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Meghan McDermott

Students for Haiti Solidarity at UCLA

$1,480 raised • 4 campaigns

3

Meghan is a Givebutter Changemaker - an elite group of young movers and shakers around the world that inspire those around them to give back through the incredible work that they do for others. Learn more about Changemakers.

Bio


My name is Meghan McDermott, and I am currently a Junior at UCLA studying Mechanical Engineering. I am from the Bay Area and while I enjoy travelling, California definitely has my heart. I have two younger brothers, a precious golden retriever dog, and incredibly loving parents all who compose the fundamental building blocks of my amazing support network. I have an intense love for travelling and how it has exposed me to different cultures and people.
Entering my sophomore year at UCLA, I realized that my time in Haiti was not just something I did in high school, but instead was a fundamental part of who I am. I was fortunate enough to attend UCLA with two other girls who I had travelled with to Haiti in high school and had found a few other friends who also expressed interest in starting a Haiti club on our campus. Together we have struggled and continue to struggle through all sorts of growing pains, but it has been such a blessing to have spent the past couple of years watching our club grow on campus. I can truly say that the members of this club continue to inspire me with their passion and commitment and are some of the people I look up to the most.


Q & A


Fun fact?

I ran the LA Marathon last year!


Favorite books?

- Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom) - Tattoos on the Heart (Gregory Boyle) - Sarah's Key (Tatiana de Rosnay) - The Prophet (Kahlil Gibran)


Who in you life most inspires you and why?

This priest named Gregory Boyle is one of the many people who I strive to be like everyday. He has done some amazing work, but it is his ideology that inspires me. He stands for the idea that the powerful agent of change is the simple act of standing on the margins. By standing on the margins, we are not trying to go in and "save" one person. Instead, we are standing in solidarity with them--and that is when we save everyone. He preaches about opening up our hearts when we are standing on the margins sharing his own stories about how his life has changed for the better and how he has received so much more than he could have ever given to anyone.


Best advice you have ever received?

My father always says that, "95% of life is just about showing up". I love this quote because it is about opening your heart to all sorts of possibilities and experiences because sometimes those moments could end up being some of the best times of your life. 


Your greatest achievement to date? 

One of my greatest achievements is finishing the marathon last year. I was injured for seven weeks right before the marathon and was worried I wouldn't be able to run it. It was one of the hardest things, both physically and mentally, that I have ever done.


Tell us more about your organization.

The Students for Haiti Solidarity at UCLA was launched a little over a year ago and was inspired by a several students and their involvement with Haiti in my high school. Our club's motto is "College students working with college students" since our primary focus is on fundraising to send Haitian students to college. The financial burden of a college education is extreme for most families and students, so we aim to send as many students to college as possible. Although our main goal is sending students to college, we also are blessed with the opportunity to work with several grassroots organizations across the country that touch so many different aspects of community activism. For example, we fund and supply a mobile medical clinic that is completely run by Haitian nurses. This mobile medical clinic is invaluable as it reaches people who receive so little means about healthcare. We also helped to fund and build a school that will service over 800 kids and adults in Haiti once it opens this coming Fall. We also work with a micro loan finance organization for women and a community center located in the largest slum in Haiti that provides highly profiled youth hope and the opportunity to escape the confines of the ever present gang life that surrounds them. Our club is all about solidarity: solidarity between college students and solidarity between countries. Our objective is not to simply send aid into the country once in awhile in hopes that we are making some sort of difference. Instead, we actually travel to Haiti to see our impact first hand, to hear people's stories, and to stand in solidarity with them. We do this by physically building the school hand in hand right beside them among so many other things. Our efforts are year long not only in terms of the fundraising we do, but also in terms of our educational experience. This includes learning more Creole, the national Haitian language, and staying in constant communication with the Haitian activists that we work side by side with.



Mobile Medical Clinic

Silent Art Auction we hosted in Fresno selling authentic Haitian art to raise money


How did you get involved with your Students for Haiti Solidarity at UCLA, and why it is important to you?

I got involved with Haiti in high school because I had a teacher who is a human rights activist and had previously done work in Haiti. I was intrigued by the cause and decided to join our high school club my junior year.  I know for myself, and many of our members, that this is not just a side hobby, but instead it is engrained in who I am and how I live my life. My entire education and career path has shifted based on my experiences in Haiti. Sometimes in college I have found it difficult to keep up with my studies, as I have been unable to find how my textbooks will translate over to useful knowledge in the workforce. However with this club, I am constantly reminded not only of what I can do with my education and what it means to me, but also of how fortunate I am to be at a university because these students we fundraise for don't have that same access. These students are some of the most inspiring, intelligent, and hard working people I have ever met in my life and their devotion to their studies and bettering our world inspires me to try to work even half as hard as they do. My involvement with this club has spread to so many other aspects of my life. This is an educational club rooted in increasing self-awareness. I have learned so much about how I, as an American citizen, can truly affect the rest of the world. More importantly though, my involvement has taught me that I can help bring about change and has inspired me to be more informed and involved in domestic and international politics.


SOPUDEP (school we work at which will open in the fall)

SAKALA (grassroots organization we work with in Cite Soleil with profiled youth)


Tell us more about this campaign. Why are you raising this money, and where will it be going? How is this campaign different from similar ones we may have seen on the site?

All of the money that we raise goes directly into the hands of the grassroots organizations that we partner with, and we get to see firsthand where it all goes. We do not take any administration costs or use any of the money we fundraise to pay for trip expenses. For example, we raised $300 earlier this year and when we go to Haiti in a couple of weeks, we will see how that $300 funds a mobile medical for a full day that reaches 250 people who otherwise would have little to no access to healthcare. Although we work with many grassroots organizations across the country that touch different aspects of the community life such as education, healthcare and jobs, our primary focus is fundraising to send graduating high school seniors to college. This Givebutter campaign will help us send a student to college, which on average only costs approximately $2,000 per year.   This campaign is not only an investment for one student to go to college, but it is an investment into the community on a much larger scale. These students want to study subjects like business, teaching, medicine, and engineering, and all have the hope of returning to their communities and paying it forward. They want to be the nurses at their mobile medical clinics or the teachers at their school. Our fundraising efforts are so powerful because they go way deeper than just one layer. We are helping to empower these youth to change their own country and as a result, our world. Haiti is a country that is known for its natural disasters and extreme poverty, but that is not how I view Haiti. Haiti is a beautiful country filled with people who are willing and capable to change their country for the better. Our responsibility as caring global citizens is to simply support them in their efforts and that is what we are doing by investing in the education of these students.


What does giving mean to you?

Our club makes our best effort to stay clear of the idea of "charity" work where American NGO's simply donate money without understanding the implications of their work.   I believe giving is much more about your willingness to open your heart. When one does this, one ends up receiving so much more than one could have ever given and that is the true power of giving. It is much more about the willingness to open your heart to those people you are helping because they have so much that they can offer you in return. 


What does the Givebutter Movement mean to you?

This Givebutter Movement to me embodies the heart and soul of youth acting together to change the world in support of each other. This movement gives me hope that our generation will continue bringing some more light and goodness to our world.