One Thousand Dreamers

Yesterday we hit 1,000 ‘likes’ on our Facebook page. To say thank you, our designer Emily Grace Goodrich created this hand-illustrated poster for you. Click on it for the hi-res printable version.
1,000 Dreamers

One thousand dreamers. One thousand people who believe, with us, that each person can dream a better future for herself, for her family, for her community and her world. One thousand people who support the hard work of making dreams come true.

Since we started, the women we partner with in Uganda have sent their children to school, built homes for their families, started businesses. They have realized dreams they once thought impossible.

Today they are envisioning bigger, brighter dreams. Not just escaping poverty, but building success, impact, and legacy. They are transforming their families and improving their communities.

We can all do this. We can all dream a better future and set about building it. And if, one thousand strong, we commit ourselves to building a better world, there is no telling how great a change we might make. Together, our dreams light the future.

Local Visionaries: The Past, Present, and Future of Development

In the summer of 2003 I found myself hiking with a small team through a leech-infested cloud forest in the Himalayas. In big woven baskets carried by Nepali friends were parabolic dish antennas, long-distance radios, solar panels, and a cornucopia of other electronics: strange cargo in a region with no power, no phones, not even roads connecting the scattered mountain villages. But we had a mission. Against all odds we were building the area’s first computer network.


Nepali men not only carried the equipment, they helped construct and continue to maintain the network. Click above for larger image.

This wasn’t my idea. It was the vision of a Nepali man named Mahabir. Hidden behind Mahabir’s quiet nonchalance is a brilliant mind and a tectonic dedication to the wellbeing of his people.

Mahabir is a what I call a local visionary, and I believe he is the key to global development. When I went to Nepal, one of the poorest countries in the world, I had no idea what its people needed or what opportunities existed. But Mahabir knew. He knew because he was raised there. He absorbed all the various nuances of Nepalese culture and society like we absorb our first language. And with great personal sacrifice he pursued a vision for his people that far exceeded what any outsider thought possible. Working for Mahabir’s vision was by far the best thing I could do for Nepal.


Mahabir holding the beginnings of a delicious dinner, with JoAnn, an American volunteer. Click above for larger image.

I think this is true everywhere. The best thing that I can do for Nepal or India or Haiti or Uganda, or for that matter for America, is to find a local visionary and support the work she gives her life to.

This caliber of local visionary is rare. But just one can change her community, her country, even the world. Most great global visionaries are local visionaries. Gandhi, Mandela, King: all were deeply and primarily rooted in the challenges and potentials of their place and people, and by their dedication they each shaped the global story.

Mahabir is one of a small handful of such visionaries that I have been lucky to meet. Sister Rosemary in Uganda is another, working simultaneously to rehabilitate war-affected girls and to recycle Uganda’s waste into socially useful products. Another Ugandan visionary is Abramz Tekya, who inspires hope, direction, and social consciousness in the youth of his country through breakdancing and hip-hop, the same pursuits that, as a young man, saved him from the dangers of the slums. Amani Matabaro, a Congolese visionary, splits his time between working for international non-profits and investing his earnings in community development work for his home village and those surrounding.

Those that I haven’t yet met include Alastair McIntosh in Scotland and Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma (who today reportedly won a seat in Burmese parliament after decades of struggle), among thousands of others.

These remarkable people are the future of their communities and their countries. And they are part of a proud tradition. Local visionaries are not just the future of development, they are its best history, and its most impactful present. Collectively they are building a better world.