Katie Meyler wrote the above poem after Abigail, a 11 year-old girl she met in Liberia's impoverished West Point region, went missing.
Meyler, founder of the nonprofit organization More Than Me (MTM), first met Abigail about two years after MTM was founded. During that time, Abigail and Meyler had formed a close relationship after Abigail mentioned that she was involved in sex work "because [she] didn't have any water." When she went missing, Meyler feared that Abigail had been trafficked.
Abigail was found 3 months later, but the sentiment expressed in her poem holds true as the foundational mantra behind MTM -- that every girl in Liberia deserves an education. MTM believes that empowering and educating Liberian girls is the single most powerful way to effect social change that will transform Liberia's future for the better.
Born into a family relying on government assistance, Meyler never imagined she'd one day be a TIME Person of the Year or be invited to speak at prestigious conferences like the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit, which will be hosted in Boston from October 16 - 19.
Indeed, she was just a working-class girl whose only light in her life was helping others. When she studied abroad in a developing country for the first time, she realized that -- despite being labeled "poor" as a child -- in a global context, she was actually one of the richest people in the world.
More Than Me represents Meyler's conviction to do something about it.
The seeds of MTM were planted when Meyler, in one of her first jobs out of college, was running an adult literacy program in a Liberian village called Koyah. As she talked more and more with the local children, she realized how inadequate their schooling was.
"Where I live, a kid's biggest dream is being an astronaut," Meyler explains. "Where these kids live, their biggest dream was just to go to school."
Meyler didn't know how to start her own nonprofit organization. She didn't know how to host a fundraiser. But she did know one thing: she was going to spread these children's stories, no matter what.
So she connected with her friends and family and used the uniting power of social media to inspire people to help pay for these children's school fees. Eventually, she gained traction: first, a local newspaper wrote about her; later, a wealthy couple in her town hosted a barbecue that raised $40,000 for her cause; finally, a friend helped her through the paperwork to establish MTM as an official organization.
As time goes on, MTM's successes have increased exponentially. In 2012, for instance, the company received a $1M grant as a part of Chase's Giving Awards.
But as Meyler's successes have multiplied, so too have her challenges. When the ebola epidemic hit Liberia, MTM was faced with a plethora of harrowing new challenges.
Meyler, however, didn't let this stop her. In fact, she only became more tenacious in her determination to achieve her organization's mission.
"The only way to ensure that ebola never takes another devastating toll on human life is to rebuild Liberia's infrastructures, and this starts with education," Meyler says. "With the strong foundation of a good education, Liberians will be prepared to lead their country through any emergency and have the capacity needed to revitalize their country within this generation."
Nowadays, MTM's vision becomes more tangible each day. The More Than Me Academy, a tuition-free K-6 girls' school in Monrovia (Liberia's capital city), is among the top-performing schools in the country -- both in terms of academic fields like math and literacy, but also in terms of students' self-reported levels of hope and happiness.
Indeed, Meyler and MTM have come a long way: what started as one woman's plea to help pay for a few children's school fees has blossomed into a fully-fledged nonprofit organization that provides education and basic healthcare and social services to hundreds of girls in Liberia.
And Meyler did it all without cutting-edge technology, prestigious degrees, or millions of dollars to her name.
As Meyler puts it, "The people that change this planet for the better are no different from you and me."
Meyler's message to others? Stop waiting for others to solve the world's problems. "Too often, we wait for people to solve our problems, thinking that MIT or Silicon Valley is going to save us," Meyler explains. "But really, ordinary people are the changemakers. We are the ones who can change what we don't like in the world."
Meyler's success wasn't magic. It wasn't a coincidence. Rather, she found something in the world that mattered to her, and fought relentlessly for it.
As Meyler says, "The world is bigger than just you -- and you can do the impossible too. Go do the thing that everyone else says can't be done."