I saw a quote a few years ago that perfectly captured my persona as a young girl: “I am convinced that given a nice cape and a tiara, I can save the world.” As a bright-eyed five year-old, I informed my dad that I would travel the world. It started with a TV program about Brazil. It followed typical Brazilian families, many of whom were living in poverty. My mission to travel the world was born of curiosity and a yearning to help people in other countries. I had no understanding of the extent of global poverty, but I knew I was called to serve.
In high school, I pursued my dream of traveling. I developed fluency in Spanish while living with host families in Argentina and Spain. Spending time abroad increased my passion for international service, and I wanted to bring awareness of global issues back to my school. So, I founded the International Club. The club was devoted to spreading cultural awareness. Our greatest accomplishment came during my junior year when we raised $5,000 to support a global AIDS awareness campaign run by a local non-profit.
In college, I became interested in the Arab World. I was perplexed by the events in the region, and I hoped to be of service there. In my junior year, I won a grant to study Arabic in Morocco. While there, I met many Westerners who were involved with aid work. I was inspired to put my language skills to use towards those same ends. However, when I began my job search, I was disappointed to find that Arabic-related jobs were mostly related to counter-terrorism instead of service. After my initial disappointment, I came to an important realization: It was never a particular language or region that had motivated me; it was the desire to be of direct service to others.
I will continue to “think global,” but I want to “act local.” The poverty in Washington, DC can often be just as stark as in the developing world. The cost of living is astronomical, and close to 20% of residents live below the poverty line. Each day I pass men and women asleep on cement stairs or sifting through trash to find something to eat. Of course it is impossible to know why anyone ends up in this position, but it is certainly problematic that education, healthcare, and social services are often inaccessible. Overcoming the lack of services without sufficient resources is insurmountable for many residents. I am committed to engaging in full-time service work in order to be of assistance to residents in need. I understand that service work will require me to work many hours with little financial compensation, and I am ready.
I am now twenty-three, and the five year-old girl who was convinced she could save the world is still alive in me. Along with other committed staff at Bread for the City, I will have the support and resources to make a meaningful impact. I truly believe that there is no better way to “save the world” than to start by serving my fellows.