The most fun part of my work is traveling to visit nonprofit organizations to see how I can help. Earlier this year, I visited Neutral Zone, a youth-driven teen center in Ann Arbor; Camp Tall Tree, a summer camp for children with Autism and their siblings; and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle. These organizations are three great examples of how grant funding changes lives.
I learned about youth-led spaces on my visit to Neutral Zone. These kids are amazing! They write and record music at their own recording studio, publish their own books, and book and promote bands at their all-ages concert venue. After talking with Neutral Zone staff, I was asked to assist with a business plan for a new revenue generating project. I really enjoy working with this incredible organization that supports youth in Washtenaw County and highly recommend scheduling a tour if you are in the area. It’s the type of place that makes you feel like a kid again and it can be booked for events.
I enjoyed my visit to Camp Tall Tree in Fenton, Michigan, last summer, and look forward to working with Chasing Summer on their grant strategy. In addition to the camp and a transition-to-adulthood program for older teens and young adults, Chasing Summer also offers professional development opportunities for organizations who would like to implement inclusive programming to increase access for people with autism and 22q deletion syndrome. I highly recommend contacting them to find out how you can increase diversity and inclusion in your programs.
Campers enjoying a handful of the wide variety of activities offered at Camp Tall Tree.
My trip to Seattle was action packed, with highlights including the Museum of Pop Culture, exploring the Fremont neighborhood, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. I knew I would leave the Gates Foundation feeling inspired and I was right. Sometimes the world can get even the most idealistic optimists down and it was uplifting to know that there are people who have made it to the age that Bill and Melinda Gates have who still feel a sense of hope and optimism that we can change the world. They are my kindred spirits, sharing my same belief that all lives have equal value.
A tour through the Gates Foundation reflected the values I adopted as a Peace Corps Volunteer, of service to humanity and real impact. Sometimes it may seem that we have only impacted one person, when in fact, we have impacted many. One young woman inspired to pursue an education may lead to many returns as she passes on those values to her children, her children’s children, and her community. The next time you do a good deed, however simple or small it may seem, think about the ripple effect it may have.
Bill and Melinda Gates call themselves “impatient optimists”. It’s about impact and they understand the importance of providing evidence of impact with data.
Inspirational quote on the wall at Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
I left with a renewed sense of optimism and passion to leave the world in better condition than I found it. We can all learn from the example set by Bill and Melinda Gates and others like them. I encourage you to explore their website and remember that it is about your mission and the population you support, so don’t forget to measure your impact!