By Amelia Erikson
What does it mean to live for something bigger than yourself? Almost everyone has the same response: furrowed brows, quizzical looks, and half smiles followed by the oh-so-original “uhm…” It’s a difficult question and certainly not something people think about every day. What does it mean to live for something bigger than yourself? I sat down and read the responses scribbled on the banner which ranged from a simple smile to changing the world. But for the life of me, I couldn’t come up with my own answer. As a member of More Than Me, I should know, right? But words failed to explain the feeling that accompanies living bigger than yourself. I took 5 Days of Change to really solidify my thoughts and think of a way to put that feeling into words.
Day 1: Hold a door. This is Ithaca – the home to champion door holders from around the world. Everywhere you look there is someone holding a door for someone else so at first this didn’t seem like a huge deal to me. But as I looked around, I realized there is much more to the simple act than just spending an extra second with your arm stretched behind you allowing the next person to come inside. It’s that little smile and the thank you; the nod in recognition and second of connection. If only for a brief moment, you are living for something bigger.
Day 3: Positive Post-it. I saw the whole thing happen. He casually strolled by and dropped a folded origami crane on the table, walking away without explanation. When the girl returned to her seat in the pub, she looked surprised and confused. She picked it up, looked at the wing, and smiled. I don’t know what it said, but I could tell that it made her day. A complete stranger took the time to cheer her up and that’s definitely living for something bigger than yourself.
Each day taught me something different and brought me one step closer to answering the question “What does it mean to live for something bigger than yourself?” What it all comes down to, in my opinion, is inspiration. It seems to have a chain reaction. You can inspire hope, inspire kindness, and most importantly inspire change. No matter the act, small or big, you can live for something bigger than yourself every day.
I became involved with More Than Me after hearing the story of the organization from the founder, Katie Meyler, when she came to speak at Ithaca College in the April 2012. Instantly, I fell in love with More Than Me and its mission of raising funds and awareness for educational scholarships for young girls in Liberia, West Africa. Being a part of the More Than Me family and living the More Than Me lifestyle of living for something bigger than yourself each day has changed my life.
Now, I am the treasurer for the first official college chapter of More Than Me at Ithaca College and it has been such a rewarding experience. I am blown away by all the love and support that people have for this organization at Ithaca and all over the world! I can’t wait to see what the future holds for our girls and for More Than Me.
By member Emma Rizzo
There is something infectious about Katie Meyler. Her smile, her spontaneous dancing, her ability to make everyone feel at ease. She treats everyone as a friend and does not hold back for anyone. What you see is what you get. This woman is a firecracker.
IC More Than Me hosted a presentation and Q&A session by Katie Meyler, the founder of More Than Me, April 22. The event was open to Ithaca College students and the public. Katie gave an inspiring presentation for those in attendance.
Katie began the presentation by singing and dancing as she walked onto the platform. Her down-to-earth disposition became instantly clear. She is so real.
Katie casually talked about her past, the beginning of her passion for helping others and her start with More Than Me. She began working in Liberia fresh out of college and her passion grew stronger.
Her experience with the Liberian people inspired her to start More Than Me and to send these girls, the future of the country, to school.
And her spoken word poetry?
She performed two of her poems and bared her soul for the audience. Her poems were passionate, honest and thought provoking. She spoke about her never-dying passion for this cause and her refusal for anything to stop her. Her words were truly inspirational.
As the presentation came to an end, she thanked Ithaca College for their help in the million dollar contest and reiterated the need to keep going, To keep fighting for these girls to get an education.
Students were then welcomed to ask Katie questions. She discussed the future of the organization as well as her strategies to deal with criticism.
She made it clear that the organization is still learning and growing. She didn’t pretend to know things she did not. She spoke about the organization in terms everyone could understand. Her answers were raw and genuine.
Having met Katie myself and viewing the presentation, I now feel even more inspired by More Than Me. It is an organization that is connected at the most basic level to the girls in Liberia and the Liberian people.
There is no pretending. Katie has had real experiences with the Liberian people and has slept on couches for years to ensure that as much money as possible is going to the girls. She spends half her time in Liberia. She doesn’t have a car. She is a passionate leader of a non-profit organization whose life purpose is to give these girls an education.
I am so grateful that she was able to come.
She reminded us how to love each other, how to live for something bigger than just ourselves and how to keep a joy for life.
Katie Meyler is a firecracker and she isn’t stoping any time soon.
Check out our Storify at http://bit.ly/ICKatieRecap for more event coverage!
I remember the first day I was introduced to More Than Me. I was in a good mood that day. It was one of those last warm November days. My boyfriend and I were getting along so well and I had made some friends I believed would last.
I was still adjusting to the world of college and I think it was one of those days where I actually thought I had it somewhat figured out.
I walked up to this girl whom I vaguely knew from a class we had, and I think we were friends on facebook. She was sitting behind a table and kids were on the other side signing what looked like a petition. It looked new and exciting. I walked up and asked, “so what’s this about?” And she told me.
More Than Me is a nonprofit organization that puts girls in school who are highly subject to child prostitution. She had me won. “Do you need any help?”
Her eyes lit up and holding nothing back, she smiled so big and said, “I’d love some help!”
She explained to me about the contest; if she raised the most amount of money, she would get a chance to go to Liberia and meet the girls whom this organization was saving. We had to win. I was already so fully invested in this project, the name of it alone made me feel like a better person.
More Than Me. It rung through my ears. It made me smile secretly to myself. More Than Me.
We went on a rampage for the next month. More girls jumped on board, and together we got more and more kids to sign their dining hall meal away so that that money could be sent to the girls in Liberia. The more hours I sat with Grace, that’s her name, behind that table, the more I learned about Liberia and Katie Meyler, the founder, and what it means to live for something bigger than yourself.
Suddenly, the weather, the teenage love, the friends, the fourteen meals a week, the micro-fridge, the laptop cell phone ipad, textbook essay 50-page-reading, everything I had once complained about, all seemed like the greatest gifts in the world. I woke up every day during that contest feeling like the luckiest girl in the world. I didn’t know I could be so purely happy.
We won. And for the first time in my life, I believed in faith. I believed that winning really does come to those who want it bad enough.
Later that year, Katie Meyler came to the school to meet the girls who helped win the contest, myself included. Seeing her face, the woman who started it all, was inspiring. She confirmed every single one of my feelings towards this cause.
It’s been a year since then. Grace, Hannah, Carly, and I are all still part of More Than Me. We started an official club on campus and called it IC More Than Me. And just like before, we were in another contest; only this time, the prize wasn’t a trip to Liberia, it was $1 MILLION. I capitalize the million, because even now it baffles me how large a number that is.
We won that one too.
We’re going to build a school with that money. We’re going to give 1,000 more girls an education with that money. We’re going to get them off the streets for good with that money and we’re going to educate the world with that money.
The More Than Me Foundation has since become apart of who I am. I’ve stared at pictures of the girls over and over again and can even put a name to some of the faces. There’s Abigail and Agnes and her friend Morrisline. They’re smiling because they’re getting an education, a meal every day, hope, and a future.
These girls saved me by waking me up and giving me a whole new perspective on life, one that is open to the love of all humanity and that appreciates all I’ve been blessed with. They continue to do so time after time. I’d like to think I’ve saved these girls, too. There’s a bond between us, one I think all women share. We’re all connected in a way; we’re all just trying to survive, and sometimes, you need to ask for a little help. That is what family is for, anyway.
By member Jordan Brady
Wow. So many thoughts come to mind as I reflect on the emotionally invasive knowledge gained from watching the documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell. As an active member of More than Me, I felt that it was important for me to learn more about the people of Liberia, and also more about what went on around the time of their fight for peace; However I had no idea what I was really going to take away from such a moving piece of film. These women are warriors. Every time I see something like this I think there is no way I could be happier or more motivated to be working for a non-profit organization affiliated with such strong people, but once again this experience has overwhelmed me with even more joy and excitement than I knew I could bear.
When war erupted in Liberia, the women were fed up from the start, and knew that there had to be some way they could fight for freedom. It’s not like women can go around carrying a gun, but they did utilize their resources and their own talents to raise awareness and to fight for the freedom them and their families so desperately deserved. In a nutshell this documentary allows us to follow these Liberian women (both Muslim and Christian together) in their many efforts to have their voices be not only heard, but listened to.
An amazing woman named Leymah had a vision of a message from God one night, followed her impulses, and organized the Christian Women’s Initiative, little did she and everyone else know, this would eventually save the lives of thousands of Liberians. She spoke out to the other women, regardless of their own religious backgrounds, inviting them to join and quoting “Can the bullet pick and choose? Does the bullet know Christian from Muslim?” How touching that someone so strong in her own personal faith, chose to be so accepting and to view all the Liberian women as a unity of women, all fighting for the same freedom, all dodging the same bullets.
The quantity of the women that gathered worked to cause enough of a raucous to start up peace talks, and the quality of the hearts in each and everyone one of these women, ultimately worked to end the mass action campaign and rescued Liberia from the down spiral it had been undergoing for two and a half years. Leymah said it best when she stated, “If we didn’t have women from all works of life working together, we would not have made the progress that we did”.
One of the things that tugged on my heart strings the most was the women’s ability to forgive. “How can we move on if we don’t forgive?” This was so eye opening for me, as someone who lives in a first world country and holds grudges against people for the absolute smallest things, that here’s a group of women who spent years boycotting, going hungry, walking miles, singing in the blazing sun, and even making a human wall with their own weak bodies, to fight for peace- and at the end of it all, they are still compassionate enough to forgive the ones behind the guns. They would not have grown without that type of compassion for one another, and this concept has helped me grow as an individual as well.
No matter who you are, whether you are a member of More Than Me or not, I feel that it is important that you take the time to watch this documentary. Although there are parts that were disturbing, and moments I wish I didn’t have to sit through, I had to remind myself that it was the absolute LEAST I could do for the people who had to experience that type of living hell daily. “Activism is the rent I pay for living on this planet”. Their journey is remarkably inspiring and I am privileged and honored to be able to work for More Than Me, and contribute to such amazing acts of improvement for Liberia.
The first time I heard about IC More Than Me I thought, “Wow, this seems pretty cool. Maybe I should check out a meeting.” Little did I know that going to one meeting would change my life in so many ways, and all for the better.
It started off with getting people to sign away their meals so that the money would go to help the girls in Liberia. After that I was tabling with IC More Than Me as often as possible. I became so incredibly inspired by the young men and women I was working with, all of us with the same belief that every girl should have the opportunity for education.
It was when the million dollar voting contest came that a fire was ignited in me. The chances of us winning seemed so slim, but as I looked at the photos of smiling Liberian girl’s faces, I knew that I was going to do whatever it took to win this for them.
I began by sending messages to everyone I knew asking them to vote. I went nights with little sleep, because suddenly these girls in Liberia meant everything to me. They had changed my life, and to thank them I wanted to do whatever I could to change theirs. Standing in front of lecture halls, knocking on stranger’s doors, and walking on college campuses, asking people to vote, empowered me in a way I had never been empowered before. I knew I was making a difference.
The moment we found out we had won the million dollars was one of the single greatest moments of my life. As I stood there with my fellow IC More Than Me members, crying, screaming, laughing, cheering, and jumping up and down, I realized that the best way to live my life was to live for something bigger than myself.
IC More Than Me shows me every day what is truly important in life. The smiling girls in Liberia have taught me that the small things in life often mean the most, and that no matter what happens, no matter how many challenges life throws at you, to always keep moving forward.
By members Maddy Clark and Dominic Gentile
The documentary Girl Rising is an incredibly heart-warming and eye-opening film that we had the privilege to see. It follows the stories of nine girls around the world who are fighting for their right to an education regardless of their culture, past or living situation. Sokha, Wadley, Suma, Yasmin, Azmera, Ruksana, Senna, Mariama and Amina take you on a journey through their stories about just how tough and worth it the battle for a girl’s education is.
Sokha is a “child of the dump” who grew up as an orphan living in a landfill in Cambodia looks through trash for silver metal while while being careful not to step on used syringes or broken glass. As a forgotten girl who grew up in a place of things tossed aside, she never thought she would go to school even though that was her only dream, and a dream that came true at that.
Wadley is a fiery free-spirited child living and coping in post-quake Haiti where her home, school and right to education were lost in the disaster. Navigating through a “tent city” on the rubble of her old home she found a make-shift classroom of twelve students and everyday asserted her right to be there regardless of her mom’s inability to pay the fees until they let her stay.
Suma, a girl from Nepal “bonded to a master” and forced into a world of hard labor at age six, recounts the different masters she worked for and the horrors she endured. After being freed and given an education, she stands to free other bonded girls like she was.
Yasmin, a young girl in Egypt who had to use a pseudonym to tell her story, recounts how she was raped by an older man but fought back as hard as she knew how with a shard of glass as a knife. Her world believed that she was better a “child of the streets” than a child of the classroom, and that led to her being sold into an arranged marriage at age 13.
Azmera, a shy but intensely curious and stubborn teen from Ethiopia fights against the conventions of arranged marriage with the help of her older brother. When her mother tries to marry her to a stranger, she, with the support of her brother, takes a stand and tells her mother that she is better with and education than a husband.
Ruksana, an imaginative daydreamer living on the streets of India, is given the opportunity to be educated only through her father’s back-breaking work. In trials such as her home being torn down and almost being kidnapped, she and her family grow stronger and fight that battle harder.
Senna, a passionate and hardened girl of mountains of Peru, lives her life like a warrior in memory of her father. Through her intense commitment to her education and her moving poetry, she shapes her life from a brothel to a classroom.
Mariama, a fun and modern girl living in Sierra Leone tells her story of living like a “normal teenager” and the importance of a radio show as her vehicle to help girls like her fight for their right to be educated.
Amina, a girl who’s name cannot be disclosed for fear of her life, gives an unprecedented look into the life of a girl in Afghanistan. Although worked hard since she was three and sold to be married at age 13 so her parents could buy her brother a car, she was grateful for the few years of education she had. She called us to action to help change her story and the stories of so many others.
Through these nine incredible girls, we see not only the fight for education, but the need for change. These girls are not the only ones, they are merely the ones brave enough to come forward. So many others are forgotten. Let’s make a change.