One year ago from now, I was getting ready to go back to school to start the second semester of my junior year. One year ago from now, I was also getting ready to have my first conference call with Hands Along the Nile to tell them my ideas about this project and ask for their support as an established nonprofit organization in making my dream come true. And now, one year and $29,000 later, here I am. Almost ready to send the order for the laptops I have been working with for almost three years. I honestly cannot believe how far this project has come.
After that first conference call, I was probably the happiest person on the face of the earth. I was so excited to have the support of Hands Along the Nile in a project I could not have done by myself. Now looking back, I literally cannot imagine where I would be had it not been for the help of Hands Along the Nile. Had I not taken that first step to reach out to Hands Along the Nile and present my seemingly crazy idea to them in the hopes of gaining their support, I wouldn’t be anywhere. This is the first lesson I learned from 2012: to ask for help when you need it, even if that means stepping way outside of your comfort zone, and maybe even sounding absolutely crazy.
That conference call in January became the first of many, many calls (and also emails) since then. After preparing how to present the idea, contacting the schools in Egypt, and writing some initial proposals for grants, suddenly we were ready to start raising money in early May of 2012. At that point, I knew that a busy summer of blogging and speaking and fundraising lay ahead of me, so I set to work by speaking first in front of my school’s faculty, presenting them with the idea in order for me to practice giving a speech in front of an audience I knew would accept me. And the faculty at Columbus School for Girls did just that. They not only accepted me, but they gave me advice and set me up with organizations that they had already been connected to in order to help me make my dream come true. This is where I learned my second lesson of 2012: use the people who are already active in your life in order to make new connections and form new relationships with others.
Summer of 2012 was probably the busiest summer yet. I maintained a steady summer job, worked on Laptops for Egypt, attended a camp at Ohio State University, and got ready to apply to college. I spoke at a few local organizations and learned how to blog (still mastering that concept, actually!). Then, by September, I made my first appearance on TV with Mindy Drayer from NBC4. In October, I gave a TED talk. And now, here I am, having raised almost $30,000 toward a goal I never thought would leave my mind. I know you’ve heard me say this a million times, but here is the third lesson I’ve learned from 2012: don’t underestimate the power of your dreams. Or, as Eleanor Roosevelt would say, “Believe in the beauty of your dreams.”
Overall, I have to say that 2012 was probably one of the most influential years of my life. I learned a lot from 2012; in fact I’ve learned more from 2012 than I’ve ever learned in one year. But 2012 was also not an easy year by any means. Many times, it was a year of stress, of tears, of frustration, and of pain. Yet through the hardships of 2012, God has brought much sunshine, because we all know that weeping can only last for the night since joy always comes in the morning. The lessons I have learned from 2012 have shaped who I am today. I hope that during 2013, I can approach each new day with each new challenge with an open mind and an open heart as I know that no matter the size of the dream you dream, with lots of hard work and even a little faith, anything can happen. Anything. The most important thing is to keep going and to not give up. Ever.
Happy New Year! May your new year be filled with joy and peace, and may the lessons you learned in 2012 carry you through 2013. Please continue to keep this project in your thoughts and prayers as we reach the final steps toward getting these laptops to Egypt in a matter of a few months.