I got involved with Open Hearts Big Dreams (OHBD) during the 2016 fall semester of my sophomore year in college. I knew very little about the organization, other than that the people involved are continuously working toward something great and that joining served as a phenomenal opportunity to learn and serve. My mother is friends with the founder of OHBD, Ellenore Angelidis, which is how I found out about the organization. When I learned OHBD is working to improve literacy among the youth in Ethiopia, I was very excited because of a recent trip I took to Africa.
When I was in Africa, my family and I had the opportunity to visit a local family that lives in a small village in Tanzania. This experience was one of the most eye-opening opportunities I have ever had. There were clear differences between their lives and my life. There was no school in the community, something so basic here in America. When I took out my iPhone to take a photograph, the kids were absolutely amazed at the concept of a selfie: in the click of a button, their own faces could appear on a screen! It was such a joy to watch their faces light up when they saw their face appear. Yet to me, it is nothing special.
Julia taking a selfie with a local Tanzanian family
My experience seeing how a local Tanzanian family lives, and particularly the moment when a big smile came onto the faces of the kids when they pressed the button on my phone for a picture got me thinking about how truly fortunate I am to have had an education. These kids could not get an education due to a lack of opportunity. OHBD helps improve the lives of kids similar to those I visited by giving them the opportunity to learn to read, and I think that is a phenomenal cause.
Visiting a local Tanzanian family
Knowing that OHBD is in the process of growing, I wanted to bring my interest of marketing to help increase name recognition in the hopes of expanding the organization. Josie Johnson, who works with another board member, Raj Boer, is helping with social media for OHBD and is also the Global Head of Marketing at Yerra Solutions, where I currently have an internship. Yerra Solutions supports OHBD Fund’s efforts too. Josie has been my primary mentor, giving me a variety of projects, all related to marketing and social media. I am excited to take what I learned in my marketing internship and apply those skills through social media for OHBD. I think a great next step for OHBD would be to start an Instagram account. Millions of people are on Instagram today, and I think starting an account would help to grow name recognition and given my experience in Africa, it is clear the power of a photo. The Instagram account could be used in a number of ways including to advertise upcoming events, to post pictures that show the progress on projects, and to post pictures of personal experiences working with kids.
Ellenore and I decided organizing monthly newsletters that shared more about the organization and personal experiences of those working with OHBD would be a great way for people to learn more about what we do. I believe personal stories are an important way to draw people. Personal anecdotes provide an example of what others could do to help, and serves as reminder of the impact a single person can have. All of this helps to engage others because they get to see real impact and how they can contribute. I am now responsible for posting these newsletters to promote experiences of volunteers, our mission, and updates from our events and project.
I thoroughly enjoyed my work for OHBD and I am very excited to have joined such a remarkable organization dedicated to helping create more opportunity for youth in Ethiopia. I look forward to future projects and the expansion through my marketing efforts for Open Hearts Big Dreams.