Here I am— Director of Communications/ Development Associate for Educate!, but how did I get here?

My career before Educate! was mostly rewarding. I spent six years in public relations and journalism, which gave me time to grow professionally while thoroughly exploring my options. However, about two years ago I began to realize that my career was providing me with little meaning and satisfaction.

I kept wondering…. “What impact am I having on my community and the world? Is it enough to represent big companies, retail, and restaurants? Or, do I feel an obligation to do more? Though the world seems to have endless suffering and chaos, should I at least try- try my best- to make the world a better place?”

The answer was YES.

I came to this conclusion partially through my rewarding volunteer work for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and a battered women and children’s shelter in San Diego. Another transformative experience began in the summer of 2008 when I became involved with Women’s Global Network, which supports women globally through microfinancing partnerships. Then, in the Fall of 2008 I discovered Educate!. Serving on the Board of Women’s Global Network and volunteering as Director of Communications with Educate! cemented my realization that I desired a career working for the betterment of humanity.

When I look back though, my interest in the world began when I was a child. My mother grew up in Thailand, Taiwan, and the Virgin Islands; my extended family lived in Europe; and my parents spent time in Israel. Through their stories my desire to see the world and understand its complex issues began.

Besides travel throughout Europe, I first explored the world beyond the U.S. while sailing the globe on Semester at Sea my junior year of college. The program provided me with a global education as we visited Cuba, Brazil, South Africa, Kenya, Malaysia, Vietnam, India, China and Japan. In each port, I was submersed in cultures I had only read about and saw human suffering and determination I’d never known.

I chose to work for Educate! because I believe in the mission “to educate and empower the next generation of socially responsible leaders in Africa.”

I’m also inspired by Educate’s vision of an “Africa in which all students are prepared to better their communities and develop solutions to the challenges facing their continent.”

I went to Uganda this summer shortly after being officially hired by Educate!. This experience was a perfect way to start with the organization. To see the mentors teach and the students learn was inspiring. It was also incredibly insightful to go to Kyangwali – where Educate! began –to see the “exponential empowerment” happening through COBURWAS. The work of the Educate! students in Kyangwali – from building an orphanage, to sending over thirty students to school and starting an organization that unites the community– gave real meaning to Educate!’s mission and vision.

To see the hope and motivation of Educate! Scholars and the way they have already begun to transform their communities furthered my appreciation for my new position at Educate!.

I’m currently pursuing an M.A. in International Relations which I feel is a perfect way to continue to understand the world and its complex issues, and to further my skills and studies which will serve me in my role at Educate!.

Although I only started a few months ago, I’m excited to be a part of the Educate! family and continue to help the organization grow and empower Africa’s future leaders. I’m now passionate about what I do—which is truly priceless.


Maya Ellman