Never thought you’d see me in slacks, did you?
Apologies for the cheesy smile. I was coerced.
Wow! Been a while. The clock is always been ticking, though: Two weeks to Zambia!
As they say, no news is good news — still on track, and Zambikes hasn’t faltered or fallen through like Maya Pedal did two weeks before I left for Guatemala. That being said, I wanted to check in and let everybody know how the world is treating me on my vacation-of-sorts.
First off, the extra funding from Guatemala was distributed per the requests of those sponsors — about half went towards the rest of the project (visa expenses, tools, medical insurance), and the rest went towards World Bike Relief. This divide was per the requests of the donors and how much they donated. Nobody asked for a refund.
Second — life. What have I been up to? Have I been volunteering? All this, and more. Tune in Wednesday… today is Wednesday… right:
Most of my time has been spent helping my best friend, Luke S., start his tutoring company. Abamath, LLC opened its doors in Knollwood Mall last Thursday, August 1st. There’s been a lot of work to do, and as one of Luke’s only two employees, I’ve been putting in a lot of hours (including one 21-hour chunk the day before we opened — yes, I’m still catching up on sleep). I’ve done everything from constructing mobile walls, to designing and mounting our storefront sign, to interior decoration, to PR, to… well, the list goes on.
Yup. I had a hand in that.
Despite the fact that I’m working long hours, it did remind me of something. It reminded me that it’s possible to do what you love. I don’t think I had forgotten that, but after everything that happened in Guatemala, a reminder was certainly very nice. I’m really looking forward to Zambia, but at the same time, there’s got to be something after, right?
Excuse me while I get a bit existential.
The most exciting thing I’ve done at Abamath thus far has been implementing a program for low-income students. Fortunately, Luke is a good guy. An education — and especially one in math — is worth a lot of money; all the same, we expect most of our customers to be those with a little extra cash on hand. But not everybody who needs help can afford it. So I convinced Luke that we could have a sustainable program for low-income students. He basically said, “If you make it happen, I’ll allow it.” The next day I had drafted how the program would work and what it would look like. That’s when I realized I was doing something I truly loved.
So, it would seem that whatever the future holds for me, it’s going to be something involving helping people who need it. That sounds awfully idealistic, so excuse me, but those of you who know me know I’m a bit more practical about it than I sound.
As well, a friend of mine sent me a book called Poor Economics. It’s about — you guessed it — how to save the world. Okay, you almost guessed it. It’s a very dense read, but talks about possible changes in the current economic system that could help level the playing field, as far as income goes. The best part is, the authors aren’t afraid to ask hard questions.
Sometimes we tell stories when we should be asking questions. No offense, Fox News…
I think most people want an answer to poverty like, “Let’s just donate some cash and the problem will go away.” Of course, the problem is more complicated than that. Poor Economics asks all those questions, attempts to answer them, then asks even more. The first chapter alone is spent on the merits of donating bed nets to countries with high rates of malaria infection. It asks questions like, “If we give them bed nets for free, will they use them?” “If we give them bed nets for free, will they ever buy them again, or do they expect them to be free from now on?” “If we give them bed nets, will we put local suppliers out of business, and might this eliminate availability of bed nets in the future?” “If offering bed nets not for free but at a discounted rate is the right answer, what rate will see the highest use of the nets, and the highest reuse?” “What is the cost-benefit of spending money to educate people on the benefits of bed nets?”
You get it. Economics is complicated. Anyways, it’s a really good book — albeit really heavy, though necessarily — and I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in the subject. And thanks to Aubrie B. for loaning it to me!
So, I’m not done yet — I haven’t had much time to read with the whole “helping a friend start a business” thing — but it has made me do a lot of thinking about 90:90 and the impact I’m having… or not having. A lot of the questions I had already asked, a lot I hadn’t. Perhaps most significantly, it’s let me know there are other people out there thinking about this sort of thing, and doing this sort of thing. It has, in a weird sort of way, inspired me to continue being a humanitarian.
Anyways, I’ll leave thoughts of the future out for now. They will come in November, once I get back from Zambia and start curing my sunburn. Which reminds me, I should probably go buy some shorts…
Expect an update in about two weeks, just before I leave for Zambia!