a stateside online store, haushala.com. My focus now is the capital campaign to build LVA's self-designed dream facility, which will allow the school to finally escape their treacherous rent charges and to open their doors to 200 students.

I work on this project as a full-time job alongside my senior undergraduate work at Colgate, where our entrepreneurship institute Thought Into Action has helped immeasurably. It's very important to me that CYF is locally-founded and locally-led; I find it extremely problematic when uninvited Westerners import their plans and values into other countries to "help." It's also crucial that we operate in a rights-based framework: fighting with youth for their right to learn, not marketing their education in the name of economic development.

On this weekend of impact, the Colgate community decided to make an impact by allying with CYF's mission. Alums organized a Colgate Day of Impact Hackathon in New York City featuring the organization. On Saturday, nearly 50 Colgate alumni, students, faculty and parents pooled their programming, marketing, and business experiences to create innovative ways of boosting up CYF. This included a new web platform to give LVA an interactive donor experience, which will go live later this month at Lifevisionacademy.org.

This is solidarity! Impact isn't easily quantifiable, but Saturday showed it's easy to make it add up.

Even though Colgate Day has passed, it's never too late to hold your own day of impact. How will you make yours?